Shugyo Renshu 修行 – Minnisota Kyudo – beginnings

8 08 2011

Shugyo (修行) may be defined literally as “conducting oneself in a way that inspires mastery”. While the meaning of the kanji used in “shu” was originally translated as ‘using a brush to strike away the dust that obscures the viewing of a persons original elegance’, the combined kanji of “shu” and “gyo” (carrying out, walking along) is now generally translated as simply “severe or austere training”. The kanji rendered for this version of “shugyo” is most commonly associated with Buddhist asceticism, and most notably, the “shugenja” (修験者, ascetic mountain-dwelling monks).

I’ve been here before. Even though in someways Japan was more Shugyo, MN is/will be perhaps more so, because it is not Japan.

The first seminar I went to ever was in Berkeley to learn Kyudo. It was not hard training at all. Mostly form and function with a little Zen dropped in.  A relaxed formality was the guide. The next was at Sonoma mtn Zen center. That was hard training, yet not with Kyudo, with being there. Up at 4:00 for meditation @ 5:00 am, then a meal then some work chore around the property. Then finally some Kyudo in temps over  100 degrees all the while walking up up and down the side of a mountain to get anywhere. The Kyudo part was easy. No tai hai, no kiza, no siza, no Ole Sckool Japanese instructors watching your every detail from entering to exit.
It should be taken into account that this was really more about the Zen training as part of Kyudo. Than Kyudo training as part of Zen.

In Japan, strict observance to detail, COLD and rainy temps. This training was about basic Kyudo. No work details, no meditation, this was about Kyudo form and function. I am expecting MN to be like this except with high temps and without the beauty of Japan or the mountains of Sonoma. Even so, every place has it’s own beauty, (even Texas…somewhere) so I’m open to seeing it.

There are two things happening in MN and also that was in Japan. That is there is the seminar and there is a test. There are no tests with the Chikurin-ha group. That adds another level of mental stress to everything, yet in a sense another point for training to deal with it. With the levels of stress coming along on the shoot for the ride, some meditation would be a good thing in this seminar. IMHO

Just like I thought the Chikurin-ha function would have been better balanced to include some physical warm ups , stretches, I think the Renmei gatherings could also be better balanced with some stretches and meditation. This I feel would give a broader view of the need for balance in  standing, drawing, shooting, walking. The full kihontai,  the tai hai , warmups, meditation taken in as  San mai ittai. The phrase, “shooting is living” ( sha souk Jinseu)  or sha wa ritsu-zen ( shooting is standing Zen) would have a fuller meaning. This is why even in my Tai Chi class we do stretching, mediation, and the movement form. The balance, the oneness, the inter-dependability of the form and formless in training, in life is shown.

However that is just me and so enough on my musings. Now after over a year of waiting the MN adventure begins…yosh!

4:00a.m. Monday morning, on the surface it seems like any other Monday. However it is not today I am not making my way to a totally boring job but instead I am off to Northfield MN. The location of the great bank robbery of Jesse James. Here in Northfield is also Carlton College where the 2011 international Kyudo seminar and exams will be held over the next four days. After a year of waiting it is time.

We land seconds before a big storm.


As the plane’s wheels touched the ground so did the rain. This was shortly followed by thunder and lighting. We ended up sitting at the entry gate for the next 30 min as the airport for the most part shut down while the storm rolled through. This was my first taste of MN.
I’m writing this on the plane sitting on the runway waiting until the weather clears up.
I have now missed the shuttle bus @2:30 to the campus and will need to hang out at the airport for 3.5 hr until 5:45 which is the next pickup. This was just announced,    The crying infant in a near by seat likes status even less than I do. Welcome to Minnesota. 🙂

I come across other attendees also waiting at the airport some from the same flight. We merge and wait for our ride to the college. The wait is not too long we locate our ride and load up.

It is a smooth ride put to the very nice college grounds. I enjoy the scenery the trees the lakes, the flowers. It is like being in Virginia but with less trees .

It is however hot and humid just like there. However I do not mind it is not uncomfortable to me.


We arrive and grab our stuff from the bus and head to the registration location for our room assignments.

The campus dorms are all located in the same general area. It is a little tricky to figure out the number but after a bit I locate my dorm.

I am in a small town house with three small bedrooms. The house is very nice and I have my own room! Yokatta!

The only bad thing is the house is freezing . The air conditioner is blasting! I locate the thermostat but it is unresponsive to my efforts to turn it down. I keep a long sleeve shirt on and wish I had brought warm sleeping wear. Oh well.

Next up I head out for a walk into town to buy some dinner, water, fruit . It is not a long walk and I come across my Sensei and a couple of other during the transit. We chat for a while before I head off to the local Super Market.


After collecting my Yumi and greeting a few others I had met only on Facebook I head back to my room.   I also see there at my dorm acquaintances from Argentina I met last year in Japan, it was a nice mini reunion.

I settle in the the evening only slightly bummed out that my laptop is not working. I am happy to have brought along my iPod touch. I do wish at the time I had brought along my old Macbook. I can access the “net”  on the iTouch but no uploading pictures. Oh well, not a biggie, that will have to wait. I could however still make some posts to FB and access so, things to keep me from being bored, beside the book I brought along and the Kyohon reading I need to do. I had plenty of things to do, even without my flute that I brought along for some quiet moment.

I make myself ready for bed and open the window to let some heat in and cold out. It will be an early start of the day tomorrow and the beginning of training. This being my second seminar, so I sort if know what to expect. I am ready… Bring it!

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One response

9 08 2011
JM

Nice documentation of the trip!

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