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Archive for June, 2009

No beginning, no end… the circular patterns we are caught up in.

I recently ran across a passage in The Secret of the Target by Jackson S. Morisawa that caught my attention. Actually it was while I was thinking on this passage that a commercial for Samuel Adams Spring Ale came on the radio and I realized they have a brew for each of the seasons. Morisawa, has related Kyudo to the seasons as well.

While Morisawa’s book is said to be concerned primarily with Zen, and the martial arts is only a part of that, and is not affiliated with any Kyudo school or association in Japan, I still found his comments regarding Kyudo and the seasons interesting.

Spring begins fresh and forceful. In the same manner he says you should enter ashibumi with freshness and dozokuri with firmness. At yugame one is to prepare for summer.

Ushiokoshi is the transition from spring to summer. It is likened to the blazing sun of summer. Courage and boldness are mentioned here. At hikiwake one is to fill the entire body fully, leaving no room for a hair to be inserted.

Transformation to autumn is at kai. The withering force is smooth and light and related to the falling leaves. The state of mushin is to be achieved and with straightforward honesty, one is to come together to reach the center of the Jumonji.

In the last stages of kai, winter takes over with calm and quiet. He claims that being in the center of Jumonji is as if being in the eye of the hurricane, the calm of the storm. At hanare one is calm and accepting. At zanshin one is calm and reflective.

I will have to do a bit more research before an analysis of all of the seasonal brews of Samuel Adams can be assessed here. I might add that it is never recommended to be sampling the brews and doing Kyudo at the same time.

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Master Yozaburo Uno is credited with stating the following points regarding the main objectives of modern kyudo:

* to study the principles of shooting (Shaho) and the art of shooting (Shagi)
* to apply the formalized movements (Taihai) based on etiquette (Rei)
* to improve the level of shooting (Shakaku) and shooting dignity (Shahin)
* the necessity to strive for perfection as a human being

This one sentence on page 8 in the Kyohon sums up the first three objectives:
By combining the formalized movement, principles of shooting and art of shooting into a unified whole, this will produce shooting of dignity and refinement.

In a mathematical sense we could say:
Rei(Taihai+Shaho+Shagi) (Sanmi-Ittai)=Shahin
( I may need to work on this formula some, but for now, it’s working for me.)

With the first three objectives covered, that leaves the final objective… Nin Gen Kei Sei, the necessity to strive for perfection as a human being. (sigh) They had to go and complicate things.

As you learn through studying the Kyohon, there are no wasted words, diagrams or pictures therein. It all has meaning, right down to the footnotes. Most of page 9 is devoted to this final listed objective… improvement of self. Think about the scope this covers!

The Kyohon briefly states:

The key to Kyudo is both sincerity and courteousness. It is of more value to be sincere than to win against others…

I note from this that sincerity and courteousness go hand-in-hand here. We can be sincere, but if not done with courtesy in mind, we have lost in the long run.

It goes on to say:

…(It)is our hope that your Kyudo practice will have meaning in your daily life both spiritually and physically. Kyudo is not simply a way to create well-being and train the body, but a way to bring enhancement and cultivation to your life. We should consider the relevance to our training of such sayings of the past, as “Kyudo is Life” (Sha Soku Jinsei) or “Kyudo is Living” (Sha Soku Seikatsu). In this way, we as practitioners of Kyudo, who are expected to master such virtues as discipline, modesty, gentleness, self-restraint, and reflection through the shooting, can realize these qualities in our own life.

Wow!

Thank goodness for me, the “Stipulations for Examinations”, found on pages 125 and 126, for Dan and Kyu grades deal with form, shooting technique, and accuracy. But as you progress in rank and look at “Titular Grades” (Shogo), relating to Renshi, Kyoshi, and Hanshi, they start bringing into play that last and most important objective relating to self improvement… firmness of character, judgment, scholarship, cultivation, high conduct, dignity, and highest quality of discernment.

These qualities need to be worked on each and every day by every one of us! Chances are we will be put to the test each and every day. This was brought to the forefront of my mind recently when I read something that incited an internal rage within that I haven’t felt for a good long while. My mind went straight to war mode.

Gladly I have wonderful friends that have been in the art much longer than I and an excellent sensei that has never let me down. After talking with them and having time to ruminate, I realize that I can thank the author(s) of that article for sharing their comments. Although I can’t agree with them, through seeing their flaws, they have enabled me to see those of my own. In turn, I can love a part of them for doing this. We can always find good in our fellow man if we look deep enough. And, when it comes down to it, isn’t that what the baseline is.. love and compassion for ourselves and our fellow man?

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In re-reading parts of Ki in Daily Life by Koichi Tohei. last night, I ran across a section that pertained to something that has been popping into my mind from time to time. It deals with what can be called open mind. Tohei talks about being candid and begins with:

Not just in ki training, but when you are learning anything, frankness is essential. Some people, ruined by their previous experience or knowledge, are unable to learn things openly. These people have what we call bad habits. They judge things solely on the basis of their own narrow experience and think that what suits them is correct and what does not suit them is wrong. Progress does not lie this way.

Say we have a glass full of water. If we try to pour more water into it, the water will flow out, and only a little will remain in the glass. Once empty the glass, and it will hold plenty of new water. If your head is crammed with this and that, whatever new things you try to learn, they will not go in… Ki training is the discipline that lets you make great progress in moving from a world that emphasizes the body to one that centers on the spirit, from one that thinks in dualities, to one that thinks in absolutes, and from a world of fighting to a world of peace… Some people decide once and for all in their heart that they are not going to believe what anyone says.

We all come from varied backgrounds, different martial arts, religions, social backgrounds… that’s what makes us unique. But with the same vain of thought as Tohei’s glass of water, old water can become stagnant. And even if you add some fresh to it, I wouldn’t want to drink it. Best to empty your glass and refill with fresh water. I have also heard that as long as the ki flows pure, the water remains clean. I think the key here is that you have a continuous flow.

So, I suppose, we should try letting go… and have a glass of fresh water!

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Home is where the heart is...

Home is where the heart is...

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. – from Moving Water by Rumi

In Tohei’s book Ki in Daily Life, he speaks on plus ki and minus ki and yin and yang. He tells us that yin is the shade and yang the sunlight. Yin is destruction and yang is birth. He references the duality of this life… life-death…strength-weakness…high-low. Everything has its plus and its minus. We should focus on extending positive ki. He tells us later in his book that extending ki is the fourth of the Four Basic Principles to Unify Mind and Body.

Harmonious unity is accomplished when the three essentials (body, spirit or mind, and bow) come together as one, sanmi-ittai.

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Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.-Eleanor Roosevelt

As we go through life, we interact with many people and use the term friend in a rather loose sense of the word. Don’t get me wrong, I find no fault in that. But at some point in this fast paced world, we might want to consider what a friend in the truest sense is.

In the following quote from The Soul of Rumi, Rumi gives us a clue:

Would you like to have revealed to you
the truth of the Friend?

Leave the rind,
and descend into the pith.

True friendship goes much deeper. We understand our friends. We know their strong points and likewise, their flaws. They, as well, have gotten past the rind into the pith, understand us, know our faults and yet they remain. They accept us for who we are, imperfect as that may be and still see the good in us. A true friend is a true treasure!

Now, my next questions may seem odd, but I think it is worthwhile to think about. Are we simply acquainted with kyudo? Do we stick only to the rind? Or is kyudo our friend? Are we willing to dig to the depths, to the pith, to search beyond the surface? While the rind can be colorful, it is usually bitter and unsatisfying. To quell our hunger, we peel the outer layers and delve deeper to find what we need.

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