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Posts Tagged ‘japanese culture’

I recently received an article for the second issue of the Journal of the SCKR (http://sckrjournal.org), in which the word “shugyo” is brought up in reference to the Ironman-100 Arrow Shoot, which we do twice a year. By coincidence, if you want to call it that, the book that I ordered online last week is talking about that very thing, but more in-depth. The second paragraph into chapter one, Yuasa Yasuo’s book, The Body, Self-Cultivation, and Ki-Energy (State University of New York Press, Albany, 1993) brings up the word “shugyo“.

The author gives us a loose translation as being “self-cultivation”. He tells us that in Eastern culture there are many means to self-cultivation, with Zen being one that gained notoriety worldwide. He points out the huge influence the Buddhist methods have had on the development of artistry and martial arts as a whole and correlates the Indian term “tapas” to “shugyo” (as in having to do with fire and heat, more in the sense of an internal or mental fire, rather than a literal translation, or the creation of something new within oneself.) Related, also, are the terms “kinyoku” and “kugyo“, meaning something akin to “austerity” and “asceticism”.

Yuasa points out that this type of philosophy, the training of the body and mind (spirit) as one, is the way of thinking in Eastern cultures and has been for generations. Since the shift in modern philosophy with Renee Descartes (1596-1650), “I think, therefore I am” and mind-body dualism, most Westerners have had a hard time with this concept of bringing the mind and body together. (In relation to Kyudo, I note here that the yumi is considered part of the body and we are to bring the mind, body and bow together as one, Sanmi-Ittai.)

The translators (Shigenori Nagatomo/Monte S. Hill) include a paragraph of notation in regard to the term “shugyo” stating:
“The term “shugyo” is translated throughout this book as “self-cultivation”, or simply “cultivation”. It consists of two Chinese characters, “to master” and a “practice”. Literally then, it means “to master a practice”. As is clear in this literal rendition, the term “self” does not appear in the original phrase. The rendition of “self-cultivation” is adopted because of the individualistic orientation of Western society. Philosophically this rendition is felicitous for initial stages of “self-cultivation”, but since its ultimate goal is to achieve the state of “no-mind” or “no-self”, it does not do justice to the full meaning of the original phrase. As long as the reader is aware of the fact that a psychological, existential transformation occurs in the course of “self-cultivation”, where the self of everyday experience is discarded and transformed, the rendition of “shugyo” as “self-cultivation” should not pose any difficulty. Yuasa seems to think that the concept of “no-self” or “no mind” parallels Jung’s concept of “Selbst“, although they may not be identical.”

With that said, this puts me about three pages into the book. This book has already proven to be very educational. I hope to do a more in-depth review later, but in the meantime, you might want to go ahead and check it out for yourself. Interesting stuff!
(Edited 4/2/11)

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While the holidays are welcome, it is nice to settle back into the more routine side of life. I think about all of the “Happy New Year” exclamations and remember that it is but another moment in the passing of time. Every moment is a new moment and worth celebrating… but, for the most part, these moments are taken for granted.

It was a busy weekend, with the Journal of the SC Kyudo Renmei going live. For being the holidays, the response has been excellent. I touched briefly on the journal in the previous post, but being in a rush to leave town and visit with family, feel that I did not give it my full attention.

The journal is a quarterly publication. The normal subscription, which is free, will allow a preview. For a small fee to help cover our costs, the premium subscription will allow full membership. While it is not a “how to” publication as such, the premier issue opens with an in depth article by our guest, Don Rabska. Don’s expertise is in Olympic recurve archery, but he has studied many different styles, including Kyudo. With this background, and as a former Olympic archery coach, he brings rare insight to the subject. I believe you will be surprised to find the common bonds we share.

Those of you that know Blackwell sensei, know that he can be a man of few words. So, much like the E.F. Hutton…

…when he talks, we listen.
He has a series of articles lined up for this year on cultural influences in Kyudo, with the premier being Confucianism. This is highly educational and helps bring understanding to the “whys” of many of the Kyudo customs.

While, the 2010 IKYF seminar fades with the rest of 2010, Marceleo Frischknecht ignites a memory in a most poetic sense. Whether you were there in person or not, you will enjoy the journey he paints of this experience. Marceleo was there assisting, translating, competing, training and testing, so he had the full seminar experience in the truest sense.

We hope you agree that with this journal, we have brought an enjoyable forum to learn and grow and that you will join us through sharing your own personal insight into the art, regardless of style. Each person has something to teach, so I hope you will take our hand and join us on this journey.

Let me close by wishing you all a happy new year, celebrating each new moment along the way and finding the positive aspect that is always there to be found.

Happy New Year!
(http://sckrjournal.org)

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As we close the door on this year and a new one opens for 2011, I am happy to share with you the word that the SCKR has published our first online issue of the Journal of the South Carolina Kyudo Renmei. More about it can be found at http://sckrjournal.org/

We hope that you will find it beneficial.

Happy New Year to ALL!

EDIT: Corrected URL to http://sckrjournal.org/

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While the 2010 IKYF seminar has come and gone and most of us have returned home, our memories remain. Whether progressing to our next rank this year or not, I hope all left with a feeling of accomplishment. We learn from doing and it was definitely a busy time full of doing, non-stop from beginning to end.

As Satake sensei pointed out in her opening remarks, part of the reasoning for having the seminar in Japan periodically is to introduce us to the culture. While many Kyudoka have a Japanese heritage or have been exposed to the culture by other means, this has not been the case for me. It was a cultural shock from day one. My right suddenly became my left. All traffic to the left… on the road, on the sidewalk, on the escalator, lines in the train station. Tokyo is a fast paced town, move over or get run over.

Maybe due to this fast pace and crowed conditions, it is even more important to be aware of courteousness. Everywhere you go you hear onegaishimasu, the magic words if you please. We use this word in Kyudo as well, but I have never given it a lot of thought until hearing how commonplace the usage is in Japan. Kyudo is an art that stresses courtesy from beginning to end. Why would I not expect that the entire Japanese culture reflects this as well? I found that the people I met in Japan were some of the most hospitable people I have come across. Only equaled, maybe, around grandma’s dinner table where anyone that dropped by was family, where it was expected that you pull up a chair, sit a spell and you never went home empty handed… a sack of ‘maters or a mess of greens always accompanied you home.

While each Kyudo seminar we attend is much the same, each seminar is totally different from the last. We all go there and do Kyudo. We learn, we grow, we evolve. And yet… it has much to do with the people we meet along the way. The special moments seem to be the unplanned ones, the people you run into and where the path takes you from there.
Each seminar I’ve been to holds special memories. They are all learning experiences… learning about life as well as Kyudo.

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Kyudo-Budo

When we think of budo, what are we talking about?
What is budo? What is bushido?

Budo can be considered as martial way. And within budo, bushido is taught.* Budo is a way of living and a way of dying. In Daidoji Yuzan’s book, Budoshoshinshu, he begins with:

“The man who would be a warrior considers it his most basic intention to keep death always in mind, day and night, from the time he first picks up his chopsticks in celebrating his morning meal on New Year’s day to the evening of the last day of the year. When one constantly keeps death in mind, both loyalty and filial piety are realized, myriad evils and disasters are avoided, one is without illness and mishap, and lives out a long life. In addition, even his character is improved. Such are the many benefits of this act.”

Budoshoshinshu, while written as the warrior’s primer, offers much in the way of guidance that is still pertinent today. When I read the section above, I take it to mean that we should live every day as it is our last. We should live life to the fullest and appreciate every moment. We should not leave things that should be done now, until tomorrow. We should make peace where peace needs to be made and to quote from one of my favorite songs, “Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel.”

Budoshoshinshu goes on to state:
“Day and night without fail, as one is involved in all of his business, both public and private, when there is just a moment to be calm, death should be kept in mind… these words are for the understanding of those intending to be warriors.”

I would think, good words for all.

“Bushidō (武士道?), roughly translated as “the way of the warrior,” is a Japanese code of conduct and way of Samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry. As part of the Samurai philosophy, Bushidō stresses loyalty, frugality, the mastery of martial arts, and “honor unto death.” Born of two main influences, philosophy and swordsmanship, the violent existence of the Samurai was tempered by the wisdom and serenity of Japanese Shinto (&) Buddhism.” (Wikipedia)

If we look at Inazo Nitobi’s Bushido, the Soul of Japan, he states:

“Bushido, then, is the code of moral principles which the knights were required or instructed to observe. It is not a written code; at best it consists of a few maxims handed down from mouth to mouth or coming from the pen of some well-known warrior or savant. More frequently it is a code unuttered and unwritten, possessing all the more the powerful sanction of veritable deed, and of a law written on the fleshly tablets of the heart. It was founded not on the creation of one brain, however able, or on the life of a single personage, however renowned. It was an organic growth of decades and centuries of military career.”

“Bushido as an independent code of ethics may vanish, but its power will not perish from the earth; its schools of martial prowess or civic honor may be demolished, but its light and its glory will long survive their ruins. Like its symbolic flower, after it is blown to the four winds, it will still bless mankind with the perfume with which it will enrich life. Ages after, when its customaries shall have been buried and its very name forgotten, its odors will come floating in the air as from a far-off unseen hill…”

It is our job, as martial artists, to do our part in ensuring that the budo code not be forgotten… not only by passing on the words, but by being living examples… by traveling the Way.

*A good article with more in regard to budo and bushido can be found @ http://ekamachdi.wordpress.com/2008/10/22/understanding-aikido-as-budo

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NHK production video discussing modern Kyudo.

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