Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rei means manners

Kyudo begins & ends with Rei
Rei is manners & Rei is the physical act of bowing. Thus 'upright' bowing, showing respect and humility from a postion of strength is the physical manifestation of manners.
Rei begins and ends with the Tanden.
Awareness is the first step. Awareness of the Tanden is the core of the pracitce. All practice leads with... to... and from the Tanden. With the mind stable and established in the Tanden, we look out... gazing gently... seeing all that is, as it is. In this way we move in the world, with the world... without moving away from the Tanden. Thus we are moving without moving.
The path to the Tanden has always been breathing and relaxing. The path from the Tanden has always been bone and extension... Structure and Vision.
Awareness of the Tanden, through the art of breathing & relaxing, then, is the first step. This is a natural step that happens whenever we do not interfer. Like this, through gravity, with a small tether to the Tanden (like a plumb bob) we drop to the center of the earth. From the center of the earth we stand up; from the sacred tail/root bone we stand up; the spine, nape of he neck and crown of the head reach to the heaven (never leaving the center of the earth, or the Tanden, but merging the earth and sky with the tanden as the center of this universe. From Heaven to earth we hang... suspended...
From this upright posture, anything is possible... everything is possible.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kyudo - 1st UCI Seminar

Kyudo 1st UCI Seminar I think it was in 1996 or ’97 when I got a phone call from the ANKF – All Nippon Kyudo Federation in Japan. The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai had been signed up with the ANKF by Onuma Sensei after a visit he made to train us years before. But in 1996 I had formed The Nanka Kyudo Kai as our affiliate with the newly formed AKR – American Kyudo Renmei, and thus are connection to the ANKF. They called because there was to be a Martial Arts event in Long Beach (a city on the south side of Los Angeles County) they had been asked to send instructors, do a demo, and hold a workshop for the event. As the local representative of kyudo, in their eyes, they wanted my ‘permission' to come and participate in an event that was ‘in my backyard,’ I think they called it. I found it a little un-nerving that the ANKF was asking my permission to do anything. Of course they were being polite, I was expected to say yes; in fact, I think they had already planned on coming. But they did ask, what great manners.

They would send, what were to be, 5 Hachidan Hanshi; I say, ‘what were to be’ because at the time of the phone call, Shibata Sensei, and Uozumi Sensei were still listed as Kyoshi. But once they arrived they were profiled as Hachidan Hanshi.

Once I gave my ‘permission' they said that the instructors they were sending had one day off. If I would like, they would give us a one day seminar. Of course I jumped at the chance for that, and it was great. I reserved an exercise room for us at UC Irvine where we had our newly formed UCI Kyudo Kai. We only had rooom for makiwara, but we had 5 Hachidan Hanshi and 5 Makiwara. It was like a private lesson on each Makiwara all day long!

I invited the other Renmei of course, but it was hard to fly to Los Angeles for a one day event. But Earl Hartman Sensei & his family came down from Northern California, as did Stephen Scott Sensei, and one other student from the north as well. The Nanka Kyudo Kai was newly formed so I didn’t have many students separate from Kosaka Sensei yet, but some came; Jesse came up from San Diego; and Vince Tagle the first UCI student to join our newly formed kyudo club took his first shot with the Hanshi (Vince now teaches the UCI Kyudo Club Class). E.Clay and Yoshiko Buchanan Sensei wanted to come but would arrive back from Japan on that same day. Instead of landing in San Jose and going home, they hopped another flight and joined us for dinner after the seminar... then flew home. How’s that for dedication (they flew down for the day for the 80th anniversary of the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai too; I still contact Buchanan Sensei with Tai Hai and etiquette questions because of all they’ve done for us ).

The ANKF asked us to help with their Long Beach Event, and of course we did. It was only a few days, but I’ll remember it forever. One of the Hanshi (and I think Earl Hartman Sensei too) said, 'this is just like how we train in Japan'. Though I don't think they meant with one Hanshi on every makiwara; but that it reminded them of training in their home dojo rather than at a big seminar.

Years later, one of those Sensei (Uozumi Sensei), was one of the judges for my godan test. How cool is that. It's funny though, the day before my test we spoke about the UCI seminar and he said, 'I'm still mad at you'. I asked 'why would you be mad at me, what did I do'? I assumed, out of ignorance, I made some great error in etiquette. But as it turned out, remember before the seminar he was 'only' a Kyoshi not a Hanshi; the day of our seminar was the day the ANKF President was conducting the promotional ceremony in Japan for the Hanshi who passed. Uozumi Sensei said sadly, 'I got mine in the mail'. He reminded me of Charley Brown from the ‘Peanuts’ Comic strip on Halloween who after each house, as the other children said, ‘I got a candy bar’ or ‘I got a nickel’ Charley Brown always said, ‘I got a rock’. Uozumi Sensei got his certificate, in the mail; and apparently, it was all my fault. But then he smiled, laughed, and slapped me gently on the back and we joined the rest of the Hanshi and Renmei Heads for nice dinner. And I passed my test, Whew, that was lucky; who knows what will happen when a Hanshi holds a grudge like that.

Kyudo & the Mask

Kyudo & the Mask I think one of the most frequent questions I get after someone posts a picture of Kosaka Sensei or I shooting is about the mask we wear for certain ceremonies. Although I wear it when performing with or for Sensei, it was only worn before in 'behind the scenes' ceremonies, and even then by only a few schools.

The mask originates in ancient Japan. Even then it was used only for very important and esoteric ceremonies. Today a few, like Hirokazu Koasaka Sensei (my teacher) have chosen to expose some of those ceremonies to the public. One representation of that is the mask we sometimes wear.

This is with the new idea that there is no esoteric teaching and exoteric teaching, but one teaching given freely to all. The original use of the mask was for shamanistic offerings in what we would now call Shinto. This is also the origination of kyu-do or yumi no michi, as it was called. Yumi no Michi referred to purification ceremonies performed with the bow & arrow. These ceremonies were performed in Japan since ancient times. The purpose of the mask was to not breathe on the offering, as the human excrement of any kind, including our breath, was considered a pollutant.

The mask was later perpetuated by two other streams: Kukai/Koboh Daishi, founder of the Shingon Buddhist sect in Japan, used the mask for esoteric offerings behind scenes as well; in fact even today when the monks 'feed' the petrified Kukai they may
make the offering wearing this same mask.

The other stream that uses the mask for esoteric offerings is the Ogasawara family, especially in their tea ceremonies to the Kami or emperor. Though based primarily on Confucianism, like much of Japanese Culture, Ogasawara-ryu has mixed and merged Ancient Practices/Shinto, Buddhism, & Confucian principles to come up with what most resembles Zen or some derivative there of.

The Japanese are masters at combining and merging principles to create something completely new. That's what they did when they created Zen. It is also what is happening today as they try and leave Zen behind and become a secular society like the U.S.. The Japanese never leave anything completely behind though, as can be seen in the continuation of even some of their oldest rituals & principles; this shows up not just in ceremonies like this, but in the daily lives of the Japanese people. This is why they have such a rich and varied culture that so many of us admire.

Monday, September 26, 2011 .

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


We are taught that there are 3 kinds of practice or keiko.
1. Mitori Geiko = Taking with the eyes; observation; watching
2. Kufu(u) Geiko = Experimentation; to work it out...
3. Kazu Geiko = Repeat with the body; to emobdy the practice.

Also I think there is a place for Jiyu Keiko; free practice or open practice.

Keiko is an interesting word to me. 'Kei' is To Think or Study, and 'ko' is the past. Keiko is then to study the past, or think of the past... the ways of the past, of olden times... of those who came before. For me, I begin to appreciate all those who came before and all they did to prepare the way for us today.

Shugyo too, is usually used for an austere practice or training. 'Shu' is often translated as 'to conduct oneself well'. The 'gyo(u)' is action, activity, going, walking depending on the circumstances it is used (I've even seen it translated as karma). But in our school we say the kanji came from a phrase 'to sweep the dust balls from the corner of the room'. It means to me to find the last remenents of our attachment hidden in the corners and dust them away, brush or sweep them away as needed. I suppose this could sometimes take some austere measures, but I just brush them away and let the wind carry them from there.

There are other good words used for practice. Renshu is a favorite of mine. The 'ren' means to knead or polish, and 'shu' means to learn or study. Renshu is actually a Buddhist term we use for a repetitive ritual... we knead our study or polish our practice by repeating it until we embody it. We repeat it mindfully until the movements become unconscious in their execution even though we are still quite conscious of what is happening, but we no longer do it, we just experience it. To shoot unconsciously doesn't mean we are unconscious of what is happening, it means we are not consciously deciding how to execute the shot, but letting the bow, arrow, and target teach us what to do and where to go; they point the way.

In kyudo it is the minds job to learn, the body already knows what to do; the way of shooting is in everyone's DNA; there is not a culture in the world that didn't have a bow and arrow 2000 years ago; our bodies already know how to shoot. The bow, glove and arrow too, though they have no brain have been constructed by master craftsman for generations, and they have embued the way of shooting into the equipment for us; we have but to pay attention, very very close attention... attention to every detail and subtlety (including our heartbeat and breath) of our relationship with the equipment... and our alignment to the target and space around us... and those in the space around us... and on and on and on... when there is no distinction between all these things... when the stars align, kyudo is truely beautiful. ["... and there is the Golden Body, shining white, and the Half Moon positioned in the West" an excerpt from the end of the 'Shaho(u)-Kun by Master Yoshimi Junsei; a shingon priest and founder of the Kishu Clan and Kishu Chikurin-ha Heki-ryu Kyudo]

Either way I wish you a good practice.
Gambatte ne.
Thank you,

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kyudo (弓道)

Kyudo (弓道) This kanji for do was used by the early buddhist priests in Japan to denote a way, not just any way... but a way to enlightenment.

This 'do' is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese Tao, and thus denotes a way to balance, blend, and merge the shadows and sunshines of life into one... or not exactly one... but not two either... Well that's Zen...

Buddhism was developed from Yogic Hindi Practices in India... When Buddhism traveled to China, at one point it merged with Taoist Principles; Chinese Chan was born as one of their offspring. When Chan arrived in Japan, and again mixed and merged with what was there; it became Zen. Now it has arrived in the West and will emerge anew once more...

Taoism and thus the Do of Japanese arts was developed in Japan as Zen. Zen is thus Do and Do is Zen.

Did you know that the kanji we use in Buddhism for the Buddha is a man standing with a bow and two arrows?

There have always been shamanistic uses for the bow in Japan; One of Japans' earliest written records in Japan, The Kojiki, refers to these rituals with these same kanji, but was usually said as Yumi no Michi 'The Way of the Bow;' they used the bow primarily as a way of purification.

Most who owned a bow were warriors and did kyujitsu not kyudo. Though I'm sure some did both; similar to those like the Ogasawara Family who developed ceremonies and rituals for the bow. Plus there were some schools of Zen that used the bow as a Do, as well. But the bulk of those with bows were warriors doing kyujitsu.

To my knowledge the first to publicly publish and promote his whole school as KyuDo rather than KyuJitsu was Master Morikawa Kozan of Yamato-ryu in the 17th Century. By doing so he began the process that continues today, of moving the use of the bow as A Way; no longer just for killing or technical sport, but for 'something' else. The something else may depend on who's holding the bow. Zen? Well the 'Do' really denotes Zen, since that is how the Taoist principles most heavily flowed into Japan; the terms are almost used interchangeably in some Zen schools. But I think today the term Do has often come to mean simply something other than jitsu, or to separate the modern form from the older koryu.

In the Artistic Ways of Geido like Calligraphy, Tea Ceremony and Flower Arrangement they most often readily accept and promote their Zen roots; but the warrior class was just as likely to embrace Confucian Values as well as Zen and mixed and matched them to their liking; so the Do in BuDo like KyuDo can be Zen, or Confucian, or secular, or Sport; it most likely just depends on who runs any particular school and where they find their own roots. Some teachers who know Zen may use it, but others may use Golf, or whatever they or their students know to get the principles of Do across. Whether or not we call it Zen, now it's Do. So, we call it that... KyuDo, 'The Way of the Bow'.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The 4 Distinguishing Marks of Zen:

The 4 Distinguishing Marks of Zen:
1. A separate transmission apart from the scriptural teachings [Kyo(u)ge-Butsuden].
2. Not setting up words and letters [Furyu(u)-Monji].
3. A direct pointing to the human mind [Jikishi-Ninshin].
4. Seeing one's self-nature and realizing Buddhahood [Kensho(u)-Jobutsu].