Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Worlds

Where are you?

Where do you go?

Where do you want to be?

Location is a huge part of our existence, and is not just "the place in which we are". Without trying to explain in too much detail this abstract idea, I'll just tell you how it is for me, and you can see how it effects you.

I spend time in three different worlds: Town, the dojo, and the mountains.

Town is where I do business. It's the place where I earn money, run my errands, and interact with other people who come to town for their own agenda. It's also where I play with others, so it's a place for my social acquaintances. It's where festivals happen. This world is made up of man-made social agreements and interactions. I live a life supported by these systems, so I inherently have to spend a lot of time here, though it's not necessarily where I would like to be. I meet a lot of interesting people in town, marvel at the oddities of the human imagination, and enjoy the base pleasures, but largely this is a place I don't always like to be. If I spend all of my time here, my life quickly takes a downward spiral. What people see of me here is largely limited. No doubt it's the same for my view of other people unfortunately.

The dojo is a place in town where I utilize the manifestations of the human imagination to better myself. This is the actual dojos I practice martial arts. But it is also school, museums, art, sports. It is the location of my extra-curricular activities that involve the accomplishments of mankind. It's where I seek to consciously better myself through practice. I spend a lot of time here because I seek knowledge. Actually, I may have a tendency to allot more time than I should here, ignoring other aspects that require my attention. This place is necessary for me to live an existence I am content with, but a place I must take care not to lose myself in. The relationships that I build here are of a very deep nature. My teachers, my partners, we all strive with full effort towards genuine goals of human progress, often through sweat, blood, and argument.

The mountains are ... a very sacred place for me. It's where I venture alone, with what I have, to explore the ancient world. This place is the most ... something  for me. It is the immortal force of the universe in which I am a part, fully engaging the adventure of my life. This place doesn't change for me, yet it has an infinite amount of variety. It's sacred in a way that makes me suddenly laugh and cry without inhibitions. It's sacred in a way that I really can't talk about it with other people. I have never said nor written words that do it justice, and I'd hate for it to be misunderstood. In a way, it's not something to be talked about, not something to be shared ... though talking about it or sharing it are by no means forbidden.

This is all just an abstraction in my head, and not meant to be taken 100% literally. And so when we really evaluate the different aspects of our lives, we find that they can be combinations of these different places.

Where is art?

Art is a manifestation of the primordial inspiration, yet it lies in fields that require cultivated skills, and it also exists in town where we deal with others in order to make it a full-fledged reality.

Where is family?

It exists in town where I have obligations I may not always willingly accept, but it is arguably the greatest dojo in that we learn the tangible skills of being a human from our family, and then it is a connection with the primordial spirit far stronger than with a rock or tree.

Real life ignores the borders of my faint abstract construction, yet it is a helpful one for me to better understand some details of my life, and allows me to use my conscious mind in order to set me in favorable directions. I live in these three worlds and they are all equally necessary. To abandon one would be to take a leg from my chair. To focus on one, would be turn away from many realities of life. Nothing in the world is excluded from this idea, and so it is all necessary. The trick is allocating the right amount of attention to each place. Perhaps a goal in life is mastering this technique of appropriate allocation.

Thanks for indulging my imagination!

What worlds do you live in?

COMMENT IF YOU LIKE! I'd love to hear.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Kyudo Gauntlet

As I mentioned in a few posts back, I have been practicing with a local high school kyudo club, as they have invaded the dojo on mornings during their spring break.

This is the kyudo gauntlet: a great path of adversity.

I forgot how hard high school Japanese kids are worked in their club activities. What do you think of when you think of spring break? I think of playing video games, going on a road trip, or ... I don't know, many other fun things. What do many Japanese high schoolers think? Early practice six days a week for their club activity (after school extra-curricular activity).

I really came to appreciate my normal kyudo practice. 3 to 6 people in the quiet of the mid-morning. Sensei relatively all to myself to talk and practice with.

But with the highschoolers, it's joining the ranks, standing in line, and shooting while everyone hurries and stares. The worst day is the one I described in a few posts back where I just did a horrible job in kyudo and hit zero arrows. For the days that followed, I improved in miniscule increments, getting used to the less than relaxing atmosphere. Finally when I started looking forward to the challenge, this highschoolers left, and I had exited the rear end of the beast before I realized it.

My practice was challenged, and I went to the lowest pit I've found yet in kyudo. From there I crawled out, on my own, and am now happy for the experience. A couple days after I still wasn't up to par, but somehow a few more days passed and I blossomed into a form of kyudo that is better than any I've ever done. I overcame whatever demon-hells I fell into, and got to some serious work in my technique. I won't brag, but when I watched a video of myself (pointing out all the glaring mistakes with sensei), I was just a little ... impressed.

"I have improved!"

But like I said, there are still many glaring mistakes, and in the past day I've wound down into another small funk of sorts. The slipping string that slaps me has returned just slightly. It doesn't slap me, because I sense it just before it happens. I am so incredibly aware of this phenomenon. I can't describe it. It's like getting in a car crash and afterwards noticing when you're in a car that's going a little too fast ... or even before that happens. So I don't get slapped in the face, but the string slips a little and I have a crappy shot.

Anyway, none of that matters because I'm participating in my first tournament this weekend, and I couldn't be more optimistic in a "I have absolutley no idea how things are going to go, but who cares" kind of  way.

Surely I'll let you know.

So keep reading! For more duels on the budo path!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My Martial Art: The Amalgamation

This is something I've been working on for a very long time.

It's been something like ... forever.

I'm serious! What is "my martial art", is something I've been practicing as long as I've been formally practicing martial arts. It's been something I've been working on as long as I've been using my body and mind. It existed in the seed of my body and mind from my mother and my father since before I was born; that seed which can be traced back all through my ancestors ... Irishmen, mainlanders, cavemen, monkeys, fish, single celled organisms, stardust, and beyond!

If my budo is something I've been working on infinitely into the past, then I've also been working on it in the future. The entirety of existence has been the "when" and "where" of my honing of my martial art. Not before, or after, but the actual, it of budo.

Congratulations! I've made it, and I've always been here!

Enough of the very serious jokes. I do have a more concrete point I want to address here in this post, and it has to do with being a person who has formally practiced different martial arts over a period of 10 years. I really don't like using time as measured by years when talking about martial arts. It always turns into a game of comparing numbers. It is a silly game that doesn't necessarily lead to clarification. Actually, in the absence of a holistic explanation of the situation, numbers of years just make things more confusing. But, I will put my ten years here because ... it is a time within which I have been able to go through many phases of training. Years earlier, I wouldn't be so good at ignoring glaring details and I wouldn't be able to see the commonalities. It's given me time to see other martial arts that have broadened my experience. This is one of the first times I've been able to see such a thick and fuzzy singular current through it all. Ask me again in ten years, and I'm sure I'll be able to tell you infinitely more.

As for the different martial arts I've practiced and how they contribute to my martial art, I think the clearest way to discuss the specifics is through a list of each martial art experienced in chronological order. I haven't put equal time into each martial art, and I haven't even included all I consider "having practiced." To name two, boxing and hsing i have helped me out a lot, but they just don't quite compare to the others in the list. There are many overlapping points between the arts, but I will try and mention each specific point in the category of the martial art which reveals its quality most clearest to me.

Hawaiian Kenpo:
-Use what works.
-Use what is most convenient.
-Use what is fastest to accomplishing your goal.
-Using your environment to your advantage.
-Not fighting as an option to solving issues.
-Doing anything possible to win.
-Being in physically good shape.

Tai Chi Chuan:
-Whole body utilization for individual techniques.
-Blending with a partner.
-Using a partner's strength to your advantage.
-Learning from oneself.

Ba Gua Zhang:
-Limberness of body and control of movement (balance, etc).
-Practicing various forms to learn one thing.

-No "fighting stance".
-Only expending necessary energy.
-Controlling an opponent/setting them off-balance.
-Relaxing throughout movement.
-Finding positions to be strong in, and others to give way.
-The need for good training partners.

-Seeing everything.
-Maximum effort/focus towards a specific goal.
-Everything is "the point".
-Prioritizing attention to various matters in a movement.
-Appropriate patience.
-The need for a good teacher.

The listing above is meant to dissect my martial art with specifics concerning experiences in activities that are generally called "martial arts." But, all of the specifics I mentioned above are existent in all of the martial arts listed above. I utilize them all, all the time, but each practice allows me to notice them a little better. I don't need to practice these martial arts to have these abilities, I don't have to be aware of the abilities for them to exist. However, being aware of them, and practicing these different arts allows me to improve my technique. Why is this important if I've already forever practiced infinitely into the future and already mastered them, thus being perfect the way I am as is right now? Because that infinity is the honing process of martial arts. That that completion of all goals in the future is another version of this eternally perfect/imperfect honing.

So we have me: the body. "My martial art": the skeleton. The different martial arts I have practiced: the organs. But there are still a couple ingredients missing to bring this beast live.

First, there are my veins and arteries: the things that I do to connect all that exists within me. These are the things that make the art real. Some of these things are:

-Healthy diet.
-Sufficient rest.

-Making my body limber so that it can perform at it's greatest potential.

-Specifically, standing. This is to clean the mind of unnecessaries, shake up and settle my body at the same time, and strengthen my tendons. Actually, trying to list this process takes many many more posts. I believe this is arguably, the single most important part of my martial art.

-Getting new material and inspiration to supplement the regular training, be it reading, videos, or seminars. Martial food for the artistic mind.

Then comes the last piece. The blood. The breath. The movement of it all:


Without this single aspect ... the "honing" process, which is the defining characteristic of existence, changes dramatically. It slackens. It becomes wasteful. It becomes weak and distracted. Practice is the sword to our warrior. The path and the intention. If there is something to do with our conscious effort in life, it is for a honing which is benefitted by practice.


But then again, my martial art is as ancient as anything else, and there is no such thing as practice.


So there you have it, my martial art. I look forward to taking a look again at this later to further see it's defining characteristics. I wonder if there is anything I've forgotten. I wonder what kind of qualities that are usually regarded highly in other martial arts are not included in mine. What does your martial art look like? I urge you to investigate, because you do have one, and it's probably pretty cool.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Failure: Missing the Target

When people talk about failure, I think it's inaccurate most of the time. We have an experience, perhaps one that our judgemental mind deems "bad" as opposed to "good". Then we could start devising ways to to act so that we don't have that "bad" but only "good". So we start aiming to do "good", but we may miss. Though we tried to achieve a specific goal we called "good", we did not, so we can call that "failure." In order to avoid failure, we can devise more ways to ensure success: that which we aim for, which is "good".

So we have an experience, and communicate it to someone else, often after this long thought process has occurred. Therefore, what we often say about "failure", is a very complicated thing indeed, subject to our own personal beliefs.

We could also adopt some outside set of beliefs which define good and bad, success and failure, which may seem easier at first, but perhaps that's even more complicated because it's someone else's devised beliefs, or most likely the mixing of a whole group of people's different beliefs. Maybe that belief system is one that has been developing for many generations from many different kinds of people.

Perhaps many of us have never even thought about what "success" and "failure" really are.

Well ...

This is something that comes up in kyudo. I guess it doesn't have to ... one could just show up, listen to the teacher, pull the bow, and go on with it all and such ... and in many ways that would be an ideal student. But that "ideal" is also subjected to some kind of "good" "bad" scale, so rather than talk about that, which I don't really know anything about, I'll talk about my own experience.

I show up, do what sensei tells me to the best of my ability, results happen, emotions react, and thoughts arise; or rather, questions. The big question is, "Why am I doing kyudo?" But following this question here would distract me from the point I'm trying to make. So let's look at some more simple questions. For example, "Why do I hold my hand this way?" "Why do I stand like this?" "Why do I breathe here?" To practical questions of technique, the answer seems to most likely be, "to hit the target." In fact, I would say all practical questions of technique are answered thusly. (WARNING: I know very little about kyudo, so please take my words as they are: from the mouth of a beginner, not a source of authority.)

So what you're doing in kyudo is attempting to hit the target. Otherwise, you'd be doing something completely different, like taking a nap or watching TV. So, because your effort directed towards hitting the target, hitting the target is "good" and seen as "success", while missing the target is "bad" and "failure."

Now, the answer to all the practical questions is hitting the target, but we come back to that big question of, "Why do I do kyudo?" It's like a giant sun pulling all of the other planets off other courses and onto its own. Each planet is spinning for its own purpose around its own axis (accurately hitting the target), but they all orbit the greater sun, who has a different, larger, and more powerful agenda (the larger purpose of kyudo: happiness, self-cultivation, or simply to act honestly)... one more at the center than the smaller planets.

And now we're talking about the grand movement of the cosmos! Which entirely wasn't my intent. Instead, I'll just tell you about my funny happenings this morning, which left me with strange feelings considering "failure" and "missing the target".

I am going to debut in my first kyudo competition on March 31st. In order to prepare for it, I have been looking forward to a lot of serious practice, especially after coming out of my second job which took a lot of time away from kyudo. However, high school students are on vacation between school terms, and so they are all beckoned to their club activities, which fills the dojo with high school students that belong to the kyudo club. Normally, this time is only for high school students, but three weeks of no practice before a competition would be less than desirable (if progressing well in kyudo is considered "good") so sensei said I should come in the morning anyway and he can help me along with all the high school students.

I went today and the place was PACKED! Full of chatty and clumsy high school students, with all of their kyudo stuff, which is far beyond full capacity in my opinion. It was then I realized how lucky I am to spend most of my time in the mornings in this pristine dojo with no more than 6 people at a time. I'm guessing there were 30 - 50 people there. All Japanese high school students dressed in P.E. clothes, and then there was me and Sensei in our hakama (black and white Japanese traditional dress). To stay brief, we stood out: especially me.

So first we practiced competition shooting, which means we shoot in terms according to the rules, four arrows at a turn. My first time up, I didn't hit any of the arrows, but they were all clustered together just next to the target, which is great. Ideally, all I have to do is change my aim a bit and they will all hit. Yet I went through another three cycles, all similar. Close, but never hitting. After all those arrows, even the scrawny kids who can't even see straight, let alone stand straight, were hitting the target. I couldn't get a single mercy hit from the kyudo gods. This doesn't bother me so much, this not hitting the target, or even not doing so in front of others. But to be watched by so many people, so many times in a row, to 0 arrows being hit ... it was less than desirable.

Here was this gaijin and sensei who intruded into the high schoolers time in this already too cramped dojo, for what? This can't be some normal situation. It's for a competition. Well, if it's a competition, this guy has to be good doesn't he? He's not hitting any of his arrows. What the hell is he doing here?

This is less of what I knew what was happening, but more what I was imagining.

Anyway, after that we went into free practice where we individually line up at the targets and take turns shooting. Each time sensei watched me, and gave me more and more words of advice to my failing shots. Again I stood up at the target, again I missed. No worries, I'll hit them next time. But again and again I missed the mark. It became ridiculous. Each time sensei seemed a little more irritated, but it just made it worse.

I went from missing and not being fazed at all because I don't really care about hitting the target ...

to still not being worried because I would eventually hit the target ...

to doing anything to just hit that stupid target.

This hole got dark and worse, and everyone's opinion probably went from, "Oh this gaijin must be good, he's just having a bad time." to "Wow, he really does suck." to "Oh my god, someone just let him hit the target."

This is all speculation of course. Eventually sensei asked me when I was going home, and conveniently all the high schoolers were just about to finish. Sensei made a little fun of me, then we asked the students about some questions in English, which was more about just having a laugh, and we all parted ways after laughing and talking with each other.

If the purpose of kyudo is for self-improvement, perhaps days like this are golden. But if the purpose of kyudo really is to hit the target, I was a whopping "failure" today. I must have pulled 30 arrows ... 0 of them I hit. On a good day I'll hit 40%-50% ... sometimes more, sometimes less ... but today 0.

The true meaning of discipline is learned on days like this. The worse can happen, but one must still stand up straight and proud, duly humbled, and positive for the next time. This isn't just a piece of you bearing isolated pain, but the whole of you genuinely standing in defiance of what some believe is "failure."

Well, I did my best, I don't feel bad about it, and am ready to spend the next three weeks going extra early to practice with a bunch of high school kids. It's going to be a very different kyudo experience for me, but one I hope to learn a lot from.

There I go again with my judgements. Is it possible to exist without such? Without them, wouldn't we just do nothing at all? Would we only do what we want?

The stories give us simple answers to these questions.

Experience in real life just happens. That is honest. That is art. That is what I love. That is what hurts. That is what sucks. That is what surprises us. That is what I don't understand.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Open Gaijin Explorer Season: Mountain Bike + Zhan Zhuang

It's finally come! I've waited long, yet the arrival feels abrupt. BAM! Sunny weather and tolerable temperatures to rip through the wind on two wheels. The snow has receded just enough to give me passage to the foothills here in Toyama. A random day-off in the middle of the week couldn't have been more timely, and today I made my first real adventure of 2013.

 An island of trees. Amid clearings of rice fields, one can always find a shrine where cedars sprout upwards.
One year ago, I entered my first spring living in Toyama City. It was the same prefectural home I had had two years prior, yet I was separated from my normal riding grounds in the east where adventure lay only about fifteen minutes to the mountains. In Toyama City, it's a tedious one hour until the real fun, yet the adventures compensate adequately. Each month I discovered new routes into the mountains while losing myself on their one lane roads and pouring over various road and topographical maps. Despite the latter, the former seemed more frequent. I closed the year, along with most of the forseeable journeys completed. Plans have been made to evacuate Toyama for a new version of Japan in Kyushu as early as June, but it seems such a move will happen in late summer to early fall. With all this time ... where will I go?

A bit reluctantly, I opened my Toyama mountain guide book to look for places I didn't believe existed. Yet it was only minutes until I had already planned enough trips to fill few months. This place is certainly not dry yet. I plan to make the most of my time here, and I don't think I'll be lost for mysterious mountain destinations. Spring is floating up the mountains devouring snow, but it's quite a slow process. I found the smallest of the mountains assuming it had the least amount of snow, and so today I went up Hageyama, 466 meters high in the Kamiichi area of Toyama.

This is what I love about the woods. This is what I love about Toyama. This is what I love about Japan. This is what I love about life. This, whatever you want to call what I did today. Alone, except for those I meet along the way. Free, except for the setting of the sun. Inspired, by the experience of a place I've never been. It's my secret life, yet it's not really a secret in a "people aren't supposed to know about it" kind of way. You're reading it now. But perhaps you've never met me, which makes this a different kind of experience for both of us, you: reader, me: writer. Some of you know me personally, which makes this a special experience as well, you know this side of me not many others do. I've told other people about my adventures, but they don't care, do I don't. It's not worth the trouble unless someone is actually listening, but if they are, maybe it's not such an interesting story anyway.

ANYWAY ... it's been a long dirty winter. The seasons mean different things to each of us. This is something I have a great amount of interest in. I'm very mindful of the changes of the seasons, and enjoy tracking its effects on the human world: mostly, my own. Very often, the winter is a quiet time for me where I enter some kind of hibernation and refrain from doing a lot of things. I had my hibernation, but it was cluttered and fanatic. Then I took on a lot more extra responsibility for a couple months making me busier than ever. Now, I'm looking forward to the spring in order to start over, with a lot less, doing what I want.

What I want has to do with ... less. Throwing out all of the superfluous crap I've hoarded and constructed, or inadvertantly accumulated, and making room for all the good stuff to happen. This is where Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation) comes in. Though it is an activity of itself, which requires energy and time, it is a great purifier, aligning me to be in my life as I ... am, and allowing me to avoid all of the stuff ... I don't need to do. It's not like there are lots of physical objects to get rid of, or habits to stop, but more so making a shift in perspective. Yet it's not just an instantaneous shift of viewing the world which will change it all for good, but rather the maintanence of a kind of being where I can live in a way that ... I prefer. That preference is not just "me" and "what I want", but also about accepting "what I don't want" and all of the outside phenomenon of the world, for better or for worse.

It's about action. It's about being. Thinking is important, but it's a tool to be used appropriately. Thinking certainly cannot be underestimated. However, I feel my young adult education in Japan has been teaching me to act, and then think later on. I make plans, I have ideas, but if I get stuck inside of them, I lose myself somewhere other than where I am for the most part. It's a strange quandary: I would like to write about it all, but if I just write about it all, then I won't be having the experiences that make life worth living. But if I just go out and experience, then I won't have time to write it down for the world. I have never regretted putting down the pen and picking up the bike. Perhaps this is the trick of life. We put our own personal style into the world by how we make our decisions. No one person will do something exactly the same as another. Often, what two people do can be completely contrary. Many people will stay inside to hone their craft away from the world. I, however, will abandon my craft for the world. This is apparent in everything I've ever done, and perhaps a curse preventing me from specialty in one specific area. Doing this, saying this, thinking about this, this is very much me. Perhaps I will never be rich or famous like I've dreamed, but I know I'll be happy.

Tsurugi-Dake, not the highest, yet arguably the most impressive mountain in the Northern Alps. A feature of the ride I enjoyed from beginning to end.
Back to Zhan Zhuang. For years I've been in and (most often) out of the practice, but two years ago there was a period of three months I was able to stick with the practice almost everyday. That's the longest single period I've ever done it for, and it felt amazing. How was I able to maintain it? By starting very small, and building slowly. As I've said before, I think forty minutes is the ideal for me, but going from nothing to forty, and expecting to maintain that is foolish for me, I know I won't last. Instead, I will start much smaller than what I can actually do, and build at a pace unrecognizable from day to day. Small accumulation. So I started at 5 minutes two days ago. It's over before I realize it, and that's ideal for the beginning, I think. Yesterday I did 6, couldn't feel a change. Today I did 7 atop the mountain under the sun before the view of Tsurugi-Dake, and it was amazing. By the time I get up around 40, my body will have naturally adjusted to the practice and I will have re-learned how to incorporate it effectively in my daily schedule. We'll see how it goes. I'm very excited about this routine, which is most important.
 The Toyama Plain where I sleep everynight! Down there in the middle of the horseshoe lies Toyama City, the small city sprawl I call home. In the distance on the other side you can (maybe) see the Noto Penninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture. Very cool.
It's all time and energy, both of which we have a lot of. Or we don't, and it doesn't really matter. Nothing really matters. But that's not true. There are quite a few things that really matter, but it feels different when they're mired in excessive mental refuse. Often times I'm shocked at the great numbing. Gasping for air amid the mundane trivialities, it's a sea of grey I could care less about. But rising to the mountains, standing, all falls away with our eyes closed, and we open them to see a few things that really matter. Those things, are certainly enough. They are certainly worthy of all of our human effort. It's enough to make you cry. It's enough to make you laugh. It's enough to make you want to live. It's plainly, enough.

A place no one has been for a long time.

Friday, March 8, 2013

No Time for Games! Only Zhan Zhuang and Cultivation

Actually, I have quite a bit of time, just not for sitting in front of a TV being submitted to the limitations of virtual reality.

Here we come to possibly the most important question in the universe:


For years I've struggled with this question, largely due to the outside world, or at least my desire to appease or impress it.

"Why?!" They all ask.

I've spent my life trying to devise accurate answers. But they're usually not accurate at all, and always too boring or winded for human audiences. So for a while I've tried to come up with funny answers to entertain the asker of the question. That works well, and I'll largely stick with that as long as I'm faced with human counterparts. If the question is malicious, I try to think of something cleverly malicious back ... but I've never been good at that. So, I just try to be interesting for somebody. That way I'm not wasting anybody's time.

Yet this is still not directed to the center, which is what I'm personally most concerned with. It needs to be for me. If I ask myself, "Why?" I need to have an answer that satifies me. The best answer I've found for this is:

"Because I feel like it!"

I've come to believe that feeling is often more important than reason. First the feeling, then the reasoning. When I feel best, this is most clear. Interestingly enough, the most I've ever felt like this was after meditating (if I can put a word to it, though it's not a good one). More specifically, after standing meditation, referred to as Zhan Zhuang. Sitting is great, but I feel more ... at the center when I stand. Perhaps it's the inability to keep my legs in one sitting position for long enough without having them lose circulation or hurt my hips. Maybe it's because my fickle mind needs something more tangible to focus on, like standing ... which is incredibly difficult to do for 40 minutes (the period of time I believe best for this practice.)

So after practicing Zhan Zhuang, what do I feel exactly? First of all, my body feels great: my spine is aligned, my joints feel flushed out, along with the rest of my body, my upper body is utterly relaxed though still holding my hands in front of me, and my legs feel invincible. More importantly, there is an amazing clarity of mind. Most of the worries that antagonize me in daily life, just disappear. Why? Because they're not important. So you're left with this kind of buzzing feeling, which is much less like feeling happily intoxicated by substances, and more like you're really feeling everything around you. There may be some tangible concern in your mind, but you are able to focus on it, and begin straight action to engaging it. Sometimes, there's nothing to do, and you just are, and that's OK. This is something I don't usually feel when I'm not standing. There is nothing to do, so I fervently search for something to do. Instead of finding one thing, I attack the whole world and find more things than I can think of at one time and a matter of miliseconds.

After you stand Zhan Zhuang, the answers to "Why?" become much more clear. There are three answers to the question of, "Why?".

First, because you have to.

Second, because you want to.

Third, you don't know! And that's OK, because we don't know everything. Actually, we may not know anything if you want to get into philosophical debate.

But it's not about philosophical debates of the mind, rather, it's about wholistic experiences of the world around you.

So back to Zelda. It is what it is. It was something that I loved to do when I was a kid. Largely because it sparked something in my imagination unrivaled by anything else. Every level was new and beautiful, and I didn't mind being confined to only what I can do with a small conroller in digital reality. Now, when I play this game, it has the initial creative spark, but I've done all this before. Instead of each step revealing new parts of the universe, it's just the same shit, only tweaked for different dungeons and bosses. I am not in control, but forced to follow the matrix of the game. In this case, it has been one so time consuming I've resorted to looking at "walkthroughs" on the internet, which is a huge killer for the game: it's cheating. The game could perhaps be fun, but it takes too long. There's already so much I want to do, I don't want to spend my time this way.

I constantly need new stimulation. So I search for it with the small time I have delegated for such an activity. Either I find something truly "new" to me, and I submerge myself inside of its world learning it's laws and gems. Or, what I found isn't what I want and I need to move on. As one gets older, one realizes this difference quicker, and I see the time to stop playing Zelda is now. I won't feel bad about the money I spent on the game, and the extra controller I needed for it. Niether will I lament over the time I have spent with it. It was fun, and taught me an important lesson: I don't need video games. However I still have nothing but love for the game series and it's hero, Link. He will forever be an important part of my construction.

Are you bored of my windy explanations? Perhaps I'll think of a joke for you next time. For now, I will try to write as concisely to the greater point at hand.

I don't want to be a spectator, I want to be a creator. I've played enough games and read enough stories to create something interesting of my own. The media I submit myself too should be like quality food, feeding my imagination in small quantities to make big effects. I want to spend my time creating and harvesting skills I deem worthy of my time.


And most of all, exploring the mountains and forests of Japan by mountainbike and hiking boots. Snows are melting, and it's almost time to begin the adventures again.

That is all for now. I have to go work now.

I leave with some wise words from the Red Hot Chili Peppers:

"Throw away your television!"

Monday, March 4, 2013

Early Spring

I say "early" because Spring seems to be coming earlier than usual this year in Toyama. Today it's a warm 6 degrees celsius (42 F). The sun is shining in a way that doesn't happen in winter here. It's bright, even a bit golden. Later in the week it's supposed to get up to a whopping 19 degrees celsius (66 F). Yesterday may be the last day snowboarding for the year. It was an epic day boarding-wise. I could leave it at that.

Aside from the physical rise in temperature and the end of snowboarding, this is also the last week of a two month side job teaching English on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings to station and hotel employees. This will take away a lot of added stress from work, and open up those two mornings for kyudo. This is huge. Also, my rib injury has healed and I can return to weekly aikido. I've gone the last two weeks, and it has been a wonderful home-coming of sorts. In times of absence from our passions, especially when added errands demand our energy, what one really wants to do becomes much clearer. Perhaps not "clear", but certainly less foggy. I want more writing and budo.

Funny thing is, I'm taking on a small project that will temporarily fill the empty space: playing video games! HA! I should be more specific though, this is no mere waste of time mindlessly spent in front of the Box. If you know me, or have read my blog for some time, then you know I have quite an affinity for the Zelda series of video games produced by Nintendo. It's so much more than just a game, to me at least. It lies at the bottom of my stomach where my inspiration for adventure springs; or at least it is one of my most ancient images for the feeling. When I adventure on my bike, or hike through mountains and forests, I am Link, the main character of the story; journeying through foreign lands to unlock mysteries, fighting demons, and bringing peace to the land ... all with the final goal of saving Princess Zelda. (That's funny, too. Haven't really thought about that.) So I've borrowed a Nintendo Wii from a friend, pulled out the TV to use for the first time since I've lived here in a year and a half, and bought the game "Legend of Zelda: the Skyward Sword". Part of it is just embellishing in a luxury I love on such a base level. But more so, it is an adventure and study into the creative imagination. Nothing sparks my imagination like these games, and I think this one will be just what I've been looking for. Or it won't and I'll go elsewhere.

So yeah. Postings have been a bit infrequent due to a rise in business over the last two months, and will continue for a bit more so that I can indulge in video game fantasies.

I've had more fascinating revelations in kyudo and life than I could possibly write about, but I'm pretty sure they're not going anywhere, so a more frequent cataloging of them will continue soon.

All of course for the purpose of sharing my experiences of my life so that you may gain a bit of inspiration yourself. It is not just me, it's you too, and all of this world we are living in.

If you are wondering why the gaijin isn't posting, just know, he may be less than five feet away on the futon sailing the cosmos of creativity as my favorite alter-ego: Link.