Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Temple Records

Temple records in Japan abound. Everything is recorded. In regards to Buddhism and the Warrior arts there are many writings and correlations.

We know of the Sohei, armies of warrior monks who used weapons though they were monks. We know of the Yamabushi, individual and warrior monks in non-affiliated temple groups, who used weapons both to protect themselves and also as methods to train in The Way.

We also know that many warriors upon retirement shaved their head, some simply because this was the safest and acceptable way to retire, and others sincerely to become monks, and perhaps some with the intent to repent in some way for their violent lives. In many cases they continued to use their warrior weapons as tools on The Way, much like the Yamabushi do.

The relationship between Zen and the Warrior Class of Japan is well known. Just like with the retirement situation of Warriors into Buddhism the relationship varied according the predilection of the Warrior's intent. Most received some basic initiation ceremony and a Buddhist name, but not evereyone studied Zen or Buddhism in any way, they simply supported temples or teacher so that they could support the Warrior's clan spiritually; but most used their priests as advisers and teachers; many studied Buddhism intellectually, but most took up Zen because of it's embodiment of the practice not because of it's intellectual and philosophical attributes. A great number of prominent Warriors took up Zen practice including Classical Interviews with the teacher to truly travel the Buddhist Path.

The priest of these Warrior students used every means possible to help them obtain the teaching. This included the creation of whole new methods and revival of others too. This was not the first time the warrior's weapons were used as a means of teaching, but it was possibly the most extensive. Zen is practice in daily life, and these weapons were the daily life of their warrior disciples.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

''Sha wa, rei ni hajimari, rei ni owaru,'' Shooting begins with etiquette and ends with etiquette. Actually almost all of the modern 'do' arts begin their treatise this way, by just replacing the 'sha' at the beginning with whatever exemplifies their art. I find the investigation of how to embody this philosophy quite compelling.


Just as intriguing is the fact that the written character translated as etiquette can also be translated as the act of bowing. So the physical manifestation of etiquette and manners is the bowing.

So what is bowing? Humility? Respect?

What is manners?
What is etiquette?

And how do we manifest this, not only in the dojo, but in our daily lives. How do we interact with everyone that in such away that we embody this 'Rei'?

Treat everyone with humility and respect?

When we act with humility and respect, I think our interactions become more kind too. 

Not just the answer to these questions in our head but in our lives, this is where the practice of the 'do' arts will have it's greatest impact, not just on our lives, but for the entire world.




Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Quality vs Quantity

Quality vs Quantity


They sometimes say that kyudo is all a matter of how many arrows we shoot.
I attended a few seminars with Takeshi Shibata Hachidan Hanshi. On one of these we were out to dinner with the 'heads' of kyudo in America, and Shibata Hanshi was giving us a lecture. He said (my translation so give it some room), 'something is wrong'. You guys seem sincere in your practice, and your students look pretty good, but something is wrong.' It seemed a rhetorical question or perhaps we were just embarrassed into silence... but our silence begged for more and he added, 'you guys can't shoot'.

Takeshi Shibata Sensei
Photo compliments of Rosemarie Read of Panama Kyudo Kai
Now Shibata Hanshi is one of the best shooters in Japan; for example on another seminar he was showing us how the body expands during hikiwake and especially to produce the hanare; he wasn't really concentrating on the target, but all of the 20 (or so) arrows he shot hit the target. (he wasn't even wearing a glove, just a little gauze on his right thumb).

He then sent us all off to try and emulate this expansion. As we all walked away I turned and asked, 'Sensei, how did you do that?' 'Do what?' he responded. 'You hit the target every time!' I said. 'Oh' He replied, 'I teach high school students; if I can't do that, they won't listen to me'.

I thought that was the end of the great lesson, when he said, 'I tell you what, I'm going to shoot one more and put it in the right corner'. Of course, I believed he meant the right corner of the target; but you know what, he put it in the right corner of the bulls eye! Still I thought he meant the right corner of the target, until he said, 'this one in the left corner', and it flew right into the left lower corner of the bulls eye; this one I'll put in middle', and he did... right smack dead center between the other two.

Now back to dinner... Sensei continued, 'You seem sincere in your practice, but something is wrong'. He seemed to wait for an answer this time, for us to explain why 'we can't shoot'.... 'why we can't hit the target'. 'Well', someone responded, 'You're right Sensei, we are sincere, and we teach the best we can, and shoot the best we can, I guess we don't know what we're doing wrong?' And with this we asked for his help. 'Well...' he asked, 'how many arrows do you shoot everyday?' 'Oh, everyday' we said, 'well, you know we have families and jobs during the week, and even on weekends we're usually teaching we don't always get a chance to shoot much ourselves...' and he cut us off. 'Ah, well there's the problem then.'

At this point someone was brave enough to ask, 'Sensei, how do you do it?'

'Oh' He said, 'in the morning I go to the dojo and shoot 100 arrows, I hit those 100. Then if students show up, I teach them. If not, then I shoot 100 more.'

That's 100 to 200 arrows a day! No wonder he can shoot so well. But there are a couple more lessons in there. He doesn't say he hits the first 100 to boast; it tells us that he doesn't waste them, he shoots them with care, he's not just 'chucking' them down there without giving each one it's due attention.

Also the main lesson for those of us at the dinner was 'before the student's arrive he shot 100'... and everyday he practiced. From that day on I try to shoot everyday, certainly I practice everyday even if it's sit, stand, bow & tote renshu in a hotel room. One of my students who heard this story began shooting 100 arrows a day too, and he got pretty good too.

Satoshi Sagino Shihan of Muyoshingetsu-ryu

On the other side of this coin is Sagino Shihan of our Muyoshingetsu school. Who told us to put everything we have into one shot. 'Shoot everyday' he said, 'shoot one arrow, and put your whole-self into that arrow... exhaust yourself completely'. We have a student who hearing this now takes 3 hours to shoot that one arrow every day. Cleaning and preparing his backyard space... cleaning and preparing his equipment and clothes... meditation... and beautiful taihai and hassetsu to release that one arrow...folding his kimono and hakama neatly... and putting everything away. And you know, he's really good too. My eyes once asked him about this practice, and he said, 'you know... when you only shoot one arrow... and it takes 3 hours of your day... you never waste that arrow'.

In the middle was Onuma Sensei, who on one visit to Los Angeles told us, 'Shoot 10 arrows every day. With 10 arrows you can really focus, many more and it's difficult. So shoot 10 arrows everyday without fail'.

Hideharu Onuma Sensei.
Photo from the book 'Kyudo - The Essence and Practice of Japanese Archery'
By Hideharu Onuma with Dan and jackie DeProspero



Since both quality and quantity obviously count, I think each of these approaches has merit. Each can have a place in our practice throughout the year. If I were to choose, I think I would choose quality over quantity; so the one arrow would be the best practice; but the guy who shoots 100 may beat you in the tournament; so maybe that's the best practice; but do we really have time in our busy lives for 100 or 200 arrows a day, can we really give each of those the quality our practice demands? If so, 100 is a great practice. Maybe the 10 a day is the best balance? I like balance and middle road, so my practice for many years followed this 10 a day. Today sometimes I shoot one arrow with all I've got; at least once a year, and sometimes coming up to it, we have our 108 arrows shoot; mostly with my hitori geiko (solitary practice) I shoot hitote (a handful, or in kyudo we define this as 2).

quality vs. quantity. both count. Again if I were to choose, I would probably choose quality. But they are not really separate; shoot as many quality arrows as you have time, energy, and attention to give them.

However many arrows you decide to shoot each day is up to you. But please practice everyday. And put your wholeself into that entire practice. Put your wholeself into your entire life... every moment of every day. The rest of our lives depends on it.

Thank you,

Friday, December 26, 2014

Zen and Arts

Though I know that most martial artists know really nothing of Zen; I also know that most Zen practitioners know really nothing of the martial arts. Or do they?

Actually though it has been rare that the two intertwine directly, they have mixed and merged throughout their entire history.

Zen began with the warrior prince become buddha, then in China was promoted by the warrior prince became founder of Chan, and merged with the warrior class of Japan and their Shinto Rituals as Zen when it arrived there, The Zen influence on Japan is well known and accepted.

For me, my Zen heritage is quite clear on it's support on the intertwinement of Zen and the Martial Arts. Also my Martial Arts teachers, and Geido (Japanese Artistic Arts) teachers both embraced their Zen roots. So for me, at least, there is no question.

I guess this is all I need then. For me and my teachers, for me and my arts, our 'do' is Zen in motion.
Everyone else will have to decide for themselves.

Other noted Sensei of the past who included Zen/Buddhism in their Budo.
Sudamune Ogasawara.
Hojo Toriyori was a great supporter of Zen, and Hojo Tokumune was a strong practitioner of Zen.
Kamiizumi Ise No Kami
Yagyu Munetoshi
Yagyu Munenori
Ibaraki Sensai
Yamaoka Tessu (19th c.)
Yamada Momon
Umeji Kenran
Awa Kenzo
Anazawa
Suhara Koun


Thursday, December 25, 2014

The 'Dō' 道 arts of Japan and 'Zen' 禅

Zen 禅 is a form of Buddhism that arrived in Japan from India as Dhana via China as Channa. The Japanese version of this is Zenna or Zen.

Dhana is a form of Buddhist meditation, absorption meditation to be precise. It is said by the Zen Masters that this is the meditation Shakyamuni Butsu (The founder of Buddhism) experienced to awaken to the true nature of reality.

As Dhana traveled through China it absorbed much of the Chinese thought, especially the principles and language of Taoism. It is this mixture that became Chinese Channa or Chan.

The same happened in Japan with the Descendants of Dogen Zenji (the founder Soto Zen in Japan), when they mixed and merged the Chan with the existing teachings of Japanese thought. It is this combination that we now know of as Zen.

The '' 道 of Japan is the Japanese pronunciation of Chinese Tao 道.
The existed in Japan along with Confucianism and Buddhism in Japan since the 6th Century AD. But these Taoist aspects played a minor role until Zen came to Japan. The  arts of Japan reflect this influence of  Zen on the arts.

This is most easily seen as the role Zen played in reviving the sacred portions of arts like Calligraphy, Flower arrangement, Tea Ceremony and the other arts the aristocracy were playing with. The Zen monks interacted very strongly with the Warrior Class of Japan as well; and influenced their understanding of the world greatly.

Especially after peace time during the Tokogawa Shogunate...


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dōjō道場 (Way Place, A place for Training in The Way)

The original term 道場 dōjō was used in Buddhist temples to denote a training hall. Not usually martial arts in the beginning, but later they began to be used this way. Today the term is most well known as a martial arts training all. But it is a hall to train in The Way; In the Temple, The Way was expected to refer to A Way of the Dharma.

Ogasawara Family and In/Yo Theory

"A propriety, horsemanship, and archery traditions and technique succeeded by the Ogasawara school are firmly based on the Ying and Yang thought.The Ying and Yang thought was imported from China. Almost 1400 years ago, in Heian ( it means "peace") period in Japan, this thought became a vital foundation of universal scholarship and all natural phenomenon. It has been thought that the universe itself is built up by the Ying and Yang, invisible but mighty power circulation and balance of two conflicting components, e.g. light and shadow, plus and minus, sun and moon etc. A fundamental orientation and mathematics derived from the Ying and Yang thought largely influence the patterns of licensed arrows provided by the Ogasawara school and a field and altar arrangement of ritual archery ceremonies, however, the point that should be specially noted is "Ying and Yang"; shout ( in Japanese, it pronounces "In‐ Yo" ) by the Yabusame archers on horses at the Yabusame ritual ceremony. By shouting In‐Yo, their spirits and souls are able to correspond with the universe in other words almighty God."

The above is from the Ogasawara Family

below is my comment:

In/Yo Theory or the principles of yin and yang come from Chinese Taoism. Taoism arrived in Japan along with Buddhism and Confucianism in the 6th century AD. But Taoism was the weakest of the 3, bearing such a resemblance to the existing shaministic practices and beliefs already in Japan that it only existed in the periphery, and within the mix of the 3 which became knows as Jukyo.

The Ogasawara Family established for us the foundations of what culminated in what we now think of as Traditional Japanese Culture. The In/Yo theory that they used is based on the principles of Taoist thought. In/Yo theory entered Japan within the Jukyo combination of influences from the mainland. Jukyo consists primarily of Confucian Values, Buddhist Ceremonies, and Taoist Principles... pretty much in this order. To the extent that Jukyo is sometimes translated as Confucianism. But in talking with the Japanese about what is Jukyo, the principles described are Taoist; so as stated, Jukyo is Confucian Values, Buddhist Ceremonies, and Taoist Principles, just as this In/Yo Theory used by the Ogasawara Family suggests.

Zen too came to Japan as Buddhism; but quickly, under the descendants of Dogen Zenji (1200-1253) (who brought what we now call Soto Zen Buddhism to Japan) again the Jukyo was incorporated, and along with that indigenous ideas were incorporated into Zen as well. This combination of all, roots from Japan and all the jukyo from the mainland combine in varying ways, and in varying degrees, to create what we now call Traditional Japanese Culture.

The Ogasawara Patriarch most responsible for the strengthening of the Ogasawara Teaching, and establishing it as the Japanese Way was Sadamune Ogasawara (1292-1347). Sadamune studied under the Zen Master Seisetsu Shoho and used these teachings to re-establish Ogawawara-ryu of the time. He took the principles of Zen and incorporated them more strongly into the Jukyo Principles already in place.

The other principles that we think of as Traditional Japanese Culture, come directly from Buddhism and particularly Zen. Zen Masters brought a particular taste and way of practicing to such things as tea, calligraphy, and flower arrangement. They took what for some had been just past times for those outside of the temple, and brought the flavor of the temple back into them, since that's where they came from in the first place.

They also had great influence over warriors of the time who developed their warrior practices into 'do' arts during peacetime particularly. This 'do' is the Japanese pronunciation of Tao. All of the 'do' arts of Japan have some basis, to one degree or another, to the Jukyo and Zen influence, since they were the bringers of in/yo theory, the basis of 'do'."