Kyudo – Way of the Bow- Day I

24 02 2007

It is lunch time as I write post this. Also it is day 2 but I’ll start from yesterday. Everyone is out at lunch but me. I brought my laptop and lunch so I’m staying here as the temple guard it is very cool they have wifi here in the Meditation center. How cool is that! I’ll start this now but may need to finish it later depending when the group returns.

It was to be long day on Friday. I took the day off for the Kyudo seminar this weekend. Friday is day one.

I take the BART train into Berkeley so as not to deal with traffic and parking, it was a good move. I had a peaceful trip in and got to read some of my sailing book for my tests in April.

shambala.gifThe Shambhala Buddhist meditation centeris located just down the street from UC Berkeley and a couple of blocks away from the downtown BART station. It is about a 10 min walk. Perfect for a little cardo before class.

I was one of the first to arrive, so got to check things out first. The people that were there greeted me warmly and made to feel welcome (unlike the Berkeley Zen center as I have said ). Slowly others showed up, there was a lot of pleasant vibs among them. I found out later, many only come once a year, or/and come from afar to this event which has been going on for several years. This was the first year new people/beginners were allowed to attend. Great timing for me as I wanted to give this a try in Japan and it was doubtful I would be allowed to without some background. So I should hopefully be able to get a couple of shots in while we are in Osaka.

After all the greetings and such, we got started, first off was some Zazen/meditation for 30 min. It was an easy sitting, I have grown very comfortable with 30 min. I did my HeartChan/Zen style, it was good to get a long practice in. After the sitting, the seminar leader talked a bit about Kyudo, and the “Zen” sense of it thathall

was present in other things areas of life. He use a poem about a person in a wheelchair as an example. It told of the oneness, the timing of the person how they moved their wheelchair, how they timed themselves to the rhythm of the wheel flow. Entered into a state of Zen with their chair. We as archers wanted that same state of oneness when shooting.

After a short Demo by one of the senior students we beginners started. There is an amazing amount of formality with the opening for. I was expecting some, but this was more than I thought. Far more than just shooting the preparation is a large part of things. Our first lesson was on just how to walk correctly.

The next part of the lesson was on , opening, the stance, the grip, arms position , shoulders. Then on to putting all that together into a set of movements, all of shootingwhich were to prepare to load the bow with the arrow. That was the morning lesson.

The group went to lunch, since I had had my lunch with me. I walked over to UC Berkeley and sat under a tree and ate and did some reading. It was a good day to be out, the UCB campus is peaceful. However they did have some loud music coming from somewhere, not was not Rock , but perhaps Alt. It was ok, but not my type so that put a bit of a down turn on the energy for me.lunch

Once back at the center, there was a small lecture and Demo on how to do a formal sitting and prep for a formal demo. Then we had a tea break.

After our break it was back to more lessons for the new kids of which there were only two, myself and one other guy. Our next lesson was on how to put on the shooting glove and the ceremony form that went with that, so we could handle the arrow with that added factor. From there it was back to the hallway for how to load the arrow and go into ready position to begin the ready to pull position.

Whewww, no shooting today just foundation. I was surprise at the amount of pre-stuff. I was glad to be doing this at a seminar to get a lot of ground work at once. When I saw the girl do the first demo I did not think we were going to shoot until Sunday the last day. However the word is we will shoot on Sat. (today) after some more foundation stuff.

So ended day one, it as tiring a bit, because of new muscles being used and very uncomfortable body positions. Seemed like they designed it to see how uncomfortable one can be a still shoot an arrow. If you could over come the weird body sense and become “one” with the arrow and hit the target then you were good. Perhaps like if you could over come the uncomfortableness of life, the suffering you could achieve enlightenment. But you had to go beyond the suffering, feel it, but do not attach yourself to it, become one with it, but go beyond it and shoot (live).

After class it is a trip home for dinner then off to Kung Fu with Sifu. It was my monthly Friday session. We practice, talk and eat. I am learning The Late Master’s ( Sigung) taichi Sword form from one of the seniors who runs the San Francisco School. One of the topics we went through tonight was how one learns to make the trade off of loss of power when getting older. Using the power of the other person to your advantage and returning it to them. Eg: the harder they punch, the harder the get hit by using that power they sent against them. We also spoke of formalizing traps and disarms into a format that is easily passed down to others within our system. Brian who is the son of one of the late 8th generation elders spoke on practice with whip chain. Also the 3 elements needed to win a fight, of which good Kung Fu was the last.

It was a good, long, well spent day.


Sifu’s Birthday

9 01 2007

Eng SifuI was so jazzed about getting my MacBook yesterday however I did not get a chance to play with it. In fact I did not even open the box once I got home.

I had cancelled my class for the evening in order to go to Sifu’s (Sensei) birthday party. The school is a little over 1 hour drive from my place. I was not sure what time they were going to start, so I guessed around 7 or so. I took care of a few things at home, not opening the computer…:-) and hit the road.

I got there fairly quick as I was just behind the rush hour traffic. There was class going on so I could have come later, oh well. Sifu was giving some combat drills to a couple of students the others were doing forms. I watched and listen to him covering some things about cutting inside of a punch and angles, always interesting. Once he told the student, ok, I’m going to do something , you be sure to move back. He was explaining, touch and respond, and this fist just flashed at the guys face. Lucky he was ready and moved. Surprising how fast he is even at 67 or something.

He continued with some of the other students. As we had time before the dinner started, I grabbed a sword and went to practice with a couple of the students, even though I was not dressed for it, I could still do some reviews. It was good to brush up on a few things, then just some tai chi practice on my own.

After a while the food showed up, the BBQ grill was fired up . I was told not to worry there was plenty of veggie stuff prepared for me and another couple of veggieheads in the house. Sifu broke out some really good smooth conagic and I joined him in the office for a few shots and chatting whilst dinner was being prepared. We all gave him a toast then some went back to practice, cooking and we just chilled.

One of the fun and interesting things about Sifu is he knows a lot of traditional Chinese history and generally has something to relate about Taoist tradition and now practices.
Sometimes about Sigung (the grandmaster) or some kung fu history.

After a bit it was chow time, we ate, sang happy birthday and had some delicious cake.
It was a good evening, I got to practice some, review, learned something, had fellowship with my schoolmates & Sifu.

One of the things I admire about Sifu’s school and Sisooks school is how their students give him such depth of respect and have a sense of brotherhood. Yet both are very humble, though COMPLETELY different personalities. Sifu is very low key an quiet, Sisook is very out going lets say 🙂
I wonder if it is the type or quality of the students or the men, most likely both. a matching of styles. Sifu’s students I could not see them studying for long with Si-Sook and visa versa . There is though something about the students, their mind set. I had a student, Chinese who was like that about, our school and me, she still calls me Sifu but no longer trains, I miss her. She still comes to our Federation functions though and we have contact. I have a current student another female from South America who is close to that same sense of student/teacher/school respectfullness energy. Hard to put in words. If she continues to study will most likely be my first black belt, out of some 20 yrs teaching. My other couple of students, Americans, one guy is somewhat there, but not there, but shows at times the light of it in his ideas. The other student, she is there in way as far as supporting the school and system, but not another. Perhaps it is a hard balance. Many times Sifu and Sisook have remarked on the difficulty in finding dedicated students. It takes a long time to find such students. Lady Zen feels that most people who study martial arts for a long time are a bit “henjing” (strange) but not in a bad way just different from your everyday type of person. So perhaps the few who are with it long term are from some former life reborn again into this let’s say non-American philosophy life style. Therefore they subconsciously understand the “family” traditional respect involved. I’m not sure what I want to put my finger on here. Other than it is hard to find and a blessing to have good students who are studying more than just some thing to do or something cool to stay in shape and treat their studies and school as more than just a place they pay money to go to to learn how to do self defense.

The next party gathering is Chinese New Year in Feb. It is on a Sat so maybe the Lady Zen will come. I hope there is not conflict of schedules with the Walnut Creek school. Though I am connected to both, I have to go to Sifu’s…well because he’s my Sifu, I would lose much face. Even though technically he is my step-Sifu, I am adpoted. Huh, what is he talking about ??? Ok, I’ll explain. In Chinese tradition you can have only one Sifu per system. The word Sifu or Shrfu mean not only teacher but “father” and in keeping with that tradition we address same generations as Sihing ( brother) or teachers same generation as Sisook or Sibak ( younger or older Uncles). Eng Sifu is not my first Sifu I came to study with him after I was certified with another Sifu (see Las Vegas post). This other Sifu is not only his classmate, but they are related by blood. Anyway, after I left my first sifu to start teaching on my own. I moved to another part of the country. Later I moved again to Northern Cal. I asked permission to join Eng Sifu’s school to continue my training. Which I did on and off for several years. Later in time my original Sifu retired from teaching Kung fu and went on to other things. Around this time the Federation was born and to attend the special training your Sifu had to be attending as well, so all the training would be standardized. Since my original Sifu was retired from teaching and no longer cared about martial art matters. I was sponsored by Eng Sifu since I had been training with him and we had a relationship. Basically it meant that even though I was a certified Sifu, I for the most part needed to start at the bottom with the beginners. A test of more than just physical skills, but ego levels as well, some have failed. After working my way up past the stepchild from the “hollywood” school stigma,  with help from Eng Sifu and Wong Sisook, I am on the board of directors of said Federation.

Hmmm, I should drop a hint at the Walnut Creek school about Sifu’s New Years plan so there is no conflit…

I got home at 12:30 am