Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Breath, Blood, and Bone

In martial arts training there is a time when we need to remind ourselves that there are inner workings to the art as well as external. It can be easy to get caught up in the physical actions that we must perform, and forget that they rely and interact with aspects that we can't see.

There is a teaching that brings this to mind called kokyu, kodo, kotsu: breath, heartbeat, and bone. Or sometimes we say breath, blood, and bone.

Breathing and heartbeat are fundamental to our lives. This is a common way to tell if we are alive even, isn't it? Are they alive? are they breathing? is there a pulse? I think you see the point.

Our breath is invisible but it deals with the flow of air from outside to inside and back again. More than philosophically it joins us with our outside environment.

Our blood and bone too, unless we get a wound, we don't see them. But we can feel them inside of us, and they can give us a feeling for what is going on inside.

All Japanese martial arts rely on the Tanden. The Tanden is the core of ourselves. Almost all the schools, when they wrote down their teachings say something like, 'the teaching begins and ends with the tanden'.
The trick is how to find this invisible and elusive point within us. Most often we are simply reminded to look inside. Quite often, this is advise is not enough and we need some tools. Breath, blood, and bone have served as these tools since ancient times. Or even when we find the tanden, how do we manifest it in our lives. Ah, once again the same tools are available: breath, blood, and bone.

This teaching is not my own, or just for a few. But has been handed down through many traditions as a way to enliven our daily interactions. Awareness of our breath, blood, and bone remind us of many other inner dimensions that we live with, and bring awareness to many other aspects of our daily lives.

thank you for listening,
rick 'jyozen' beal

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Spiritual Martial Arts - Zen in the Japanese Arts (draft)

Before Zen in Japan, there was Chan in China; and before Chan in China there was Dhana in India. All of these are forms of Buddhism. Buddhism was formed by followers of Shakyamuni. Shakyamuni is the Sage of the Shakya Clan.

Before Shakyamuni was a sage, he was the prince of the Shakya Clan; but left his wife and family to become a yogi, and to find the release from suffering for all human beings. Once he awoke to the Way of Liberation from suffering; he became Shakyamuni.

As the prince, he was the best archer and one of the best warriors in the land. In yoga too there were methods of using yoga as spiritual training and martial arts; though this was not mainstream yoga it did exist.

Dhyana came to China as a separate Buddhist sect by the teachings of Bodai Daruma.  Bodaidaruma also taught some form of this martial yoga to the monks he was training; both as a means of self-defense, a way to be healthy, a way to stay awake, and a training method of the Way. These monks may have already been exposed to their own training methods as well, though the written history of the time was written and re-written, and does not always agree with the many versions of oral history passed down as well. Most scholars, of course, favor the written records as they find them and distrust and discount the oral history; logically this makes sense, but as monks we take at face value the oral history we are given, and simply allow for poetic license to convey an underlying truth, even if the written 'fact's may not bear it out as actual history.

But we do know that both in India, in China, and in Japan there were martial practices that were simultaneously used by monks as training methods on the Way,

The biggest overlap and confusion comes to play in Japan; where some warriors, though few in the scheme of things also followed to some degree portions of Buddhist practice. Also there were warrior monks in some sects; so it can be easy to mix and merge the idea that all Japanese Warriors practiced Zen for instance; but this simply is not true. Most probably borrowed some Buddhist practices and ideas in their lives; all Japanese did that to some degree. The jukyo from the mainland consisted of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Japanese Culture consists of this jukyo combined with their own way of thought. Japanese Zen too, consists of all 4 of these; as it came to Japan and the followers of Dogen Zenji (founder of Soto Zen) encouraged this blending.

But what I am speaking of here is not the warriors who may have touched on Buddhist or Zen in their lives. I'm talking about the few individuals that brought this combination, or re-discovered it in their own lives, of martial arts and spiritual life. It was there for a few in Yoga, even before Shakyamuni; and it was there in China, even before Bodaidaruma; and it was in Japan before buddhism came.

This practice has always existed, and is being re-discovered again today by many martial artists; either through a lineage that has always had it; or in one that was recently re-discovered by a master of their own art in the last few hundred years. Or perhaps by an individual today that now realizes that not only can it be done, but that it always has been done....

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Zen in Japanese Traditional Archery

  • For most people, maybe especially in Japan, kyudo is not associated directly with Zen. There are only a few schools of actual Zen Archery. But, as we have discussed, whether an individual practices in one of these schools, or in one that does more of a sport, or dan ranking emphasis, or one of those that has a focus on simply the Japanese Tradition itself... it's all kyudo. The only exception I make to this, if they like, the schools that have retained just the jitsu portion of the practice, and have an interest only in technique itself... these may wish not to use the term kyudo, and also retain the kyujitsu term to describe their practice; and that's fine.

  • There were no actual Zen Archery schools per se, until Umeji Kenran Roshi and followers of Awa Kenzo Sensei, Like Suhara Roshi and his predecessor's created them. But what they borrowed from to do this, was not schools of Zen Archery, but of Zen Schools that had archers. Primarily these two schools were not born out of Zen, but out of these archers own personal spiritual revelation. They were not the first to do this, but this practice too was not common in Zen, we are still talking about a miniscule portion of the yumi community, and few Zen Archers. Technically speaking only those of us under one of these strains of the practice are doing Zen Archery.

  •  99.9% of the kyudo practitioners are simply doing modern Japanese archery, and this is called kyudo, just like we do. So we are all doing kyudo. The term Kyudo came from yumi no michi, in fact the same kanji are used for both, so only our oral history tells us which one was actually used.

  • The term yumi no michi was used when the yumi was used in sacred rituals, and exists in the earliest writings of the Japanese people, and the practice of using the yumi as a ritual implement goes back to the origination of its asymmetrical design.
  • These rituals were often performed by Shaman with a yumi, but could have just as likely been done by a warrior at the direction of Shamen. This was not Zen Archery, Zen, and even Buddhism had not arrived in Japan yet.

  • When buddhism arrived, the practice continued much like this. Though Prince Tashi and his court used the principles they were learning from the mainland to codify the practices, including the first kyujitsu school Tashi-ryu. These principles, coming from the mainland were all based on jyukyo. Jyukyo is basically the combination of Confucianist, Buddhist, and Taoist thought. But as always in Japan, these began to meld often with the existing Shamistic ideas, and what we now call Shinto was beginning to form, and yumi no michi was part of this.

  • This is exactly the portion of Zen that the warrior class in Japan embraced, whether they retired into 'monkhood' or not.

    From the time of Prince Taishi tthe process of jyukyo incorporating itself into Japanese Culture began.
  • Kukai, or Koboh Daishi, the founder of Japanese Shingon Buddhism, was another catalyst for this process. Coming from Tendai Buddhism, as all the founders of Japanese Buddhist sects began there. But Tendai Buddhism is little changed from its mainland roots, Koboh Daishi allowed much more integration with indigenous ideas, and Buddhism became much more 'Japanese'.
  • A main catalyst for warriors and Jukyo to mix was with the Ogasawara Family who used jukyo, and what they term as in/yo theory for their Ogasawara-ryu. Jyukyo, though it includes all three Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, is often translated as Confucianism. And indeed, the etiquette of Ogasawara-ryu is steeped in Confucianism, and is the core of their teaching. Their yumi no michi based on what we now call Shinto, the in/yo theory is the Japanese version of Tao, and the the Taoist thought was minor in jyukyo. But major in Chan and Zen Buddhism. It is from here that they brought in for their tea ceremony, flower arrangement, calligraphy, and the other geido arts.

  • From the beginning, jukyo and indigenous ideas began to mix into everything the Japanese did. This was true for all classes of society to one degree or another. But the mixture was not the same for every class. Nobility, warriors, peasants, merchants... for each the mixture was different.

  • As it is in Japan, the Ogasawara-ryu emphasized the mixture in all the practices, no matter what implement a person had in their hand, these principles that had now become 'Japanese' principles were the way to conduct oneself. This is what was then, and what is now Japanese Culture. This same thing, at the same time happened in Zen. And Zen became infused with exactly the same mixture, but of course from a primarily Buddhist emphasis. This mixture is the fine distinction between Chan in China, and Zen in Japan.

  • The traditional Japanese Culture we have today is very much like the Japanese Culture that the Ogasawara Family gave us. Zen simply evolved at the same time along similar ideas, and this is why they are sometimes used synonymously. It is simply that they both embody what has become Japanese Culture. So although all Zen Practitioners embody Japanese Culture, not all those who embody Japanese Culture are doing Zen.
  • Perhaps only those of us doing Zen, may really be doing Zen Archery. But all of us doing kyudo, definitely embody Japanese Culture.