Wednesday, December 30, 2009


When Kosaka Sensei said, 'Rick carries my legacy,' he actually said Rick, and others, carries my legacy. Since this was the first time I'd heard him utter such a statement, I wondered who the 'others' were. I'm fairly certain though that the 'others' refers to Nobuyo Okuda and Robert Williams.

When I first started to help Kosaka Sensei teach the classes, Nobuyo and Robert were among my first two. Robert was extremely talented and seemed like an enlightened Guru to me already, I even wondered why he came, did he really need this training?

Nobuyo too, was already a tea teacher. Nobuyo wanted to live here in the U.S. so she gave up the Iemoto (inheritor) position of her families practice in favor of her sister.

I think that to have me start teaching with these two was almost a joke among the 'real' Sensei.

They asked me to teach Nobuyo how to 'walk'. This was our basic instruction in walking, sitting, kneeling, and bowing that was my main practice when I started with the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai. I was so pleased and proud that they asked me to teach someone. I walked up (with my nose in the air) and said, 'follow me' and had her copy my movements as I had copied the Sensei who taught me. But as I watched Nobuyo-san from the corner of my eye, I quickly realized that she was already better than I was. I lead her through the movements a few time and said, 'ok, she knows it.. now what do you want me to do?' I think they sent me to make tea.

After I was 'stamped' Nobuyo-san began to call me Sensei (even though we had agreed years before that there was only one Sensei in our school, and that was Kosaka Sensei); but I insisted on calling her Sempai (senior) too. So although the Sensei' teased me by having me try and teach those already beyond me, we now tease eachother with such phrases as Sensei and Sempai too.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quote from Shakyamuni

"No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path" Shakyamuni Butsu

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Be a lamp unto yourself

In our school we are taught 'jiriki'. Jiriki is self power.

Kosaka Sensei once told me that he would like to pass his realization on to us. But that there is a problem. Once he tells me of his experience, it is 5 steps away from the Truth. 'Why is that?' was the question on my face. He answered, 'When I want to say it, I have to formulate the experience into thoughts and then into words...then you hear those words and interpret them your own way...and create your own understanding of my experience. So, we are 5 steps away from my experience; we have no idea how far away from yours.'

Shakyamuni Buddha told his followers, just before his death (when asked who would be their teacher once he was gone).

"Be lamps unto yourselves.
Be refuges unto yourselves.
Take yourself no external refuge.
Hold fast to the truth as a lamp.
Hold fast to the truth as a refuge.
Look not for a refuge in anyone besides yourselves.
And those, Ananda, who either now or after I am dead,
Shall be a lamp unto themselves,
Shall betake themselves as no external refuge,
But holding fast to the truth as their lamp,
Holding fast to the truth as their refuge,
Shall not look for refuge to anyone else besides themselves,
It is they who shall reach to the very topmost height;
But they must be anxious to learn."
(Quoted in Joseph Goldstein, The Experience of Insight)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Borrowed from Dan & Jackie DeProspero

With permission from DeProspero Sensei I have posted a portion of his website and book about Zen and Kyudo that I thought was so well said, I couldn't improve on it.

"Much has been written about the philosophical connections of kyudo. Perhaps most known is the book Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. In his book Mr. Herrigel sets forth his experiences with kyudo in the 1930's. It was a beautifully written account that has been translated into many languages, giving people worldwide their first glimpse of the art. Unfortunately, the book was very one-sided in its description of kyudo as a Zen art and is responsible for a lot of the current misconception surrounding the practice of kyudo as a religious activity.
While kyudo is not a religion it has been influenced by two schools of Eastern philosophy: The previously mentioned Zen, a form of Buddhism imported from China, and Shintoism, the indigenous faith of Japan. Of the two, the influence of Shintoism is much older. Ritualistic use of the bow and arrows have been a part of Shintoism for over two thousand years. Much of the kyudo ceremony, the attire worn by the archers, and the ritual respect shown for the equipment and shooting place are derived from ancient Shinto practice.
The influence of Zen, on the other hand, is more recent, dating back to the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) when the warrior archers adopted Zen as their preferred method of moral training. Zen's influence on kyudo became even greater in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when Japan, as a whole, experienced a period of civil peace. During that time the practice of kyudo took on a definite philosophical leaning. This is the period when sayings like "one shot, one life" and "shooting should be like flowing water" were associated with the teaching of kyudo. Because of its long and varied past, modern Japanese archery will exhibit a wide variety of influences. Today, at any given kyudojo (practice hall), one can find people practicing ancient kyujutsu, ceremonial court games, rituals with religious connections, and contests of skill. The key to understanding kyudo is to keep an open mind and realize that any style of kyudo you see or practice is but a small part of a greater whole, and that each style has its own history and philosophical underpinnings which make them all equally interesting and important."

by Dan and Jackie DeProspero, co-authors with their teacher, Hideharu Onuma Hanshi, of the books Kyudo: The Essence and Practice of Japanese Archery and Illuminated Spirit: Conversations with a Kyudo Master—Revised April 15, 2007
Copyright © 1998 Dan and Jackie DeProspero

Sunday, December 13, 2009

History of Archery in Japan

History of Archery in Japan:

In the Prehistoric Period (7000 B.C.E. – C.E. 330), archeological evidence of a hunter/gatherer group called the Jomon suggested that they frequently utilized the bow and arrow, probably primarily as a hunting tool.

Since the beginning of the study of archery in Japan, there has always been a spiritual aspect attributed to the use of the bow and arrow: either to scare away evil spirits or purify space. These spiritual elements of archery are preserved today in kyudo through traditional ritual movements and practices.

During the latter part of this period, the legendary first emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, ascended to the throne. He is often depicted with a bow, as a symbol of authority. Many of the bows pictured during this time were already long and asymmetrical.

In the Ancient Period (330–1192), Japanese culture was strongly influenced by China. The Japanese adopted the ceremonial archery of the Chinese aristocracy, and it was considered a measure of a noble to be skilled in archery. With the rise of the professional samurai, the end of the ancient period saw the beginning of the kyudo ryus (martial-arts archery schools). This also marked the start of standardization of instruction in archery.

During the Feudal Period (1192–1603), toward the end of the 12th century, the Ogasawara Ryu standardized yabusame (archery on horseback). Civil wars during the 15th and 16th centuries created a great demand for capable warriors, and this period saw a great development of all martial arts, including archery. Heki Danjo Masatugu, an archer who according to some sources lived in the mid-to-late 1400s, codified his own method of archery and formed what came to be known as the Heki Ryu. Danjo's teachings still influence some of the non-Kyudo-Federation-regulated styles that are practiced today.

In the mid-16th century, the Portuguese introduced the musket to Japan. The musket eclipsed the bow and arrow as the most effective long distance weapon, and resulted in a significant diminution in the bow's use.

The Transitional Period (1603–1912) was a period of peace in Japan This was the time during which the great archery competitions were held in the temple of Sanjusangendo in Kyoto. The temple is 120 meters long, and this competition measured how many arrows could be shot within a 24-hour period that could travel the full length of the temple and strike the target at the temple's opposite end. (Ancient arrows from these competitions can still be seen in some of the temple's structural members.) The current modern record is held by Wasa Daihachiro with 8,133 hits out of 13,053 arrows shot; this feat required the archer to shoot an average of one arrow every six seconds over the entire twenty-four-hour period. During this time, the martial art of kyujitsu arose (kyujitsu differs from kyudo in that kyujitsu refers to technique of shooting, whereas kyudo is a method of using the bow to discover a path of harmony and balance).

By the end of the 17th century, ceremonial archery was becoming popular outside of the warrior class. Towards the turn of the 20th century, Honda Toshizane, who was at that time the instructor of kyudo at the Tokyo Imperial University, combined what he considered to be the best of all the existing styles (as he knew them), melded the ceremonial and warrior archery forms, and created the Honda Ryu, which eventually became the basis of modern kyudo.

In the Modem Era (1912 to the present), attempts at greater standardization occurred under the auspices of such organizations as the Zen Nihon Kyudo Renmei, and there are now more than one-half-million kyudo practitioners world-wide.

Zen & Kyudo

Kyu-do... is translated as the way of the bow. Today we often speak of kyudo as zen archery. But the bow and arrow have been in Japan for thousands of years, and it has always had a spiritual element; perhaps this was only the shooting of the arrow, or the plucking of the string to scare away evil spirits...or to perform a ceremony; but the element was there. However, this could not be Zen; Zen did not come to Japan until much later.

If anything, Kyudo must be more related to Shinto, the current derivation of the shamanistic practices of ancient Japan. Indeed, A Guji (Shinto Priest) once told me, 'Kyudo is Shinto, and Shinto is Kyudo.' This practice however, was not known as Kyudo, but was called yumi no michi; but it was still translated as the way of the bow.

Buddhism was established as the official religion of Japan by Empress Suiko and her regent, Prince Shotoku Taishi (592-628ce). Prince Shotoko wrote Japanese treatise on Buddhism and was a great proponent of the religion...He established temples and promoted it's art and propagated the ideals of Buddhism.

Prince Shotoku also established the first official systematized form of using the bow 'Taishi-ryu'; But this was still no relation to zen archery. Bodai Daruma the Indian monk who formed Ch'an (the precursor of Zen in China) had arrived in China not much sooner than this; So Zen still had not reached Japan. And Taishi-ryu had little to no relationship with the Buddhist practices of the day; alhough many ceremonies for the bow were also systematized at this time with the formation of what we now call reisha or ceremonial shooting. Some Buddhist ideas infiltrated these ceremonies, but they also relied heavily on the shamanistic rituals already in existence.

The relationship between Buddhism and the indigenous religions of Japan can be confusing; they have been both held as the antithesis of eachother and they have been melded together as one. Sometimes during the same time period, by different authorities, one idea or the other may have been said to be correct. Sometimes they were melded with one faction holding sway over the other; Or the notion of no difference between them at all existed as well. Buddhism and the indigenous religion have throughout Japan's history been both held in antithesis of eachother and been melded together depending mostly on the reigning school of thought at the time. But other than some ceremonies performed by the warrior class, or some ceremonies by priests with the bow, there was no real relationship between Buddhist philosophy and shooting the bow and arrow. And Zen, still had not even arrived yet.

The practice of zen had come with earlier forms of Buddhism, but was not an independent school of Buddhism until Eisai (1141-1215) brought Zen back to Japan from China. Having Zen as an independent school of Buddhism was not welcomed by the other Buddhist sects already established in the Kansai area; so Eisai established himself in the Edo area where the Shogun held residence. The Shogun and Samurai class did embrace much of the zen teachings and so a tenuious relationship was established; but still no direct marriage of the zen and warrior arts actually existed.

Then in the Edo Period (1600-1868) this tenuous relationship was strengthened by a few warriors who became zen priests, or underwent zen training, and by other warriors who simply embraced zen like ideas during this time; but Kyu-jutsu as a whole certainly did not change to anything like a zen practice. This relationship was practiced only by a few, and these few would have been considered strange, at best.

It was in this time period that Master Morikawa Kozan, founder of the modern Yamato-Ryu, first wrote the term "kyu-do" (the way of the bow) instead of "Kyu-jutsu" (bow technique) to describe his art. The term may have been used earlier, but this is the first known written record of it.

So I suppose there may have been a few zen archers, but the majority of archers were warriors, just as they always had been.

With the advent of the Meiji Restoration, in 1868, many martial arts schools began to use the term 'do'. Beginning with Jigoro Kano who formed Judo from Ju-jutsu. The current 'dan' or black belt ranking system began about this time beginning with schools of Shogi (a Japanese Game, somewhat like chess). Even the indigenous religion was named Shinto (this to is a conjugation of 'do') to mean The Way of Those Above, or The Way of Those Who Came Before.

These 'Do' schools either had or began to blend and combine, to different degrees, ideas from Buddhism, Zen, Confucian, and Shinto into their practices.

This use of the term 'Do' distinguished those schools who would emphasis some combination of these philosophies with their technical teachings from those Ko-ryu (Old Schools) that would teach the warrior methods passed down through their lineage.

There were some groups of monks that from ancient times had warrior methods, and there were ancient schools of warrior monks that melded Buddhism and warrior ways; some of these schools may have been in zen temples. So there were some Zen Warriors, and some Zen Archers for centuries. These have been handed down as Buddhist training methods from generation of monks to generation of monks. But again the bulk of the 'do' schools were not these. The bulk were schools that wanted to change the emphasis of their school from killing to something else. These may have included zen like ideas, or simply orient themselves to more sportsman like characteristics. In fact most modern Budo (warrior way) emphasize these Confucian Character Building aspects in their practice rather than Zen or Buddhist ideas.

But the term 'Do' is the Japanese pronunciation of Chinese 'Tao' (The Way), so the originators of the term 'Do' may have expected to bring some Taoist ideas into their practice? Also the term Zen is the Japanese Pronunciation of the Chinese "Ch'an" (Chinese for Dhyana, or Mediation in English). In Zen at least when we use 'Do' we translate it as 'The Way, To Enlightenment'. When Bodai Daruma brought Buddhism to China, it began to synthesize with existing Taoist ideas and Ch'an was created. When Ch'an came to Japan it again melded with the indigenous ideas and became in a way Zen is 'Do' and 'Do' is Zen. So maybe everyone who practices a 'Do' is practicing Zen? Well I've seen many who are obviously not practicing Zen, and some who would be offended should you say so. So maybe just as it always has been, there are only a select few who practice Zen and the arts, and the others are just practicing the modern version of that art. However, they all call it 'Do' so in the end, it must really all be the same.

As my teacher always told me when I asked about this subject "Don't worry about it... don't complicate things... Kyudo is Kyudo... Just keep practicing... Just keep shooting".

But still, it's an interesting topic, don't you think?

Monday, November 16, 2009

A quote from Buddha

"A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity" - Buddha

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Flower Story

There is a story we call nengemisho(u) (pick up flower, subtle smile). This story is about the transmission of Buddhism from Sakyamuni Butsu to Kasho(u). Sakyamuni silently held a up a lotus blossom for his disciples. As the others waited for the sermon of Sakyamuni to begin, Kasho smiled. Sakyamuni then recognized him in front of all others as having truly received the tradition, and he was henceforth known as Makakasho.

This transmission was wordless not resting on words or sacred texts, but a transmission outside the scriptures.

Thus was born Fu-Ryu Monji, the tradition of Zen to 'not stand on words and letters (sacred writtings).

This transmission is a direct experience of the individual. A spontaneous realization born of spiritual insight.

Makakasho had stepped through the gateless gate.

The unwritten book complete version

Book – the Unwritten Book
The last in the Zen Man Walking Series

There is an unwritten book. It is unwritten because it is never to be written down, but is past down orally from master to master; my teacher called this menju kuketsu (oral secrets transmitted face to face).. This unwritten book has been passed down to me. I was told not to write it down; but to pass it down only ‘face to face’. Yet, here I am writing it down. I write it down for me, and those I sit with face to face. I write it down for generations who come later so that it may not be lost.

Why do we not write it down? Everyone knows the Truth: that All is really connected, that nothing is really separate. Words by their nature define and separate, so the Truth cannot be written down, it cannot even be put into words. The Truth is whole, the Truth is everything, but words separate into definable pieces. To try and write down the Truth would be sure folly. So the words only ‘point the way;’ they merely reflect some aspect of the Truth, the way the Moon reflects a portion of the Sun’s light. So I know I shouldn’t write this book, some have tried before. Success is impossible. But I write, what I can, anyhow.

Truth number one is, ‘All is one’. Why is this Truth not the Truth? Because, although All is One, it is also not one; yet it is not two either. You see, already the words make no sense. The Truth is beyond words and the rational mind; The Truth includes the irrational too. For even nothing, by the definition of everything, is included in everything.

We call this Ai Mai (Vague, Un-definable). The Truth cannot be put into words instead it leads the words round and round… From one side of the truth to it’s opposite, trying to include everything. Sometimes the Truth is best left to calligraphy, painting, poetry or some other form of art. In our tradition we use: Kyudo (Japanese Zen Archery), Shodō (Zen Calligraphy), Zō En Sekkei (Landscape/Garden Architecture), & Chadō (The way of Tea).

My teacher would never tell me all of this outright in prose like this. But instead, would relate stories of the past that embraced these ideas and taught lessons; he connected me with my inheritance in this way, with his legacy, family, and history.

My teacher passed to me the feeling of Wabi Sabi. Wabi Sabi he said means Rustic Elegance, and I suppose this must be true, because he said so. But I prefer Quiet Loneliness…The melancholy feeling we have when faced with death; when we are faced with the impermanence of all things; when we come face to face with our own death.
Everything changes. This is both a blessing when things aren’t what we think they should be, so we know that our troubles will fade away; and a cause of suffering when we wish things to remain the same.

The teaching is, of course, is that our suffering comes from our wish for things to be different than they are, and the release of this suffering comes when we accept things as they are. This does not mean to lay down and not care, that would be death, and we are charged to live; instead we are to live with the acceptance of our immanent death and inevitable change…if fact, more than that, we are to embrace the melancholy, as beauty itself. To be happy when happy, and sad when sad; not too add or subtract, but to live life as we find it. To approach life as it really is.
This approach leads us to Fu-Sui (Wind Water). Wind and Water flow with the changing conditions. They move with the change but never change their fundamental nature. We call this I Mu I (moving without moving or doing without doing). Both wind and water can be the most powerful forces in the world, or the softest. Water and Wind eventually wear away the stone; Storms of water and wind can be devastating, yet we can walk right through the air and swim through the water.
Our path flows like this. Our approach varied according to the conditions, but always coming from our Tanden (Cinnabar Elixir Field). This Tanden is a point in the very center of our being. If you were to measure yourself head to toe, left and right, plus front and back they would intersect at a physical point; your Tanden hangs from this intersection. It would be about 4 to 5 fingers below your navel, and 3 to 4 fingers inside yourself; this is your physical center. The Tanden also represents our core principles that we live by. Everything we do physically comes from this center, and all of our choices and decisions should come from our core principles; in this way the Tanden links our physical, mental, and emotional worlds; after all, the teaching tells us, they are not really separate, are they? The Tanden connects us to the infinite, defines who we, and is the center of our universe.

There are, too, a great many unwritten rules. When the path is passed from generation to generation, we understand these rules intuitively, and to write them down would make no sense to those who know them. So I will write some of them here, but they will all be wrong. For they cannot be grasped dead, choked off by our own understanding and definition of them; we must know and grasp the truth of them in every time and space. We must both know them and how to pass them to the next generation. I know them but still struggle with how to pass them to the next, who can I have faith in that they will understand, I see a few, but how do I pass it to everyone? This book is my attempt to pass them to everyone, even though I know this attempt is doomed to failure. Even so, I must try.

Since we cannot pass the rules dead and defined, we must pass them alive. To do this, first we must grasp them ‘alive’; we call this Ike Dori (To grasp alive). Ike Dori comes from a term in Landscape Architecture that means borrowed scenery. If you have ‘a view’ from your back porch of a beautiful mountain, but the mountain is not on your property, this is borrowed scenery. The view is yours, but the mountain does not belong to you; you have no control over it, the owner of it could change it, but still it is yours to view.

Sometimes instead of spelling out the rules they will point the way with principles. The seven principles I stole from my teacher’s stories were:
1. Fukinsei (Asymmetry)
2. Kanso (Simplicity)
3. Koko (Austerity)
4. Shizen (Naturalness)
5. Datsuzoku (Unworldliness)
6. Yugen (Subtlety or Mystery)
7. Seijaku (Silence)

Fukensei (Asymmetry) is a principle that is quite obvious in Kyudo (The way of the bow), because the bow itself is asymmetrical. But this principle shows up in Japanese ascetics all the time. This is a way of balancing which shows that all things do not carry the same weight. Everything matters, but some things matter more than others.
Kanso (Simplicity) means that we should always do just enough to make it perfect. Of course, this just enough can be quite a bit of work. Sometimes we get caught up in this doing and do too much.
Koko (Austerity) reminds us that everything must be cared for. Keep things simple and clean.
Shizen (Naturalness) deals again with Fu Sui (wind water) and faith in the Nature’s Design. These two ideograms are Shi 'self', and zen which mean 'to be' or 'being'; so to be natural is equal to being ourselves.
Datsuzoku (Unworldliness) comes from two Kanji (Japanese ideograms) The first one, Datsu, means to take or strip off, and the second, zoku, means vulgar or common. Some of the most important things are invisible.
Yugen (Subtle / Mystery) reminds us of Ai Mai (Indefinable / Vague), that some things are, and should remain a mystery, but that they can be glimpsed in the subtlety and detail of our lives, through the corner of our eyes.
Seijaku (Silence) reminds us that we can only truly hear when we are silent. All answers come to us if we sit quietly, patiently waiting, with a receptive mind. The two characters for Sei-jaku are Quiet and Lonely.

Once the principles are grasped, they lead us to the rules. These rules must never be broken, but once we grasp them alive we often break them, usually to our own detriment.

The first rule is, of course, to never write it down. Once you write it down, it is dead and cannot live on. You killed it. So everything written in this book is wrong and dead, the truth must be lived. So please throw this book away, and live instead.

The rule of 3 is interesting. When a student wishes to study with a master he must ask three times, and the master must refuse three times. The examples of this are innumerable, as are the reasons for it.

Another rule is that the truth is passed from master to master orally, sitting face to face together. In this way a relationship evolves, and a bond is formed. This ensures the truth of the transmission. When one master is ready, the master he has gives him the stamp of approval; they exchange smiles, and everyone knows the difference.

I noted in re-reading my text that the more I write the further I am from the truth. So again I urge you to throw this book away. Instead, sit quietly, listen to the master within, let the master within win, surrender your ego, and live an enlightened life of discovery, awe, and wonder with those you love. Then the world will be a wonderful place to live.

Thank you,
Zen Man Walking

The unwritten book remains unwritten. For, as I’m sure you’ve discovered by now, It can never really be written down.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hitote - one handful

In the Do(u) arts of Japan many schools have the teaching of Hitote. This is most often associated with Kado(u) (The way of flower arrangement); in this art our school teaches it as one handful that easily is picked and we combine this with 3 other handfuls of some other flower or branch or leaf etc. Though since the Meiji Restoration many ikebana schools have written down how many flowers are in a handful...which is usually defined as 3, 5, and/or 7 pieces. In kyudo(u) most schools define Hitote as two arrows.

This teaching of Hitote, though, is a buddhist term and comes from the following story.

The Buddha said that his teaching is “a single handful.” A passage in the Samyutta-nikaya makes that clear. While walking through the forest, the Buddha picked up a handful of fallen leaves and asked the monks who were present to decide which was the greater amount, the leaves in his hand or all the leaves in the forest. Of course, they all said that there were more leaves in the forest, that the difference was beyond comparison. Try to imagine the truth of this scene; clearly see how huge the difference is. The Buddha then said that, similarly, those things that he had realized were a great amount, equal to all the leaves in the forest. However, that which was necessary to know, those things that should be taught and practiced, were equal to the number of leaves in his hand.

- Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, from “A Single Handful,” Tricycle, Winter 1996

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Interdependent Arising

Interdependent arising is another key concept in our school. Kosaka Sensei says this is called 'Engi' in Japanese. One Buddhist Priest had a phrase that was similar though, Ninkyo(u)-Funi; as best I can determine this means something like 'Person Phenomenon not two'. This is not the same as Interdependent arising but I think it may be related.

The term for Interdependent arising in Sanskrit, I believe, is: Pratitya-Samutpada, though Sensei rarely used this phrase.

But he describes this interdependent arising as nothing existing without everything else; that everything exists in relation to everything else. Recently he has begun to use the word 'conjoined' to denote that everything is linked. Personally I like interwoven. But I think the logic behind this notion ends up back at the reality that All is One. Though Sensei prefers 'Not-two'....ummm not two, isn't that part of the defintion I had for Ninkuyo(u)-Funi? Maybe that phrase is closer than I thought?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mujo - Impermanence

All of Kosaka Sensei teachings evolve from this notion of impermanence. The idea that everything changes.

Because everything changes we should have no attachment to anything, it will change...and we want to change right along with it, without delay.

That everything changes is both a blessing when things aren't what we think they should be, so we know our troubles will fade away (as all things do); and a cause of suffering when we wish things to remain the same.

The teaching is, of course, that our suffering comes from our wish for things to be different than they are, and the release comes when we accept things as they are.

This does not mean to lay down (or sit still) and not care, that would be death, and we are charged to be human beings (nin gen kei sei) not human dieings. Yet we are to live with the acceptance of inevitable change and our immanent death. So we must do what needs to be done to eliminate suffering and bring happiness to everyone for all time....Every moment of every day (mainichi itsu demo, is a key phrase in our school). For as human beings we all do not want to suffer and we all want to be happy, in this way we are all the same... we are human.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Unwritten Book part 2

Truth number one is, 'All is one'. Why is this Truth not the Truth? Because, although All is One, it is also not one; yet it is not two either. You see, already the words make no sense. The Truth is beyond words and the rational mind; The Truth includes the irrational too. For even nothing, by the definition of everything, is included in everything.

We call this Ai Mai (Vague, Un-definable). The Truth cannot be put into words instead it leads the words round and round... From one side of the Truth to it's opposite, trying to include everything. Sometimes the Truth is best left to calligraphy, painting, poetry or some other art form. In our tradition we use: Kyu(u)do(u) (Japanese Zen Archery), Hatsu-Zen-Do(u) (Zen Calligraphy), Zo(u)-En-Sekkei (Landscape/Garden Architecture), & Chado(u) (The Way of The Tea).

My teacher would never tell me all of this in outright prose like this. But instead, would relate stories of the past that embraced these ideas and taught lessons; in this way, he connected me with my inheritance, with his legacy, family, and history.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Unwritten Book Part 1

Many students kept asking me to write down the principles behind our school. In an attempt to both please them, and explain why that was difficult, I wrote the following paper. The paper is a little long so I'll break it down into a few blog posts.

There is an unwritten book. It is unwritten because it is never to be written down, but is to be transmitted down orally from master to master; my teacher called this menju kuketsu (oral secrets transmitted face to face). This unwritten book has been passed down to me. I was told not to write it down; but to pass it down only 'face to face'. Yet, here I am writing it down. I write it down for me, and those I sit with face to face. I write it down for generations to come, so that it will not be lost.

Why do we not write it down? Everyone knows the Truth; That All is really connected, that nothing is really separate; so, there is no reason to write it down. Plus, words by their nature define and separate, so the Truth of Wholeness cannot be written down, it cannot even be put into words. This is why so often we use art to try and point the way to this Truth. The Truth is whole, the Truth is everything, but words separate everything into definable pieces. To try and write down the Truth is sure folly. Words, at best, only 'point the way;' they merely reflect some aspect of the Truth, the way the Moon reflects a portion of the Sun's light. So I know I shouldn't write this down, some have tried before me. Success is impossible, But I write, what I can , anyhow.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kosaka Sensei has a wonderful lecture he gives on Wabi Sabi. I'd heard it many times, but could never really get my notes complete. [When I visit him privately, and he sees me taking notes on our discussion (cause he used to drop of lot of 'jewels' during our meetings, so I really wanted notes on it) he would stop talking. So I always had to fill in the gaps from my poor memory.] Anyhow on a trip to Kinokuniya (the local Japanese Book Store), there was a book entitled 'Wabi Sabi' (though today I see lots of these books with this topic, at that time I'd not seen one before). This particular one was quite close to Kosaka Sensei's lecture...not exactly the same...but some of the material was almost straight out of his rendition. I bought the book. Then after our Rancho Park kyudo practice (as was my habit back then) went to his house. I said, 'Look Sensei, I found a book on Wabi Sabi', and handed him the book. He thumbed through it for a bit, nodding what looked like approval and recognition of the contents, he seemed surprised that someone got so close to an understanding of a topic that is so difficult to state in words. Then he looked at the cover and said, 'oh, I see. I taught this guy', he paused...and then, as he said 'he shouldn't have written it down', and tossed my book into the trash.

Of course, I went and purchased another copy. But this experience, and the insistence in our school that you cannot get kyudo from a book, and that the teaching is handed down 'face to face' (we call this menju kuketsu) has made me hesitate to write down anything here, but my own experience. Although Kosaka Sensei has named me his legacy holder, and 'stamped' my understanding, I hesitate to try and expound on the actual principles of our school. But many tell me that without my interpretations, they don't see how they'll ever understand them; and some of these people are nearing their 20 year mark with us.

Most of the principles I learned are contained in the stories I've told here. I will, therefore, continue to tell the stories; but here and there, I may throw in a few prose too that just simply state some of the principles our school is based on. We'll see how it goes. Please feel free to give me feed back on whether you need more or less of these.

rick 'jyozen' beal

Monday, October 12, 2009

An Aikido group, that I really like, was setting up a sesshin at Mt. Baldy Zen Center. Though I had my own meditation practice from Master Yen since I was little, I'd never sat formerly at a Zen Center; I really wanted to go. I'd not been with Kosaka Sensei very long and I wasn't sure the protocol, but I wanted his permission to go. I caught him at the dojo just before everyone else arrived, told him about the event, and asked permission to go. He responded quite harshly, 'I can't believe you can ask such a question; a Japanese person would never ask such a thing.' I wasn't sure if that was a yes or a no, but I went.

We had a great time sitting with the monks that live there, doing aikido, and working around the center.

The week before the sesshin, Kosaka Sensei had told us a story of Joshu. 'In the monastery where Joshu was a monk, there were two buildings where all the monks lived; and, there was a cat. This cat was very clever and went to both buildings to be fed. One day, while Joshu was out, monks from one building saw the monks from the other building feeding the cat. An argument ensued, 'What are you doing feeding our cat!?...'Your cat!, this is not your cat, this is our cat!.' The ruckus became so loud that the Abbott came out of his quarters to see what all the fuss was about. 'They're feeding our cat said one set of monks'; 'it's our cat!' said the other set of monks. The Abbott scooped up the cat by the scruff of it's neck and pulled out a sword (where the Abbott got this sword, was not told, it just appeared or he brought it with him? Warrior Abbott? He brought his sword in case the monastery was under attack? Could be, I suppose; in any case, he took out this sword). 'If any one of you can tell me if this cat has Buddha Nature, I will spare the cat!' The monks all stood dumbfounded, not knowing what to say. The Abbott killed the cat (Not even attached to the 'do no harm' vow, I guess; or justified through Ho(u)ben, Skillful means?). Anyhow, he killed the cat.

Later, when Joshu returned, all the monks were crying and despondent. Joshu asked what was the matter, but none could speak coherently to answer his query. So Joshu went to see the Abbott. The Abbott told Joshu what happened.

At this point Kosaka Sensei looked at us and said, "The Abbott said, 'if any one of you can tell me if this cat has Buddha Nature, I will spare the cat.'; now, what do you say? We went around the room and most people said, 'Yes, the cat has Buddha nature, all sentient beings have Buddha Nature,' to which Kosaka Sensei politely nodded his head. When it came to my turn Kosaka Sensei said, 'Wait! you answer me next week'.

It turns out, at this sesshin on Mt. Baldy a Roshi told the same story and ended with. 'Joshu, still at the doorway, took off his sandals and put them on his head; to which the Abbott responded, 'Had you been here, I could have spared the cat.'

So at my next meeting with Kosaka Sensei as I walked in the door, he looked up at me and I gave him my answer; I took off my sandals and put them on my head. He rolled his eyes and said, 'Monkey see, monkey do' and walked away.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kotohajime - First Event of the Year

In our school we shoot an arrow for the Japanese Community at the beginning of every year. We call this ceremony 'kotohajime' or the first event of the year. A private event is held like this in some shrines in Japan. I missed the first one when I took my break at the beginning of my time with the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai (I missed the annual sukiyaki party too). The first one I was ready to particpate in was the 1986 (I think) it was the year of the Tiger. We were shooting 28 meters across the courtyard at the JACCC in downtown Los Angeles. Mishima Sensei, (my sempai) Richard Parra, and myself were going to shoot in sequence. Kosaka Sensei painted a 40' x 40' tiger across the entire could only be seen from the second floor or higher clearly but it was amazing. We did not shoot well, in fact we all missed; my last shot hit the ground and (but it finished the tail on the tiger). No hits and big audiance. Just as it seemed over, Mishima Sensei said, 'I think I'll shoot one more'. He lined up and the crowd went silent, as Mishima Sensei began to draw the bow, a not too bright fellow, jumped right in front of the target to snap a photo (well I guess since we had missed all the others, he felt safe there, but I think we move so slowly and smoothly that people forget the bow and arrow are deadly weapons). I saw some glimmer in Mishima Sensei's eye that he recognized that the fellow was there, but he didn't stop or even pause; he continued to bring the bow and arrow to full he reached full draw, the fellow took his photo and jumped out of the way; and Mishima Sensei again let the arrow fly to the bullseye.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rancho Park

Our dojo is a makiwara dojo, where we shoot only a 'bows length' away from the straw bale (called a makiwara). So for standard distance shooting of 28 meters we go to 'Rancho Park' (though actually we shoot just a bit short of 28 meters at Rancho Park; we shoot at 25 meters due to the design of the range).

I remember my first time there. We were all shooting 20 arrows and keeping track of our hits and misses. I did very poorly with only one hit near the end of the day, and I almost shot Mishima Sensei who was standing behind me! and I almost shot one completely out of the range as it bent and curved upward and sailed away.

Kiomaru Sensei hit almost all of his, and Kosaka Sensei faired very well too. The only saving grace was that Mishima Sensei also only hit one, just like me. He didn't seem to mind. I think he did it just to keep me company. But as we were beginning to clean up he said, "I think I'll shoot just one more." He proceeded to shoot the smoothest easiest straightest shot I'd ever seen right into the center of the target, and he didn't seem to mind that either.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

First Shot

I'd been in the dojo learning the kihontai (basics) of standing, walking, bowing, sitting, and kneeling for several months when Kosaka Sensei brought a bow, glove, and arrow and handed them to me. I wasn't quite sure what he wanted me to do, so I hesitated. He reached back over and took them away saying, "Well, maybe next week." But it wasn't next week; it was several weeks, maybe even a couple of months before he handed them to me again. I realized that day, that while I practiced the kihontai I was supposed to be 'stealing' what the others were doing 'through the corner of my eyes'. It could not have been direct learning, since they said little; nor by watching directly, because when I tired of my own practice and tried to watch directly Kosaka Sensei would see me and say, "It's time for tea, please get the tea ready." But since the day he handed them to me I have been stealing his teaching through the corner of my eye. What a wonderful perspective it is. When next he handed me the bow, glove, and arrow I doned the glove picked up the bow and arrow and shot my first arrow into the makiwara. Maybe over two years since I started the practice with Okubo Sensei, and So many years ago now. To this day I still shoot the makiwara almost everyday, and practice Kihontai;

I continue to steal the workings of the world from the corner of my eye. Some say I may even have eyes in the back of my head, not a bad skill to have either. I see the 'invisible' target back there at 28 meters so clearly now, and can taste the students shot behind me. "Listen with our eyes, and see with our ears" Kosaka Sensei tells us; what wonderful perspective this is too. What a wonderful way to see the world.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting Dressed

Once I was doing the clean up and set up Kosaka Sensei would come in time to change. I wanted to watch how to dress properly, But as I watched him put on the hakama (traditional billowing/pleated pants) I saw that he put his left foot in first (and realized that he had done the same with his tabi (split toed socks), as well as his dogi (shirt). But as I looked up again to see what was next he was putting the last tie on the hakama; I had missed the whole process.

This continued for the next few weeks until I could get dressed, at least similar to the way he did. Always left foot first... tabi first... then dogi... then obi (belt)... then hakama.

After that Kosaka Sensei always came already dressed.

Clean up

In our tradition we take a tea break. This is a chance to discuss the schools schedule, upcoming events, extra teaching, for Sensei to tell stories, or just to share some nourishment and comradeship.

Sensei took this occasion to tell us that in Japan when he went to school there were no Janitors. The students (and sometimes parents and/or teachers) cleaned the school. They came early (in fact he said everyone in Japan arrives 30 minutes early) to clean and set up. Then after class the students would put everything away and clean up.

Our class started at 7pm, so the following week I arrived at 6:30 (30 minutes early as he said). But when I arrived the dojo was all clean and set up and Kosaka Sensei waited at the 'head of the room' waiting for all of us to arrive and get ready.

Sensei cornered my after class and sternly said, 'In Japan the beginners set everything up for the seniors, next week please come early!'

I was a little taken back because I came the 30 minutes early, but he had done everything was already.

But I wanted to train so I came 1 hour early the next week. Sensei was already there and everything was all clean and set up. He gave me a very aggravated look.

So the next week I cam an hour and a half early, but the same scenerio took place.

I wasn't sure what to do, but the follwoing week I came 2 hours early; I was just in time to see Sensei opening the door.

We cleaned and set up together. He handed me the key and never came early again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Never miss class...Never miss a chance.

I went to my first day of kyudo with the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai with a friend.
The friend, once we started found reasons not to go to class, so I didn't go for awhile too.
The day I returned to class, as soon as I walked in the door, Kosaka Sensei zero'd in on me and came straight at me. He told me quite strongly, "if you're not going to be here, if you're going to miss class, you should call me and tell me you're not coming!" He gave me his business card. I didn't want to have to call and tell him I'm not coming, so since this day I have almost never missed class; and I noticed, neither did he; for years he came every week to both our weekend evening classes in East L.A. and the Sunday morning practice at Rancho Park.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Okubo Sensei had sent me to a teacher in San Diego to buy us 'live' blades. At this time, at least, it was hard to get live blades out of Japan. When I recognized that my Okubo Sensei was just another human being and not the enlightened japanese master I invisioned him, I left him and returned to that dojo in San Diego (of course, later, I understood that even enlightened masters are human beings too and returned to train with Okubo Sensei some more). The dojo had changed and now said Sunset Cliffs Aikido on the wall outside. There was a contractor inside building rooms for students to live in. I helped him in his work and talked about my training desires. It wasn't long before I realized that this fellow was not a contractor but the Sensei of the school. I moved in that night. A few years later an aikido teacher came from Japan to live with us in the dojo. This teacher had also studied kyudo with Suhara Sensei in Japan. He started the San Diego Kyudo Kai; so it was that I belonged to both the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai and the San Diego Kyudo Kai. I lived in the aikido dojo all week then on Friday I left for L.A. and spent the weekend training there.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Before meeting Okubo Sensei, I had been training some karate students. Okubo Sensei felt that though I was supposed to listen to him, that because I viewed myself as a teacher I couldn't really listen to him; He felt that I was reviewing and questioning everthing he taught me. So he told me if I wished to continue training with him, I must close my karate / kobudo school. I went with several students to find them another place to train. But one of my top students really couldn't find a suitable place, and really didn't want to train with any one but me. Since I couldn't teach anymore I brought him with me to see Okubo Sensei in hopes we could train together. But he really didn't seem to care for the kendo class, and really didn't bond with Okubo Sensei. At the beginning of each UCLA kendo class, however, we did a warm up exersize that was borrowed from kyudo (japanese archery). He loved this warm up, and said, 'what is that? I want to do that!' 'Kyudo', Okubo Sensei replied; 'if you did kyudo for 10 years but hadn't picked up your sword in that time, but now picked up your sword, your sword work would also be 10 years better. Only kyudo would do that, nothing else.' We often had a bite to eat after class, at this meal Okubo Sensei wrote a note of introduction on the back of a napkin, and sent my x-student off to the Higashi Hongwanji Temple where he had studied kyudo under Koen Mishima Sensei and Hirokazu Kosaka Sensei.

He didn't want to go by himself, so he asked me to accompany him for moral support. We arrived and were directed to sit down on some chairs to watch the class. Mishima Sensei was teaching a few beginners how to walk. At this time it was customary for new comers to watch a few times before they actually were taught (though I didn't realize this at the time). But Mishima Sensei said we should come learn to walk too. My friend stood up, but I said that I only came to offer moral support for my friend. In my head I was thinking that I really didn't have any interest in kyudo. But Mishima Sensei insisted that I should practice too. But again I said that I shouldn't, that I didn't want to waste the Sensei's time, that I would only be here for this one time, that I would be here only one day. Mishima Sensei replied quite strongly, 'one day of practice is one day of practice!' As I stood up I thought to myself, 'ok, as long as you understand I'm only going to be here for one day.' But I practiced that day and I still practice today.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Training Continues

Since Master Yen passed away I trained with a variety of instructors in a variety of martial arts, sometimes just for a seminar or maybe for a year or two. These include Bill Ryusaki Sensei, Roger Arell Sensei, Russell Black Sifu; But my next real teacher / student relationship was with Hirotaka Okubo Sensei in February of 1982.

I met Okubo Sensei at the San Fernando Kendo dojo. We used to move from one sensei (instructor) to another as we attacked each of them with our shinai (bamboo swords). The first day Okubo Sensei came, I cut down on his men (helmet) and shouted 'Men!'. He was small and in his sixties but he held up his hand as I tried to pass and stopped me in my tracks, like hitting a brick wall. He whispered to me 'that's the best kiai (shout) I've ever heard; you should come practice with me at my class at UCLA on Saturday;' Of course I answered 'Hai Sensei' (yes teacher). The following week at break time Okubo Sensei scolded me, 'you said you would come to my class at UCLA, but you didn't come'. I apologized and promised to come. He had me pick him up at his house and take him to UCLA across town. When we started class at UCLA I again cut down on his 'men' and again he stopped me in my tracks; but this time he said, 'what was that, you sound like a wolf howling to the moon' that's the worst kiai I've ever heard'.

I started going to his house almost daily. We would either go to a class somewhere in L.A. together, or I would practice swinging the shinai in his living room.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Training Begins

My martial arts training began in 1966. My sisiter's friend drove us to the beach. We always sat near the 'rings'. These rings stretched in a line of about a dozen rings; everyone would climb a few steps, jump out, and catch the first ring; then they would swing back and forth from ring to ring until they dropped to the ground on the far side. I tried, but couldn't even reach the first ring; I would just miss and land right there on the ground. As I walked away a boy, even smaller than I, climbed up, jumped, grabbed the first ring and swung back and forth from ring to ring and dropped on the far side. I stood there with my mouth hanging open; the boy said, 'hi'.

His name was Johnny Wills and I asked him how learned to jump and swing like that. His father and uncle taught judo and pinjat silat; they had brought in an oriental teacher for him to learn more. This teacher was Master Yen Su Ho. Johnny and I studied with Master Yen till his death 10 years later. I couldn't travel 'over the hill' to see Master Yen as often as I wanted, so I began to train with other teachers and practice with my friends everyday. Martial arts training became my life.

The basics I teach today are the same basics Master Yen taught me in my youth: Breathing; Relaxing; Moving from our center; using our bone alignment, and extending out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kyu = bow & Do = Tao or Way

The term Do in Japanese, as in Kyudo (for the Way of the Archery Bow), comes from the Chinese term Tao. The Tao is a Path or Way for balance and harmony. Kyudo, then, is a Path or Way for using the archery bow to create balance and harmony.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

American Zen Archery (post 1)

I call this American Zen Archery because I am an American both trained in japanese archery and also trained in zen meditation.