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.