Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Kyudo in the USA summary (first draft)

Kyudo came to the United States with the earliest Japanese Immigrants.
Probably first in the early 1900's on the Islands of Hawaii. The Hawaii Kyudo Kai itself was established between 1903 and 1908.

The Hawaii Kyudo Kai with a visiting instructor from the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai. Early 1920's

The next groups, after Hawaii, were established in Washington State, and California.
In California we believe that the first groups formed around San Francisco and San Jose, and then in Los Angeles. The Rafu Kyudo Kai in Los Angeles California existed as early at 1908; The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai was established as early as 1916.

Godo Keiko between the kyudo group in San Jose and the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai in the early 1920's.
The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai at their dojo in  Little Tokyo, 1929.
With the internment of the Japanese Americans during the 1940's kyudo in the U.S. came to a screeching halt. The men pictured above fearful of being caught with weapons either burned or buried their kyudo bows, arrows, and equipment.

The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai, 1984. Rancho Park California.

Kyudo re-emerged in the U.S. in the Mid 1970's. Two brothers, both buddhist priests came to Los Angeles as ministers, and began the practice of kyudo there; Koen Mishima and Kiomaru Mishima began to practice in Los Angeles in the early 1970's; by 1974 they were joined by another Buddhist Priest, Hirokazu Kosaka. In 1976, after being asked by some surviving members of the original group to 'please keep the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai alive', these 3 priest named their fledgling group The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai; in this way they wanted to honor the first Japanese immigrants who came to America and the first Japanese bows to arrive as well.

Also in the 1970's, The Hazard Family in San Jose came back from Japan and began to practice there. Motoki Shigaki Sensei was practicing in New York.

One of the strongest groups in the U.S. practices under the auspicious of the Shibata Family. In 1980, Kanjiro Shibata XX was asked to come to teach the warrior way to the students at the Shambala and Naropa Institutes in Colorado by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. This group is now overseen by Kanjiro Shibata Sensei XXI with groups throughout the U.S. as Zenko International.

Kanjiro Shibata XX with his son as kaizoe in the background

After this there were others who practiced Kyudo in Japan and began to return to the United States. Several of these would in 1996 get together and form the American Kyudo Renmei as the representative group to the All Nippon Kyudo Federation in Japan.

An early Kyudo USA event with some of the founding leaders, and 3 Hachidan Hanchi from the ANKF in Japan.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The secret of the Pagoda

A secret of the 'do' arts is contained in the 5 story Sotoba (Pagoda).

Of course there are no secrets in kyudo. By this we only mean that some things are difficult to see; that some things require certain experiences, that allow us to see around the bend. They don't take time necessarily, but they do need these pre-requisite experiences. Experience in how to look at things, an awareness of hearing in a certain way. We say to listen with our eyes, and see with our ears; this way of talking gives us clues in how to see certain details and a way of investigation that lends itself to the teaching.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mokuso - Silent Contemplation

Mokuso is Silent Contemplation. This is a very popular form of meditation in many martial arts circles.

We can even heard it said as we begin to sit quietly before class 'Mokuso!'
I was taught as a kid in Karate that it meant 'Attention!'; but I related this like Attention! in the military; and I suppose in some ways this is true. Even Zen can be a bit militaristic in it's tough disciplined approach.

Mokuso does come from a Buddhist background and is one of the 84,200 forms of meditation taught in Mahayana Buddhist that is prevalent in Japan.

This silent contemplation can bring up our awareness, wake us up, and bring us to attention.
It also allows our worries and cares from outside the dojo to dissolve and bring us into focus on the task at hand; perhaps even bring us to directly experience this present moment.

In martial arts being in the present moment, just like in Zen, is the primary way to live.

Creating our lives

The teaching says that what we think, say, and do every moment of every day creates our lives.

Sadamenoza - The establishment position

Sadamenoza is the establishing position during a sha-rei or ceremonial shooting.

This is where the archers re-establish all their connections.

As always we are talking about the non-separation of internal - external aspects.

Of course we maintain this non-separaration every moment of everyday.

But just as our budo practice is a chance to really experience being this way, this is especially true of points in our  practice like sadamenoza. Points like this are designed to remind us, designed to do this with us naturally.

These points also give time for the establishment of the ebb and flow we consider natural. Movements to and from these positions are paced by the pause of the position.

We have spoken of Kamae before. Positions that set us in time - place and imply this moving to and from. Sadamenoza is exactly of this same nature.

At Sadamenoza we bow. Often a nice deep bow, and least sesshu-rei, the bow where the hand comes to the knee (and if not wearing a glove our wrist would bend, hence the hand bent bow...) and our spine is at 45 degrees to the floor, but we can even use a deeper fukai (deep) bow in formal instances.

As in the other posts on 'rei', there is something in the act of bowing that has an effect on us as people, and our 'do' practices are filled with kamae like this, and our designed to include this influence.

All we have to do is allow for it...

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.