Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Though kyudo is not necessarily Zen, Zen influenced most of the Japanese Arts. The Zen monks of the 12th to 18th centuries were sponsored by Warrior families and so their ideas began to infiltrate the warrior arts. The monks themselves were often artist of calligraphy or tea and so they created their own type of art that has come to exemplify what many think of as being Japanese Art.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The roots of the stance

As a tree first stretches down its roots, we too should drop our energy deep into the earth. Then from this stable rooted position, stretch up along the spine, to use the whole-self to connect the Earth and Sky, just as a tree then spreads it's branches and bears it's fruit.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More on Wabi Sabi

In our tradition we use these kanji:
Wabi = Quiet
Sabi = Lonely

In some traditions they use the kanji of rusty for Sabi.

Sensei says Wabi Sabi means Rustic Elegance.

Wabi Sabi, though, can't really be defined. We call this undefinable aspect ai mai.
Ai Mai = Vague or undefinable.

Wabi Sabi is used to teach Mujo.
Mujo = Impermanence. Everything changes. Everything is born, lives, decays, and dies.

Wabi Sabi is the acceptance, even the embracing, of this fact that everything will one day pass. This melancholy lonely feeling is Wabi Sabi. We embrace the flaw that remains even though we polished to perfection. We embrace all that really is and love it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


In our school of kyudo breathing (kokyu) is fundamental. It creates the nagare (flow). Sometimes it's all I say during practice... 'breath in... breath out'. Without our breath, we die; air and our breathing connects us to everything else; inside outside become one and the same... and breathing keeps us alive 'ikasu'.

The in breath opens us up and allows us to align our bones, the out breath extends from this posture to both relax us and allow even more expansion.

The Teaching says, "Every movement has a breath". This statement has been interpreted in many ways. Luckily almost all of the the interpretations work. Breathing out for moves that extend out is most common in martial arts, and kyudo is a martial art. The Teaching also says, "Every movement begins with an in breath and ends with an out breath;"

The main thing is that each breath be complete (we call this shin kokyu = deep breathing); this means that we want to minimize the gap between in and out and overlap them. This is done by breathing in until the we are so full that the air is leaving of it's own accord and out until we are so empty a vacuum is formed and the air rushes in.

Speed should be natural ('natural' is somewhere between 8 and 18 breaths per minute depending on whether you think natural is what everyone naturally does (18 breaths per minute) or how slow meditators breath 'naturally' when not meditating (8 breaths per minute).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Nanka Kyudo Kai

In 1996, the same year we formed the UCI Kyudo Club, Kosaka Sensei had been asked by his long time kyudo sempai to align the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai with an old school of kyudo called Muyoshingetsu-ryu.

In this same year the kyudo groups in The U.S. were forming the American Kyudo Renmei. Though Kosaka Sensei was going to Muyoshingetsu-ryu (we had learned this form and I had been authorized, in fact, pressured, to teach kyudo in this way) I really felt that kyudo was best taught (especially in the beginning) according to the method I had learned at the ANKF/Kyudo USA seminars. Kosaka Sensei and I discussed it; we agreed that Muyoshingetsu-ryu would not be for everyone, and that the ANKF method was needed in Southern California.

The AKR was going to have one Renmei per state, but I really needed to have control of how Southern California was to be run if I was both going to honor Kosaka Sensei, and his wishes, but teach according to ANKF guidelines; so I insisted that we have two in California; it was agreed that our group in Southern California, with its long history, would be 'grandfathered in' as a separate Renmei.

I went to Kosaka Sensei for a name. He named me and my group The Nanka Kyudo Kai. Nanka is the local abbreviation for Southern California. This was to reflect the teaching I was doing at 5 dojo throughout the area (Southbay, East L.A., San Diego, UCI, and West L.A.).

Today I only teach at my one dojo in Pasadena California. Kosaka Sensei kept his Southbay School as Muyoshingetsu-ryu. I've always allowed the other schools to attend my East L.A. dojo (now in Pasadena), but today everyone follows the ANKF form; San Diego was originally Ogasawara-ryu (since I began it before I had studied ANKF) but today Curran Sensei runs it as an ANKF dojo; UCI was my original ANKF only dojo (so it is still run that way); and the West L.A. range has always been, and remains, for all schools to gather there.

Today the other dojo are run by others, and my Nanka is just the dojo in Pasadena and the open practice we host at Rancho Park in West L.A.. We still practice according to the ANKF guidelines in Pasadena; and allow all kyudo-ka form all schools, styles, and renmei to join us at our Sunday practice at Rancho Park.

Please come join us if you are in L.A.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai

In 1973, Rev. Koen Mishima arrived in Los Angeles from Japan to minister at the Higashi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. His family had practiced kyudo for many generations. Mishima Sensei practiced kyudo in the temple's basement by himself for quite some time; one day, as he practiced, he was photographed. Iwao Iwata saw that photograph displayed at an exhibition, and he became Mishima Sensei's first student. Eventually the two of them were joined by Rev. Hirokazu Kosaka Sensei, and an American man named Mike Stanley.

When Kosaka Sensei arrived as young monk his job was to interview the families of the deceased, he was to console them and to help document the life that had been lost. On one such interview when he asked what their grandfather liked to do, they responded, 'Kyudo'. After exclaiming that he too practiced kyudo, he was told that their grandfather had buried the bows and arrows from the original Los Angeles Kyudo Kai in the backyard of their family home, before the war. During the World War, The Japanese were being persecuted, rounded up and put into internment camps; their grandfather feared being caught with weapons, but hated to loose the legacy represented by this equipment; so he buried it in the backyard. Kosaka Sensei found the house, and in his monks robes, knocked on the door. The current owner of the home (a large dark skinned man), fearing a request for money, snatched the door open and shouted, 'Whattya want!' With his hands in gassho, Kosaka Sensei calmly said, 'There is buried treasure in your backyard, and I'd like to dig it up'. After a great conversation, and a meal of American Southern Style food an arrangement was reached. The local Japanese Gardner's Association came and dug up the yard to find the buried boxes, and then they re-landscaped the yard beautifully for the owner.

Kosaka Sensei also learned that members of the original Los Angeles Kyudo Kai still lived in Los Angeles. He met with them and discussed kyudo in the early days of the twentieth century. These men asked Kosaka Sensei, 'Please keep the memory of the Los Angles Kyudo Kai alive'. This is when Kosaka and Mishima Sensei decided to name their group The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai.

This is what Sensei was told:
Kyudo came to the United States from Japan in the early years of the twentieth century, reaching Los Angeles as early as 1908 with scattered individuals practicing around the city and the beginnings of a group called the Rafu (the local Japanese pronunciation of “L.A.”) Kyudo Kai. As early as 1916, Mr. Suda Chokei had founded the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai, and the group practiced together regularly. From 1920 to 1928, Mr. Miwa Tanechiko taught the Heike style of archery. Students met at a dojo located on what was then Jackson Street in Little Tokyo, near the intersection of San Pedro and First Streets. A second dojo was located in Boyle Heights on St. Louis Street, near Hollenbeck Park.

Vintage photographs and a collection of artifacts from the first dojo survive to this day. This includes the bows and arrows recovered by Kosaka Sensei and the maku (curtain) that hung in the original dojo.

World War II caused a grave and decades-long disruption in the practice of kyudo in Los Angeles. Because kyudo was considered a martial art, bows and arrows used by practitioners were seized as weapons by the federal government, and those that escaped confiscation were either burned or buried by their fearful owners. The Jackson Street martial arts center was closed and eventually demolished, and for the duration of the war, Japanese-Americans were relocated to internment camps. After the war, individuals resumed their practice in isolation without the help and support of an instructor, and there was no official kyudojo in Los Angeles.

In 1975, Mishima-sensei and Kosaka-sensei officially reinstated the old Los Angeles Kyudo Kai, and weekly taught a growing number of students in a variety of locations: from 1973–1978, at the Higashi Honganji Temple; from 1978–1981 in the basement of Koyasan Temple in Little Tokyo; from 1982–1992, in the beautiful wood-paneled church hall of the Nichiren Temple in East Los Angeles, at the corner of Fourth Street and Saratoga; from 1993–1999, in the Rafu Chuo Gakuen Community Hall on Saratoga. Today the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai practices at their Ikkyu Dojo in the Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

San Diego Kyudo Kai & UCI Kyudo Club

It was January 1993. I was in Kosaka Sensei's office one afternoon (as was my habit at the end of the day). He answered the phone... 'Yes... Uh huh... yes, I see. Well, I can't come but Rich Beal will come.' He hung up the phone and said, 'you go to San Diego sometimes don't you?' and without waiting for an answer, 'You'll be teaching kyudo down there; here's the fellow's phone number.'

He gave me the phone number for James Williams and Jesse Wilhoite, who had a dojo in San Deigo. They wanted to have kyujitsu in the dojo.

My family and I went down to San Diego to see them. They and their families treated us to a wonderful sushi meal at a restaurant near their dojo. I explained that I didn't know kyujitsu but could help them include kyudo in their dojo.

That February we revived the San Deigo Kyudo Kai. (of course, as stated earlier, I was a founding member of the San Diego Kyudo Kai when Satoshi Takamori Sensei first set it up in the mid 80's. Rich Moon and I and another Sunset Cliffs Aikido UchiDeshi, Chris, were the whole dojo for quite sometime. Rich Moon, Takamori Sensei and I went to Chozenji in Hawaii for a kyudo seminar in the mid to late 80's too, with Morisawa Sensei. It was a wonderful Gashuku Morisawa Sensei created just for us. Takamori Sensei had studied with Suhara Sensei at Enkakuji in Japan and Chozenji had patterned their practice after Suhara Sensei's, so Suhara Sensei 'spoke' on our behalf.)

In the same year we revived the San Diego Kyudo Kai (1993), that summer we had the first Kyudo USA in San Jose California. I received a call from E. Clay Buchanan, who invited me to come. I asked Kosaka Sensei's permission to go, and received it. Another student, Steve Samishima, my wife Yachiyo, and I went to take our shodan tests.

The San Diego Kyudo Kai exists today and is run by Jannette Curran Sensei. Curran Sensei started with me there in June of 1993, and now runs the dojo as a GoDan Renshi.

In 1996 at the behest of Dr. Yokoyama of Hitachi Chemical Corporation we started the UCI Kyudo Club. Dr. Yokoyama had set up a scholarship fund there and asked the University to set up a kyudo club. I was again 'volunteered' to be the teacher. I went origially with Jesse Wilhoite, from the San Diego Kyudo Kai, as my assistant. We were soon joined by Vince Tagle as the first UCI student to join the club. The club has been taught by myself, Jannette Curran, Doug Sakurai, Aaron Fay, and is now taught by its first student, Vince Tagle.

We even had a wonderful one day seminar at UCI with 5 Hanshi from Japan. We were joined by several kyudo-ka from Northern California. We had 5 Hanshi with 5 makiwara and 11 students, we really learned a lot that day.

It's wonderful to see the dedication of all these kyudo-ka who have given so much of their time and effort to the art.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Teaching Kyudo 2

Between the time when Kosaka Sensei had me start helping him teach kyudo and now, over 25 years has passed. Many students have taken their first arrow with my hands to guide them. Many are still practicing; some of these have passed tests, and some have never taken a test.

Watch with my ears and listen with my eyes... See the dojo world from all corners. Discover the core reason for any error; and/or the correct direction of their practice; Find the teaching that fits the student at this moment in this space and time. I used to be amazed at the knack that Sensei had for this, but now the answers are obvious, jumping out at me... and I understand how he did it. It's all in the teaching, it's already been done, it's already been said; the how and when is the only question, and even that is now very clear.

So, some ask me, how could it be clear like that. But now I know the problem is not how to teach others. To see others and to help them is the easy part. The real practice is how to keep the eye on our own center, to see ourselves clearly, to demonstrate through our own composure, from our own upright spine, the true teaching. When the teaching is clear to all that know how to look, that is the ultimate practice. Look within, then reach out from the center found... include all. Then all is clear for all to see.

Hito no furi mite waga furi naose = Observe others’ behavior, and correct your own.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Teaching Kyudo

I'd been with Sensei a few years when he first started to have me help teach. I helped in his class with his students. I didn't really teach, I didn't really speak to the other students much; I was more like a demonstration dummy, that would show what Sensei had taught me, and they would copy me.

When Kosaka Sensei first started to teach me how to teach, He would ask me to first to pay attention to how I shoot, then to watch how he shot, then to watch the
students shoot.

I was told to listen with my eyes, and watch with my ears...

He would ask me, 'what do you see'?
'What do you hear'?

Remember the teaching...
Remember all the people who made this practice possible.
All those that made the equipment to all those that cleaned the space today.
Remember those that lived taught us what we know, the others died so we would know.

What is the most important?
What is the root?

Do you believe in cause and effect?
What is the root cause?

One day, after watching a group of students shoot, he asked, 'What do you think? and I told him. He said, 'you're right.' He then started to walk to them to tell them what I had said, but he stopped... turned back to me and said, 'You tell them'.

After that I taught a lot and he would watch or teach another group on the side.

He would watch me out of the corner of his eye, and I would watch him out of the corner of my eye.

When we were alone he would remind me of things like, 'Always take care of the beginners.' 'Always teach correctly.' I learned that if you weren't sure it's better not to say, it's better to keep my mouth shut.

I've always taught the way Kosaka Sensei taught me. In the beginning I even used the words he used, I just regurgitated them as I remembered them. Today I've developed new ways of saying the same thing... to match what the student needs to hear; but the teaching is still the same... The same as it has been for generation after generation. He has passed it to me, and now I must learn how to pass it to the next generation too.

Generation after generation the teaching must live on... remember everyone who made the practice possible, everyone who came before. never forget... never quit...
Keizoku wa shikara nari

dame vs. o'jozu

Dame means wrong or incorrect. Jozu means well done or correct.
My zen name jozen comes from this jozu, with zen (as meditation) added.

Some teachers prefer the 'dame' method of teaching (This does not mean we are a dummy). Telling us what we do wrong, so we can drop it, and discover a different way. This stems from the Truth that, the Truth cannot actually be stated so, all we can do is say what it is not.

Other teachers prefer the 'jozu' method where we are encouraged to follow the path we've chosen and continue on. This comes from the Truth that everyone must be included and that no one should give up.

But most of us know that it's a combination of the approaches that works best. To choose the right method for this person at this moment is the key.

This is one method of zen. To choose every moment of everyday just the right step. To choose without choosing we say... because we are aligned with the upright path the choice is not ours to make the path chooses for us. But we do choose to step on the path or not.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Kai (meeting, coming together), Hanare (release), and Zanshin (Remaining heart/mind).

I cannot 'finish' until the arrow leaves... yet the arrow cannot leave until I finish.
So I finish even though I can't and the arrow leaves even though it can't.
Both of us finish anyhow, even though we can't.

It's an act of faith, like the morning bird who sings before the sun rises.
He can't sing til the sun rises, but the sun cannot rise til he sings, so together they sing anyhow.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Heki-Ryu Kyudo and Chikurin-Ha

The Chikurin Schools of Kyudo I was shown, are forms of Heki-ryu. We often add the Heki-ryu to the end of the name; ie Kishu-Chikurin-Ha-Heki-ryu.

Yoshida Shigekata studied under Heki Danjo and formed Iga Heki-ryu. Chikurinbo Josei studied under Yoshida Shigekata and formed Chikurin-Ha.

Two of Chikurinbo's students started their own schools: Hoshino Kanzaemon formed Bishu-Chikurin-Ha (he held the record at Sanjusangendo [120 meter competition, how many arrows and hits in 24 hours] with 10,542 shots and 8000 hits) His sempai, Yoshimi Junsei formed Kishu-Chikurin-ha. Yoshimi Junsei's student Daihachiro Wasa set the next record at sanjusangendo with 13,056 shots, and 8,133 hits.

The story says that with Daihachiro was just about to beat the record he wanted to compose himself and took a short break. But when he went to pick up the bow again, his hand had swollen so he couldn't grip the bow. A master came over and scolded him for taking a break; the master then made a small slit to release the pressure on Daihachiro's hand. Daihachiro then went on to set the record. The master who scolded him was none other than Hoshino Kanzaemon, the previous record holder. The previous record holder thus helped to have his own record beaten in order to promote the art of kyudo.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Kanji for Buddha

In my tradition we usually say Butsu rather than Buddha, but it's the same thing.
I had my inka out the other day (the paper I received from the Abbott at my temple).
Two things stuck my mind.
One is that it doesn't say I'm a Buddha, but refers to the potential to be... I found that interesting.
The other was that the Kanji that was used for Buddha was a man standing with a bow and two arrows, I found that interesting too.
Then we copied some copies of the Hannya Shingyo (Wisdom Heart Chant) yesterday and there is an intro that the leader chants, just before this intro is says Butsu, and again the kanji used was a man standing with a bow and two arrows.
Being a zen man who practices Japanese archery, I kind of like this kanji of a man standing with bow and two arrows as being the symbol for Buddha.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Esoteric Teachings

The esoteric teachings, by their nature, are rarely written about publicly. They are always handed down orally, from one to the next. The reasons for this a so numerable that if I listed them all I would bore you. But this secretiveness has always seemed counter productive to me; since we can't truly 'finish' until everyone is finished, how can everyone 'finish' if we only 'stamp' one at a time. We need to broadcast the teaching to everyone, right? So that's what I'm trying to do, even though it can't be done.

Of course The Teaching was being passed down well before the written word, so face to face was the way it had to be done; and if that's the teaching, then the teaching should continue like that, shouldn't it?

This Teaching can only be passed by an adept who has been recognized within the adept's lineage. An adept is the only one who has the 'whole' picture on what The Teaching is, and how to pass it down.

That's the problem with the adepts that are not recognized by a previous adept, it's not that you can't understand The Truth without a teacher, it's that we can fool ourselves into thinking the picture is complete with a small leap in understanding well before we actually embody The Truth; this mis-understanding has us teaching incorrectly or at least incompletely. Of course this can happen within a lineage too, where adepts have been stamped prematurely. But our odds are better that a recognized person of a recognized lineage has the whole thing.

Also a realization of The Truth is wonderful for the individual, but it does not come with a tradition for transmission to complete the process from one adept to the next. It is this last piece that makes me say 'The Teaching' has been passed, not just The Truth.

The esoteric teachings are never to be written down, let alone broadcast like this. But most of us write down what we are taught in our personal journals. Even these journals are to be kept private; we're not even supposed to share them amongst the other 'disciples'. This is because esoteric teachings are individualized; what one person needs to hear, my be the opposite of what another needs to hear.

For this reason I never used to share my journals. But the face to face process is so slow... maybe I'm not patient enough? But once I understood I wanted to share; once I was recognized, I felt the need to share. But I'm walking on ground that is rarely tread. It has been done, but the track record of success is not good.

In the teaching passed to me, there are both exoteric and esoteric teachings; the two together create The Teaching. The exoteric are those that we can see and talk about. The esoteric are those we don't see and only try to talk about.

Esoteric teachings don't fit in words; it's one of the reasons they are esoteric. Some of the teachings are powerful and can be abused or misused by the untrained. People often think they know before they know and things get twisted, turned, and bent.

We can't talk about The Teaching, because the esoteric portion once put into words no longer really makes sense, it begins to go in circles trying to include everything; everything includes even opposites, so it makes no logical sense to call two opposites true; but in terms of The Teaching, everything must be included; the most important part of 'everything' may even be 'nothing.'

Only the exoteric portion is taught, the esoteric is 'stolen' from an adept by being in their presence. Being in an adept's presence, simply, one day we understand and this understanding is recognized. The exoteric teaching says this takes 20 years, the esoteric teaching says it takes one heartbeat, both are true.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Shaho-Kun: Principles of Shooting

'Shaho-Kun - Principles of Shooting: The way is not with the bow, but with the bone, which is of the greatest importance in shooting.

Placing Spirit (Kokoro) in the center of the whole body, with two-thirds of the Yunde (left arm) push the string, and with one-third of the Mete (right arm) pull the bow.

Spirit settled, this becomes harmonious unity. From the center line of the chest, divide the left and right equally into release. It is written, that the collision of iron and stone will release sudden sparks; and thus there is the golden body, shining white, and the half moon positioned in the west'.

The Shaho-Kun was written by Yoshimi Junsei, a Shingon Buddhist Priest, founded the Kishu Clan and Kishu-Chikurin-Ha Kyudo.

The Raiki Shagi: Record of Etiquette - Truth of Shooting

The Raiki Shagi:

Record of Etiquette - Truth of Shooting:

The Shooting, with the round of moving forward or backward can never be without courtesy and propriety (Rei).

After having acquired the right inner intention and correctness in the outward appearance, the bow ...and arrow can be handled resolutely. To shoot in this way is to perform the shooting with success,and through this shooting virtue will be evident.

Kyudo is the way of perfect virtue. In the shooting, one must search for rightness in oneself. With the rightness of self, shooting can be realized. At the time when shooting fails, there should be no resentment towards those who win. On the contrary, this is an occasion to search for oneself.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Quote: Swami Satchidananda

If left alone, the mind is peaceful. It’s almost like a bowl of water. You don’t have to make the water do something to be calm.

Lecture Q&A with Kosaka Sensei

My teacher often gives lectures on Japanese Culture and Art. In addition to being a Priest, he is an artist, teaches kyudo, runs the gallery at the local Japanese Cultural Center, has a wife and kids, etc. So after one lecture, he asked if there were any questions. A woman said, "Yes, I have a question. With all these different aspects of your life, how do you balance them all". He had quite a pause after that question, he even looked puzzled. I'd never seen him look puzzled, he usually shoots back quickly and concisely to questions. Then you could see his face light up, and I realized that it was not the answer to the question that eluded him but the question itself; he said, "Ah, I see, you've separated them".

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kyudo, for me, is based on the teachings handed down to me by my teacher. There are several principles in the teachings that effect me in a particularly strong way.

One of these principles is change. This change is shown in our training as we adapt the movement of shooting; we are both moving and standing still at once... growing up inside while we expand the with the bow until the arrow flies; I love this.

Another is the principle of the asymmetrical balance. The idea that everything counts, but not equally. It works on a 70/30 rule of ratio's that seems to apply to so many things in my life that it amazes me. Then with the 'change' principle applied the ratio changes from moment to moment making life fresh and challenging all the time. There is also a natural ratio of 60/40 that without our interference appears in many aspects of kyudo; The bow for instance is asymmetrical with 60% to the heavens and 40% to the earth, this natural ratio seems to be appearing more and more in my life.

Of course all this is discovered from the quiet meditative mind we develop.
As we meditate we recognize our mortality. Then, although we embrace change, and our inevitable death, we use this recognition as motivation to live life to the fullest... every moment of every day... laughing and smiling.

What a wonderful life we develop when we stand quietly and learn from the japanese bow and arrow...

Monday, January 11, 2010

In shazendo there are 10,000 targets;
we must hit them all.

yet be attached to none.

First find the tanden
The center of the universe.

Reach to the target you can see
the one everyone wants to hit.

Find the invisible target
that lies behind you
where one would be if you just turned around and looked.

If you can hit the tanden, it's all you need
If you can hit the visible one, many will envy you.

If you can hit these two, many will me in awe.

To hit all three, you are on your way.
Only a few will hit all three.

Only one out of 10,000 can find all 10,000 targets.
But really rare are those of us who,
once we have them all,
are willing to let them go.

It only takes an instant,
it's actually a wonderful experience.
and very easy to do.

Will you do it?
Will you do it now?