Friday, August 14, 2015

Depths of bows in the Japanese 'do' arts.

sesshu rei

The word to bow in Japanese is Rei. The Character for Rei means both the physical act of bowing, and also means manner and etiquette. Therefore the main physical manifestation for manners in the 'do' arts of Japan is bowing. We bow with both a humble manner and a strong manner, from our core and make this our core principle of training in the 'do' arts.

How we show our manners is dictated according to the who, what, when, where, & why we are doing something. In bowing this is the timing, spacing, and the depth of the bow.

We also have Ritsu-Rei, standing bows, and Za-Rei, sitting bows.

The 5 basic depths for bows are:
1. Shiken-Rei
2. Sessyu-Rei
3. Takushyu-Rei
4. Soushuyu-Rei
5. Goushyu-Rei

Also today we have incorporated a more small 1/2 bow called 'yu' which only bends about 10 cm from our straight up position.

1. Shiken-Rei, or what in our school we call the fnger tip bow, uses a touch of the fingers to the floor to re-inforce our ikasu (or enlivening) to allow for a stable bow. Shiken-Rei is not very deep, just bending from the tanden (core/center) and allowing the fingers to touch the floor (when in seiza 'correct sitting' on our heels) [note when we ikasu the buttocks may come off the heels slightly, but when we bow we should be sure not to increase this distancing of the buttocks from the heels]. From Sankyo [squating] or kiza [kneeling] the fingers need not necessarily touch the floor, it can be symbolic the angle of the body should be roughly the same as when doing shiken-rei from seiza.

2. Sesshu-rei, or what we call hand-bending bow. This is for us the standard bow of about 45 degree bend of the body. The hand bending part comes from the fact that from shiken-rei as we bend foward more the wrist bends to place the palm on the floor and slides forward parallel to our knees.

3. Takushu-Rei, is to open something that is closed. Until this point the hands have been along side the body, but with Takushyu-Rei the hands begin to move out in front of us, this happens naturally as we bow deeper to have our forehead (with a straight back and our buttocks down) to about 24 cm from the floor. Esoterically we speak of this bow representing a true offering of ourselves, and so we consider it the first of the deep bows.

4. Sosshu-Rei, is both hands or a pair of hand that move ever closer together as our bow deepens to about 15 cm from the floor, and is certainly a fukai-rei or deep bow.

5. Gosshu-Rei, is when our hands match or come together. Generally with index fingers touching and forming a /\ shape under our nose. Our forehead is about 10cm away from the floor. This is considered Sarani Fukai Rei or a more deep bow, and is the deepest of the standard 5 bows.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Ikkyu 1991: Newsletter published by members of The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai

Los Angeles Kyudo Kai 1929

"Better known as Japanese Zen Archery, 'Kyudo', came to the United States via Seattle in the early years of the present century [20th century].

The word kyudo  literally translated means 'the way of the bow'. Kyudo  is knows as Zen archery because archery in Japan was deeply influenced by Zen philosophy. Kyudo is an art, a discipline, a form of moving meditation. In the past times kyudo was also called 'kyujitusu'.

Not much is known about kyudo in its first birth in this country [United States of America], but we do know it had reached Los Angeles by 1910, with scattered individuals practicing around the city [we now also have learned that there was a Rafu Kyudo Kai as early as 1908, having seen a newspaper article that referenced them with that year]. [We also now know that between 1903 and 1908 the Hawaii Kyudo Kai was formed]. In 1916, the first Los Angeles Kyudo Kai was founded by Suda Chokei.

In San Francisco in 1925, the original owner of the Japenese Tea House in Golden Gate Park asked the archer Imaizumi Wazaburo to begin instrcuting a local group in the 'Heike' style of kyudo [we also know that the style of the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai was also Heike-ryu]. The group of 40 individuals named itself Shinno Kai and practiced once a month. In the spring and summer they also presented Shinto Ceremonies in the city. In 1926 another group, the Satsui Kai, was formed by Ebina Shunshuro and Yamazaki Senkichi. An Oakland group was formed by Shiozawa Tetsushiro and Aoki Saneharu. By 1930 there were well-established group[s] practicing in San Francisco,  Oakland and Los Angeles [and Hawaii].

World War II caused a grave disruption of this ancient and solemn practice. As kyudo was considered a martial art, their  'weapons' were seized by the government. the  bows and arrows which escaped confiscation were either  burned or buried by their fearful owners [there is a great story of how Kosaka Sensei was able to recover some of these treasures, which we still have as part of our 'inheritance']. All Japanese Americans were sent to relocation camps.

The history of kyudo in the United States after the War is obscure, It is not known if any groups were formed again or practiced until 1975 when the Reverend Koen Mishima arrived in Los Angeles. As a miniser of the Higashi Hongwanji Temple, and coming from a faimly of kydoi practitioners, he reinstated the art of kyudo under the name Los Angeles Kyudo Kai [the story of how this name and legacy was offered to them by members of the first Los Angeles Kyudo Kai is quite interesting as well]. The group has been practicing continuously from that time and presently meets on Friday nights at the Nichiren Buddhist Temple in East Los Angeles. the group fluctuates between 10-20 members.

In 1989 Rev. Mishima immigrated to Australia and formed the first kyudo group on that continent in Brisbane. Presenlty his close associate since 1975, Hirokazu Kosaka, is the instructor of the group.

In May 1991, the group celebrated the 75th anniversary of kyudo in Los Angeles. [2016 they will celebrate their 100th anniversary].
Los Angeles Kyudo Kai 1991

[my own notes (by rick beal)]
Los Angeles Kyudo Kai 2009