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.