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?