Sunday, October 4, 2015

Kyudo in Los Angeles

Kyudo in Los Angeles:

Kyudo came to the United States from Japan in the early years of the 20th Centery, reaching Los Angeles as early as 1908 with the Rafu Kyudo Kai.

As early as 1916, Mr. Suda Chokei had founded the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai. From 1920 to 1928 Miwa Tanechiko Sensei taught the Heki style of archery. The group met at a dojo located on what was then Jackson Street in Little Tokyo. A second dojo was located in Boyle Heights on St. Louis Street, near Hollenbeck Park.

In the 1940's the Japanese Americans in Los Angeles, like all the other Americans of Japanese ancestry, and placed in internment camps. Many of the bows and arrows were seized as weapons by the federal government. Fearful owners of these weapons often either burned or buried their equipment.

In 1973, Koen Mishima Sensei arrived in Los Angeles as a minister at the Higashi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. At first he practiced by himself in the temple's basement.

 The Jackson Street martial arts center was closed and eventually demolished, and for the duration of the war, Japanese-Americans were relocated to internment camps. After the war, individuals resumed their practice in isolation without the help and support of an instructor, and there was no official kyudo dojo in Los Angeles for over thirty years. .
In 1973, Rev. Koen Mishima, a kyudo practitioner of many years' standing, arrived in Los Angeles from Japan to minister at the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple. He practiced kyudo in the temple's basement by himself for a long time; one day, he was photographed as he was practicing. Iwao Iwata saw that photograph displayed at an exhibition, and he became Mishima-sensei's first student. Eventually the two of them were joined by Rev. Hirokazu Kosaka (a priest from a neighboring temple), Rev. Kiyomaru Mishima (Mishima-sensei's younger brother), and an American man named Mike Stanley.
In 1975, Mishima-sensei and Kosaka-sensei officially reinstated the old Los Angeles Kyudo Kai, and weekly taught a growing number of students in a variety of locations: from 1973–1978, at the Higashi Honganji Temple; from 1978–1981 in the basement of Koyasan Temple in Little Tokyo; from 1982–1992, in the beautiful wood-paneled church hall of the Nichiren Temple in East Los Angeles, at the corner of Fourth Street and Saratoga; from 1993–1999, in the Rafu Chuo Gakuen Community Hall on Saratoga. From 2000 to the present, the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai has met with the Nanka Kyudo Kai at the Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute.
The Nanka Kyudo Kai was formed by Rick Beal with permission from Kosaka-sensei to represent the growth of their group beyond Los Angeles to include all of Southern California. Nanka is the word used by the local Japanese Community to mean "Southern California." The group now has classes in San Diego, Orange County, Palmdale/Lancaster area, Pasadena, and West Los Angeles.
In addition, the Nanka Kyudo Kai represents the group nationally and internationally with as a member of the American Kyudo Renmei and the International Kyudo Renmei in Japan.
Instructors of the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai (1973–Present)
Rev. Koen Mishima
Rev. Koen Mishima was born and raised in Takayama, Japan. His father was a Buddhist priest, with his own temple and congregation, and all three of his sons became Buddhist priests and kyudo practitioners. When their father died, according to custom, the eldest son inherited the temple; Mishima-sensei immigrated to Los Angeles in 1973 and began his ministry with the Higashi Honganji Temple.
In his youth, Mishima-sensei was taught kyudo by two teachers. One of these followed the Honda and the Ogasawara styles, and the other taught a style called Muyo Shingetsu Ryu. Mishima-sensei did not at that time embrace either of these disciplines entirely, but rather took elements of each and incorporated them into his own practice, which became a blend of his teachers' styles and which became the style practiced by the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai from 1975 until 1995.
In 1988, Mishima-sensei immigrated to Australia and lived in Brisbane for eight years, which provided him the first opportunity in many years to think deeply about what he was looking for in kyudo. During this time he built a temple and a kyudo dojo on his own property, and he practiced with a growing number of students in what he called the Brisbane Kyudo Kai.
In 1990 on a visit to Japan, he met with his old teacher, Master Sagino of the Muyo Shingetsu Ryu, and attended a kyudo seminar that his master was giving. When the master stood in front of and helped him open the bow, imbuing it with his spirit and experience (as is the custom that style), Mishima-sensei felt he experienced enlightenment in his kyudo. Abandoning the Japan Kyudo Federation because of its focus on sport as opposed to spiritual discipline, he began his commitment to Master Sagino and his master's school of kyudo.
In 1995 Mishima-sensei returned to Los Angeles for a visit, and persuaded Kosaka-sensei to change Los Angeles dojo to his new style. For the next five years, all members of the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai practiced Muyo Shingetsu Ryu exclusively, and this style is still practiced by the senior members.
In 1996 Mishima-sensei moved back to Japan, settling in the city of Nigata. He was adopted as a son by the temple that he inherited through his second marriage, and consequently he has changed his last name to "Hosagawa." He has built a dojo on the temple grounds, and once again teaches kyudo, always in the Muyo Shingetsu Ryu form.
Mishima-sensei taught kyudo continuously throughout these years until he emigrated to Australia in 1988. At that time, Kosaka-sensei took over the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai.
Mr. Hirokazu Kosaka
Mr. Hirokazu Kosaka was born in Wakayama, in the south of Japan. Wakayama is located only a few miles from the town of Tanabe, the city in which aikido was founded, and where kyudo is still zealously practiced today. It was in this Mecca of martial arts that the young Kosaka-sensei grew to understand and appreciate the many different aspects of the bushido ("The Way of the Warrior").
The form of kyudo practiced by members of the Kosaka Family was Kishu-Chikurin-Ha of the Heike-Ryu from; the young Hirokazu Kosaka was, however more fond of the ceremonial from of Ogaswara-ryu, and so spent much of his time learning this form.
Kosaka-sensei is the fourth generation of his family to come to America. His great-grandfather came to Seattle in 1890, his grandfather in 1910, and his mother came to Tacoma in 1921. In 1958, when he was ten years old, Kosaka-sensei came to study English in Los Angeles for a year, and then returned again in 1967 to attend the Chouinard Art Institute. In 1970, he returned to Japan and entered a monastery, where he became a Buddhist priest; and in 1975 he once again returned to Los Angeles to minister at the Koyasan Temple in Little Tokyo.
There were only a few young Japanese priests in the area at the time, and they were all well acquainted with each other. One day, Kosaka-sensei was invited by Mishima-sensei to practice kyudo, and this invitation began a long relationship during which they developed a deep bond of friendship and a common kyudo ideal, and they spent much time in discussion of how to teach kyudo to westerners.
From the time that Mishima-sensei moved to Australia in 1988, Kosaka-sensei has been the head of the Los Angeles kyudo Kai. He is also a multi-media artist, and as the Exhibitions Director of the JACCC-Japanese American Community Cultural Center he is very involved with the cultural life of the Little Tokyo community. As a consequence, in recent years he has had very little time to devote to teaching and managing the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai, and has given his senior student, Rick Beal, permission to teach kyudo.

Rick Beal
Rick Beal began training in Japanese Budo at a young age in 1966. But his real revelation came in the early 80’s with his sword teacher Hirotaka Okubo (Okubo-sensei). Okubo-sensei had studied kyudo with Kosaka-sensei and Mishima-sensei in Los Angeles; so Okubo-sensei incorporated the basic movements of kyudo into his warm up exercises for the sword classes. When asked why, Okubo-sensei replied, “If you lay down your sword and practice kyudo for ten years, then pick up the sword again, your sword will also be ten years better. No other martial art will do that, only kyudo.”
Prior to meeting Okubo-sensei, Rick had owned and operated a small karate/kobudo school. Okubo-sensei and insisted that if Rick wanted to train with him, he must close his school. Rick closed the school and traveled around the area to find places for each of his senior students to train. One of those students (one of Rick’s top students) couldn’t find any other instructor he wanted to train with, or any other art that he would rather study. So Rick took him to meet Okubo-sensei in hopes that they could train together. The student had no interest in the sword, and really didn’t bond with Okubo-sensei; but upon seeing the kyudo warm up he exclaimed, “What is that? I want to do that!”
Okubo-sensei wrote a letter of introduction for the young man to Mishima-sensei and sent him to the Higashi Hongwanji temple to begin kyudo. Being one of Rick’s previous karate students, he asked Rick to come along for moral support.
Rick came and the two of them were told to sit down and watch (it was customary at that time in the class to have prospective students watch for three classes before they could begin instruction). But for some reason, Mishima-sensei approached them and asked them to join the other beginning students that he was teaching to walk. Although Rick’s friend stood up immediately, Rick explained that he had no interest in training in kyudo, but he had only come to offer support to his friend. Mishima-sensei insisted that Rick should also train, but Rick demurred, saying that he did not want to waste the-sensei’s time and that he would only be there for one day and then be gone. Mishima-sensei said, “One day of practice is one day of practice.” Rick practiced with the group that day, and has practiced with them ever since.
We've been shooting at the El Dorado Dojo quite often on Sunday mornings.

A few years ago we performed several ceremonies to inaugurate the El Dorado Dojo. This was not the first time kyudo has been done at the archery facility, The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai, before the archery range was built at Rancho Park, used to shoot at El Dorado Park every Sunday morning.

While Rancho Park is being renovated, I have returned to this early home of the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai to practice at the El Dorado Park once again.

What I really enjoyed about the last few practice is that my best shots, those with the longer kai and straight nobiai, fly into the target; those that are too short of a kai or nobiai is off do not. This is different than a few years ago when only my short kai periods would hit. With the more proper shots hitting, it brings a wonderful positive reinforcement to continue with a nice kai and polish the nobiai more and more.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Zen Meditation and Archery at the Lahaina Jodo Mission Sept. 2015

Sotoba / Pagoda at the Lahaina Jodo Mission, Maui, Hawaii
Meditation Group Photo
We began with the idea to begin the 1st Shot Kyudo Workshop with an Intro to meditation session the evening before; it quickly morphed into a Intro to Meditation for several evenings during my stay. The last couple were attended by known meditation instructors from other traditions on the Island.

Kinhin - Walking Meditation
Kyudo Instruction under the trees

Breaktime in the shade of the beautiful palms

Unexpectedly caught pulling arrows
The workshop was a great success. We ended up covering all the expenses plus (finally) a decent donation to the temple.

Thank you to all who could attend.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Kihontai - Basic Movements

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 thought this was just discipline training, but it is much more than that. 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. This practice of sitting down, bowing, standing back up, walking forward and backward is more than just an exercise, more than a exercise in humility, it is the exercise that prepares the lower half of the body to support the bow. We don't need push ups, we need to sit, bow, stand, and walk!
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.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Depths of bows in the Japanese 'do' arts.

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)]