Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dosa - The Way of Movement

Dousa (動作) = Movement, the way you move or how you move,

動 = to move, to act, 
作 = to make, to work, production, same character as sahou (作法) = manner

We have spoken of Kamae and Inzo in previous posts, but I'll give a brief review and a few more details here.

Inzo being the Seal of the Kamae. The Inzo begins with the finger nails and toe nails to include the position of hands and feet as the point between our tanden and the universe around us. The Inzo seals the intent of the Kamae, so the Kamae is really important, as is it's seal.

Kamae is the Stance / Position / or Pose that implies both the moving in and moving out; but is primarily the position of our tanden in the universe. The position of our Tanden, of course, sets the position of our whole-self. When we discuss Kamae, we are usually talking about the body position, but since there is really no separation between... we are also speaking of: Where we are, How we stand; the positions we hold from our core principles and beliefs.

The third foundation of this triad is Dosa. The Dosa is the moving in and out of Kamae. How we move in the world. How we live our daily life... every moment of every day.

Of course all three of these rely on the secret 5.
1. Kokyu = Breathing
2. Yurumeru = Letting go / to relax
3. Tanden = Our Center
4. Hone = Bone
5. Hari = Stretching

The Dosa / Movement always begin and end with Rei (Manners / Etiquette / the physical bow). And Rei always begins and ends with Tanden (our Core). Moving with the Breath (Kokyu), Blood (Chi), and Bone (Hone) create a beautiful Dosa.

Being mindful of our position in the world and moving from our center without force, without pushing or pulling. By being in a beautiful pose for others to see and emulate, by showing movement of challenged ease, presents the Dosa of the Japanese Do arts.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Kamae - Position / Base / Stance

The teaching lies within each of us, and all of us.

Kamae 構え - Our presence, our position in the world, can often have a profound affect. We must be aware of how we stand.

In 'Do' arts we have 'Kamae'. Kamae is used to mean a stance. It is the base from which we move. It implies both position and movement. In kyudo every 'stop and no stop' posture as we pause to transition, this can be said to be Kamae. As we train please keep our Kamae in mind. Our positions and stances that we take in life are very important. Kokoro no Kamae is extremely important. Please give attention to these stances between the movements.

Every Kamae is accompanied by an inzo or seal. The Kamae includes the whole posture (wholeself, both body and mind/heart and more) the inzo is this as well, but concentrated on the extremities especially the hands, fingers and even the finger nails; the position of the inzo seals an intent that his naturally held within the shape and directions of the hands. These seals once formed have put into place the power of the Kamae and set the direction of this power.

The effect on the world of one individual being quiet and still is quite profound; the geometric increase of this, with each added individual is one of the greatest gifts we can give. Our profound presence is a fantastic present, in this present moment; This place in the universe effects directly the root of all suffering, of our ignorance, and the very root of our existence. Not just for the individual but for everyone and everything. It is of the greatest importance.

If we then interact in our daily lives from this place of profound connection! Imagine! Vision! Action! Daily activity of stillness and action... stillness in action... action in stillness... for there is no separation.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Kyudo is Kyudo

Whenever we talk about a style of kyudo, Sensei has told me many times, "kyudo is kyudo". However, all the Japanese 'Do' arts follow ancient principles, and these have evolved over time as well to be quite amazing. Our tradition is more than just kyudo, and includes a variety of other practices. Each of these follows the same principles.

One such set of principles was set down in Kikkawa-ryu. The principles of Kikkawa-ryu were written down by one teacher as the words of his teacher's, teacher's, teacher's, teacher... passed down from generation to generation and finally written down. The book was kept secret until the writer passed away, then on the 100th anniversary of the death of the original teacher the book was made public. In our school we rely on these principles as well.

The 4 Principles of Kikkawa-ryu:
1. Wa = Harmony
2. Kei = Respect
3. Sei = Purity
4. Jaku = Tranquility

Sensei once called our way of calligraphy as Hitsu-Zen-Do or the meditative way of the brush. So perhaps it can also be applied to our way of shooting as well Sha-Zen-Do, the meditative way of the bow.

In Zen we also have 7 Principles, and these are applied in the teaching of our school as well.

1. Fukinsei = Assymetry
2. Kanso = Simplicity
3. Koko = Austerity
4. Shizen = To be ourselves or Natural
5. Datsuzoku = Other Worldly; that which is beyond the senses
6. Yugen = Subtlety or Mystery
7. Seijaku = Quiet and Lonely; sometimes translated as Quiet or Silent (the jaku here is the same one used in Kikkawa-ryu as Tranquility, but by itself we usually say Lonely.

There are several other key concepts as well. Most of these have no good translation, but need to be 'tasted' in the practice. Once we taste what it is like, we no longer need the translation, in fact we see the words (especially translated words don't fit exactly). Some of these are:

Wabi Sabi = which we also use the characters for Quiet and Lonely; though some schools use Rustic or Aged for Sabi... actually we do too, sometimes... humm. Anyhow they are the same sound but two different kanji.

That's interesting to me, the same thing happens on our translation for Sho Gyo in the Ha Sho Do. Sho Gyo... The Sho is most commonly translated as 'right' but since this implies right and wrong we usually use upright instead (the connotations in upright fits pretty well into many of the multilayered meanings of the word. For Sho-Gyo this is usually translate as 'Action or Activity'; but there is another kanji that is sometimes used that means 'Practice or Walking'. This is the kanji we usually use in our tradition, but when talking we sometimes say in means Action or Activity; in some sense they are related, and it is a translation... neither translation is exactly right; but it seems we are taking some leeway here with words, just the same. Anyhow, we sometimes do that, I guess

Friday, August 3, 2012

100th Anniversary

Kosaka Sensei tells us of his early days as a young monk at Koyasan in Los Angeles.

His job upon arrival is to interview the families of the deceased. During an interview with one young couple he asks, "So what did your grandfather like to do?" They told him, "kyudo". Ah, he exclaimed, "I also do kyudo!"

They proceed to tell him that it's a shame they don't still have their grandfathers equipment. He was a member of the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai, and before his internment during the World War he buried the equipment in their backyard. After hearing this news, Kosaka Sensei wanted to see if he could find this heirloom. The home where they lived before the internment was lost to them, but they had the address.

The home was in what is now a predominantly black community in South Central. Kosaka Sensei as a young monk only had his Buddhist robes with him, but he went calling on the house. The owner, perhaps seeing a robed individual on the doorstep feared a request for money, and in a very loud and sudden manner threw the door open and shouted, "Whattya want!?" Sensei with is palms together bowed and said, "Sir, there is buried treasure in your backyard, and I would very much like to dig it up".

After sharing some wonderful southern style food in the kitchen, and some sincere conversation (we are told), they came to an agreement. Sensei would have the local Gardner's Association members come and re-landscape the back yard, and Sensei would get the buried kyudo equipment if they found it.

They did find it, and the Gardner's Association did a wonderful job and all were happy.

Sensei then began looking to see if there were any members of the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai before the war, that were still living. He found 3 and interviewed them to preserve the history of the group. They asked him, "Please keep the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai alive". This is when Kosaka Sensei along with the brothers Koen and Kiyomaru Mishima decided to call their fledging Japanese Archery group that practiced in Little Tokyo Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai. In this way they could remember those who came before, to give credit to the first bow to arrive here, to continue the legacy of this brave group.

We have too, a 1908 newpaper article that mention a kyudo group in Los Angeles called the Rafu Kyudo Kai. Rafu is the local japanese word for L.A.. But this older group was not the one that asked them to continue their legacy, maybe these members had already passed on, or never returned after the war; or just Sensei didn't find them. It was members of  The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai formed as early as 1916 that asked, and so in just a few short years, in 2016, The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai will celebrate their 100th anniversary  Our sincere gratitude to the early pioneers of kyudo in Los Angeles for bringing this wonderful art to the shores of our world; without what you have done, our world would not be the same. Thank you.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Kihontai - Basic Movements

In most kyu-dojo, I believe that after safety and information on the clothes and equipment most of us are taught the Kinhontai (basic movements) such as how to sit, stand, and bow.

My first period of training with sitting, bowing, standing, and walking was longer than most, since I'm such a slow learner. But I think I never, until now, really understood just how important this training is. At the time this seemed like just good training. This was the best time to learn these basics so that later we would be ready to shoot.

I continued to do this practice on an almost daily schedule. Than a few years ago as my knees deteriorated I let the movement of sitting and standing slip off my daily routine. Of course, I still did everything else, but this movement felt like it was hurting my ability to move more than helping it; so I let it go.

Then late last year I lamented that I couldn't stand and sit as well as I used to (imagine that if I don't train it, I can't do it, duh). But still, you'd think that after 30 years of training, I would be great at this. My knees have felt better lately (could be from the break of doing the practice, but I think not. I believe it's that I increased my walking around the block, tai chi, and yoga practices). In any case, I renewed my practice of standing and sitting back into my daily training.

The result has been a much deeper understanding of kihontai than I've ever experienced before. This practice is so much more important than I ever imagined, on so many levels of interaction; I don't even know where to begin discussing it.

Of course, we know that the tai hai or body movements we make to approach the target are just as important as the hassetsu or 8 stages of shooting we use to shoot the arrow. These two balance eachother and show eachother to us even clearer with their contrast. They also begin to interact with eachother, so one enhances the other.

I remember a Zen Priest from one of our performances saw me helping set up everything and asked, "So you do kyudo with him?" nodding to Kosaka Sensei. I answered "yes". He said, "So what's more important: the tai hai, the approach you do to the target, or the hassetsu of shooting the arrow". I answered, "Cleaning the dojo, before and after class". He responded that I was very well trained.

Cleaning the dojo, taking care of our equipment and clothes, and all of our practices are designed to heighten our awareness. Awareness of every detail that we can experience. So too with the Kihontai and Tai Hai, isn't it?

As my awareness of these basics increases, I discover that the movement of standing sitting walking and bowing is not what I thought. I always thought that the shooting movements were expanding and many of these other movemnet were contracting ones; but it turns out they are extending too. I noted that as I lowered to the ground my muscles were lengthening not contracting! I don't know if this is the way I've always done it, or if now that's what's happening to me from all the practice; because I was never aware enough of what I was doing to know. But it is obvious that this is the best way of sitting down and standing up.

It has also become clear that the development of the kahanshin (Lower half of the body) is the best way to support the johanshin (upper half of the body), especially as it receives the pressure of the bow.

As we all know, the act of bowing brings about a feeling of humility, another wonderful realization to feel this deeply as I do this daily practice. It has kept me open in body, mind, and attitude so that this year's training has brought about more realizations than any of my previous years. Perhaps all the years are stacked on top of eachother, but it feels more like they are just lining up. Our alignment as we do these basic movements is just as key, as the alignment we use when the bow opens us. The Ikasu (enlivenment) of ourselves as we breath fully and completely is just as important here as anywhere in our lives; it makes everything happen.

The rest of the realizations that are coming to me... I just don't know how to put it into words. Perhaps it's better if I don't. I do recommend a daily practice to anyone and everyone of sitting... bowing... standing... walking. Please experience it for yourself with awareness, it's a wonderful practice. A practice beyond the words to describe, if we're open to it and allow it to transform or lives.

Thank you,

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Kimono sabaki is the art of wearings a kimono. In martial arts circles where a hakama is worn we might say hakama sabaki; for learning to put on, and train in, a hakama is certainly an art form.

Some of us, however, once the technique of putting on the clothes is learned sufficiently we stop giving it much attention, and chatter away in the locker-room giving little care to our dress; or, on the other extreme, become so obsessed with a precise technique we forget to enjoy the feeling of learning fresh how these wondrous clothes might fit today.

When I first wore buddhist robes I was told it takes awareness to learn 'how to live within the robes' (this phrase has many layers of meanings; some of which I am just coming to appreciate). As monks we also recite a vow, the 'Takkesa no ge' or Robe Chant.

Daizai gedappuku
Muso fuku den-e
Hibu Nyorai kyo
Kodo shoshu jo

Daisai gedatsu fuku is 'how great are the clothes of liberation'.
Muso fukuden-e is 'formless robes of happiness'.
Hibi Nyorai kyo is 'devoutly wearing the teaching of the Nyorai' (Nyorai is another name for a Buddha)
Kodo shoshu jo is 'to save living beings widely (or everywhere)'.

This kind of vow is humbling and sets ourselves in a process of gratitude for the practice and the teaching. It places us in a relationship between ourselves and others with awareness of the clothes between us; remember between us does not separate us, but joins us... connects us.

When I put on Hakama and/or Kimono to do budo I say this same vow. To remain ever humble and grateful.

Though for non-monks reciting this vow may be too much to ask, it may be a nice practice to don the hakama & kimono with a similar attitude, to help us step on this path facing an old direction of gratitude to those who came before... and in the new direction toward those who will train with us today.

Domo Arigatou

Monday, April 9, 2012

Yumi Futokoro - Bow and the inbetween space

As many of you know, I have a stack of kyudo journals; from my first day to the present. I often peruse these journals for reminders of our path, of some teaching that may have slipped my mind for a bit.

These journals are filled not only with my experiences, but filled with words of wisdom from the many teachers I have encountered along the way.

Although I tailor every class to the needs of those that are present, I usually carry in my mind some theme I have gleaned from the journals.

This week I would like to share one with you, and ask that as you change your clothes for practice and as you train, perhaps you too could carry this weeks phrase with you.

Yumi Futokoro is a word we use in kyudo. Yumi is of course the bow. Futokoro means in between space. Futokoro is most often talked about in our school of tea, and is used in conjunction with the kimono. It refers to the space between the kimono and the body; this space dictates how we wear the kimono. Yumi Futokoro then, is the space between the bow and our body.

Please be aware of inbetween spaces…

Thank you,

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rei - The Japanese act of bowing

The Rei occurs as we are standing up completely straight, and the next in breath begins, when there is no where up to go... naturally we bow, relaxing out from our center... just before we reach the pinnicle of the bow, our air flows out... as we breath in again, we rise back to our upright position; but in fact, since we bowed as a result of upright standing, we were upright the entire time.