Sunday, January 25, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Split ya

Amid unseasonably warm temperatures at our practice session Sunday January 18th, Sensei offered his usual generous instruction to all who would ask.

One lesson related to the retirement of a ya whose bamboo had a split in the middle. Sensei explained that the weakness could fail if the ya were drawn under the tension of a strong yumi. In the worst case, a practitioner could be injured in the face, arm or hand by the explosion of bamboo splinters. Clearly it was time to retire this particular ya. Instead of simply discarding it, Sensei instructed that the end and tip be removed and saved for future use and the ya itself be set aside to become a flagpost for an upcoming ceremony.

We ended practice a bit early to stack wood and gather kindling. We burn through a fair amount of wood since Sensei likes the warmth, and the cinder block structure of the dojo (aka "the ice box") often maintains a colder temperature inside than out!

First Shot of the year

On January 1, Zenko Kyudojo opened the New Year with a first shot ceremony. Wearing their Kyudo finest, participants prepared to shoot at a variety of festive targets ("go ko mono" - i.e. five small targets). The shooting once again reflected our tremendous dedication to non-emphasis on targets as many shots flew and our crowd of guests watched with Sensei and waited for a hit. When the first hit finally came (thank you, Scott), it was clean and clear and Sensei called it a wrap! Following the shooting, we all gathered in the dojo where Sensei sang the famous, haunting Goose Song accompanied by Yoko Hiraoka on koto, and we drank sake and ate dried squid to toast a fresh start for the New Year.

[From Carolyn Kanjuro]

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shibata Sensei's birthday celebration

On December 28th, we each offered a last shot for 2008 and then joined friends and family of Shibata Sensei in the dojo to toast his his 88th birthday. (That is to say, he is entering his 88th year in 2009. By western counting, he will turn 88 in December 2009.) It is considered an auspicious year in Japan, his "rice year." Sensei says being in the West has given him strong power!

[From Carolyn Kanjuro, photo by Yoshie Koester]