Saturday, March 8, 2014



Gaijin Explorer will stop here and move to another site:

Thank you to everyone who has dropped by here,

but don't stop there!

Go to the new site for your gaijin fix.

It's not quite exactly what I want, but hopefully with time it will improve and better serve it's purpose,

expressing myself and entertaining you.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Putting Down the Sword, For Real This Time

I can't help but remember breaking up with a girlfriend I had in college.

We had been together about a month. She was amazing. But it just didn't fit.

It was something I thought about for a long time. When it happened, I said we were finished, and she didn't really understand why, but also did.

I had tears of sadness and frustration, listened to loud music, and indulged in herbal remedies not uncommon for a student in San Francisco.

But then I felt better, and it was something that needed to happen.

That's kind of how I feel right now.

I just called my iai sensei and said that I'm doing too much and that I'm going to quit iai for now. We talked about this at length before and it's not completely out of the blue.

I dreaded making the phone call, but knew I couldn't put it off any more. (This is something I feel like I've gotten stronger at with age ... dealing with these types of things immediately and swiftly.) Sensei was super understanding and accomodating and said I am welcome back in the dojo anytime.

That made me happy. I respect him greatly as a teacher in this.

I feel bad and want to do something to compensate for the feelings, but there is nothing to be done or said. Just move on to the next step in life.

Iai is great. The dojo here is awesome. But trying to fit iai into my life is too much.

It's extra money to be sucked out every month when I'm worrying about bills.

It's a day taken away from kyudo which I only want to practice more.

Perhaps I could move the iai day to Thursday when the kyudo dojo is closed, but then I'm full everyday. I haven't been to the mountains in so long. I haven't comfortably relaxed on a weekday morning in a long time. Writing projects keep getting moved back for training. Time spent in the house is overcome by the desire to swing the sword.

I just have too much going on right now with things I want to progress. I had a great couple months with iai and feel like I learned a lot ... far too much to write here now, but there are a lot of important subjects I will touch on in the near future.

Generally, I feel like I have made some large steps in my mind and heart concerning budo practice.

We only need one.

If that one is good, it will be complete, and worthy of your whole attention. For now, kyudo is that for me.

Budo is not my entire life, and does not deserve all of my free time. I thought maybe it did, which is why I started iaido, along with a genuine curiousity. But it is not everything.

Budo is a very important part of my life, but just a part of the whole.

Budo is my study of life, in a very physical, intuitive way. It is a practice that is made rich by the people I meet along the way. I don't think I could live happy without my budo practice now, but that does not mean there aren't other similar things as well.

I also work full time. I'm looking for more work. I'm studying Japanese.

And that's just the bolts and nuts not so important stuff.

I'm also a husband, a son, and a brother. I have a life to live and experience.

In the big picture ... it's just that ...

A big picture.

Sunday, March 2, 2014



Been a while.

Been busy.

So much to write, not enough time or space allowance here. But I've had serious withdrawals from being away from the blog, so I hope this little post will give me some peace.

So what's been happening lately?

-Trying to get my driver's license which is as long and drawn out as I've heard from the horror stories. Hopefully that can end Wednesday as Oita Prefecture hands me a license, or maybe I'll have to go back again.

-Been getting paperwork for getting married lined up. Not too difficult, but lots of time and thoughts. Perhaps in an ideal world this happens in a flash. Or maybe it's supposed to be drawn out.

-Getting used to bills in the new apartment which are way more than I was informed about in the beginning. Wife looking for a job.

-Been going through a plateau in kyudo, but last week I feel like I've unlocked something huge in my tenouchi (hand that holds the bow) and I think my kyudo will change greatly for the better.

-I don't feel like quitting iaido, and am just trying to enjoy it and keep that one day of practice alive while swinging the sword when I feel like it 15 minutes here and there in the apartment. Hopefully I can move it to another day which will give me more time for kyudo.

-Been exploring some really cool places around the new area of northern Kyushu I hope to post about in the near future.


getting ready to change the blog. I'm preparing a switch from blogspot to wordpress.


I've read enough times that wordpress has more options and is a bit of an upgrade from blogspot, and I want some kind of change, that I'm ready to make it happen.

So over the past couple weeks I've been getting started and setting things up ... and like I've read, it's definitely not as simple as they make it out to be. I remember when I started this blog I basically spent about 15 minutes getting things started and I was rolling. Given I'm trying to add more things from the start and make it a bit nicer, but holy crap, I don't know how many hours I've spend already and I'm not ready to start rolling. IT BETTER BE DAMN GOOD! Through all the frustration I feel confident about some of the options that wordpress has, and yet on the other hand feel a bit skeptical of all the change.

I don't know.

Is it worth all the trouble?

Is any of this worth all the trouble?

Who cares! This is life.

Any thoughts?

Any advice from wordpress users?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Can't Put Down the Sword

Today I rode to the dojo planning to tell sensei that I was going to stop iaido.

As I rode up to the dojo I saw his silhouette swinging the sword and flowers flooded my mind. My courage wavered and when I walked in and said goodmorning I didn't want to quit. As I got changed I thought about how I could tell him my decision, and as I stepped out my volition shrank to the size of an umeboshi (very small Japanese plum fruit) and I knew it wouldn't happen today.

The number one thing we learn in the martial arts is not to worry.

When you have a problem you think. You think why this problem arose, how you can fix it, and the worry disappears. Then you move and live.

It's all just cause and effect.

Technical perfection and a complete absence of fear are both impossible abstractions. We are not perfect and we are going to have our Great Failure: death. We must accept our mortal fate and continue our lives the way we want, maybe that means the best we can. Maybe that's the -do, "the way".

Aside from that we're focusing on the details, the jutsu (technique).

So we don't worry, but that's just what I've been doing.

Issues of time, I guess. I don't feel like I have enough for all the things I want to do. I've gone far enough in kyudo to see what it takes to improve. I know we should not obsess or worry about success, but I want to be better. That's not a bad thing. I want to improve and I want to spend the time with it to do so. I want something I can put my full effort into and progress in. If I'm spending more time thinking about kyudo than doing it then it bugs me. This is kyudo for me. It is an art and a source of deep friendships and love. If one made me choose one art for the rest of my life right now, I would choose kyudo with confidence, as strage as that may seem.

I think if I could put all of my effort into kyudo it would be beautiful. If I could just cut off iaido, my kyudo would bloom to what I want...

but I just can't.

Thinking is what trips me up. I make demons and angels, but the actual practice is unexplaninably fulfilling for me. I've grown very attached to my sensei in these last two months, and I think he has to me. I love my iai practice.

What it really is is fairly small. It's Friday morning for about an hour and a half and $50 a month. In time if I continue I'll start the jo which will add about another hour a session and another $40. It is a day away from kyudo. It is money I could otherwise use for savings, bills, or anything else. (It's also about not doing martial arts, and the vaccuum which would allow me to enjoy other things and subconsciously process better what I have already learned ... but that's a whole discussion for another post.)

I don't know.

On the paper in my mind I should quit. It moves my emotions to want to quit.

In real life I can't. My body and the outside world draw me in.

Now I'm back in the mind, and I'm being drawn into the labyrinth of details that are too much for this blog ...

but I do have a big point here I want to communicate:

The good thing about all of this is that there is no need to rush, and no decisions to quit are forever.

I don't have to make any decision now. I can think and see how things go and quit next week or the next, or next month, or next year. There's no need to decide right this second.

This is HUGE for me. I usually deal with such matters with an apocalyptic urgency. It's unecessary and unbecoming. This is something I want to change.

Also, even if I stop I can always start again.

I know this cause I talked to sensei about this last week.

I've had thoughts of quitting for the last month and finally voiced them with sensei last week.

That was a very good decision. I think the worst thing you can do is just show up one day and resign out of the blue leaving no room for discussion or goodbye's. What you do in training is learn from a teacher. Of course we're learning physical skills, but I think we can learn much more about living our lives and how to make decisions at the various crossroads we come to. My sensei is there to help me and wants me to succeed, even if it means discontinuing training. A good teacher will always help you on your way no matter what.

So I told sensei about my worries and asked him as someone who has practiced various arts over a long time, what he thought about my worries. He sensed my direction pulling away from iaido and I could see him feeling a big distraught. Wse talked a lot but basically there were 3 main parts.

First, if you're practicing too many arts and your time is spread too thin, you won't learn anyhing in either of them. That's not good, and in that case, you should pick one.

Second, I can stop and restart anytime. The dojo's not going anywhere and nobody would harbor any malicious memories towards me for taking or break or making the decision to focus on other things.

Third, if iaido takes over your life and takes precious time away from my wife and relaxation, then it is not worth it.

There is no need for the sword, but there is a need for our contentment.

Art should support our life, not replace it.

So I continue.

But I don't know.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Talking With My Iai Sensei: Difference between "Jutsu" and "Do"


This is a word I use more than any other in my blog. It's what I believe it is that I'm doing when I practice various disparate arts. It's the connection between everything. It's the reason. It's what I seek.

I feel like it is the best word to describe what I do, and yet I've only rarely heard it used by Japanese people. The few times it has been used, I think it was used directly for me because my interest is in the specific term of "budo," whatever that really means.

I think the topic has come up more with iai than any of the other arts I've practiced.


Perhaps the biggest reason is just myself: I deem it an important part of my practice and life, so I use it more and make it more relevant, though others may not think so.

I use the word "budo" because I'm looking for the connections between lots of different arts, many of which are practiced by my iai sensei, and I think he must have the same thoughts as me.

When I first joined the class and sensei asked me why, I said it was because I had an interest in budo.

When I say this, it is very clear to me, and is certainly a specific term in Japanese, but do we really know what we're talking about?

There are a lot of words Japanese people skillfully avoid saying. Usually they are words that specify a subject, which is usually averted. This can be in the simple words of, "I" and "you". I think the term budo is avoided on purpose often, because people shy away from using a word they aren't completely sure of.

Does anybody really know what budo is?

Sensei helped clarify this the other day. I'm not sure how the conversation got started, but the important part went something like this:

"What we are practicing are various types of jutsu (technique [not necessarily including the "-do" part of martial arts, and budo])". Sensei looked up at the scrolls on the wall that have all of the techniques of the various arts he teaches. "All of these jutsu have been used and cultivated since hundreds of years ago, and they are a kind of treasure. Because we're lucky enough to have these techniques passed down to us, I think we should practice them and pass them on. But this isn't necessarily the "do" that is connected to various arts like iai-do, karate-do, ju-do, etc. As the arts left the battlefield, they have very little practical application today. We have no reason to carry swords or bows and arrows or settle arguments by punching and kicking. Instead, it was decided that we should practice these arts for self-cultivation, and we call that -do, as opposed to just -jutsu which is bare technique. But what we are training here is jutsu.

"Budo is a very difficult thing to describe. Though I've been practicing these arts for decades, I don't think I can describe it very well. I think it's something that at the very end, if you can find some kind of definition for budo for yourself, you can be happy. What we do here is practice these jutsu techniques. After a while, perhaps it seeps into our daily life naturally. Maybe that is budo.

"Perhaps budo is the way of living.

Budo is the way of being human."

Budo: not the way of martial arts, but the way of being human.

This has been ringing inside of me for the week that has passed since we had this discussion.

I don't need to practice swinging a sword. Perhaps it's good to carry on the tradition. By swinging the sword we can perhaps learn valuable lessons of being human.

Budo is not a cheap term to throw around. It is also not a magic term that I should substitute for what I'm really trying to say.

I shouldn't substitue budo for what I really want to do.

There is a big discussion about the difference between mindless jutsu and soulful do. I think the popular trend is to follow the latter while condemning blind techniques. I believe in this as well. However, to ignore the jutsu while that is specifically what we are doing because of some elated ideal of "the Way" ... I think we're being lazy, overconfident, and self righteous. We should be honest with ourselves and our practice and each other.

In the end the jutsu is what we're doing but it's not really a big deal.

Learning to be human ...

just being human.

We are human.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Line

Seen from the sky with crystal perfection,

stuck in the dirt,

we are the just the same,

and yet,

there is a line.

There is a spark and we CAN see the difference.

I'm not supposed to be here. I've done this before. I graduated a long time ago.

Today I'll make things right.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

So Many Bees


So many flowers. I don't have time for them all.
So many bees, so busy busy.
In great numbers the mind is broken and our parts just start moving on their own.
I dream of one flower, and the space to be with it.
We're all just ghosts, and tweets, and hotmail accounts, and leaves, and feasts, and farts...
but we're also everything packed into a tiny ball as seen from space,
there where everything is perfect, and everywhere else where we scramble as demons,
we are the same.