Feb 22, 2011

Koshukai , the crucible for study

Recently, Bruce Hamana sensei in Kyoto asked recently, "Many people will devote themselves to mastering karate, shodo, and other disciplines, working many hours to learn the kata, etc. I wonder why we don't sit and do temae for hours to become competent? One or two temae at keiko once a week seems hardly enough."

Every year Christy Bartlett sensei comes to Portland for an intensive weekend of study.  Usually there is a Friday afternoon study, all day Saturday and all day Sunday.  We are very lucky to have this opportunity to study. As with all koshukai, everyone participates with warigeiko, the basics.   And even though I have been taught the basics every year for many years, I still learn many, many things during this part of the koshukai.  For example, We started this year with posture, sitting,bending, reaching and hand placements.  Then how to sit, stand, walk and turn.  We went on to cover the proper placement of your fukusa, kobukusa and kaishi in your kaichu-- or front of your kimono. 

Paying attention to these details makes me more aware that I don't always pay attention to the details of my own temae. And while doing things properly in warigeiko doesn't always mean that I pay attention to the exact things I learned in temae when so many other things are going on.  The lesson?   Be aware and pay attention to yourself even during the parts of temae  you have done a thousand times before.  After warigeiko usucha and then koicha temae were done, where we could put all we learned into practice.

This year Christy also concentrated teaching shichijishiki, or the group training exercises.  Originally there were seven of them, which I will cover in a post another time.  This koshukai we had enough experienced people to do some of the more advanced exercices.

We began the afternoon with hira kagetsu on Saturday -- where 5 people draw lots to determine placement in the room and of 4 bowls of usucha, who will make tea and who will drink tea.  Next we did koicha tsuki kagetsu, where one person makes koicha, all 5 drink and then 3 bowls of usucha are made and drunk chosen by lot.

On Sunday we started with satsubako tsuki kagetsu  -- two bowls of koicha that everyone drinks and then 3 bowls of usucha chosen by lot who drinks and who makes. The next exercise was gyakygatte hira kagetsu  -- 4 bowls of usucha are made and drunk, but with the additional twist of reversing the room so that the guests are opposite and tea is put out by the left hand. After that we did shaza -- where the 2nd guest arranges flowers, the 3rd guest lays the charcoal, the first guest prepares incense, the host makes koicha and the hanto makes usucha for the host. The final exercise was chakabuki -- the host makes 5 bowls of koicha.  Two of which are known, 3 unknown.  The 4 guests must taste the tea and identify which tea in the order it was made.  All of the answers are recorded and the record of the exercise is given to the person with the most correct answers.

As you can see, by drawing lots, you never know what role you will play until you draw for it, so all participants must be ready to perform whatever task he has drawn.  Because of specific timing, everyone must pay attention and because of the traveling to and from the temaeza, you must concentrate on correct footwork.  There is a lot going on all at once and all 5 participants must work together for the exercise to be successful.

This is also an endurance training, because if you are not participating as a host, guest or participating in the group exercise, you must sit on the sidelines in seiza to observe the proceedings. That's a lot of hours of sitting in the entire weekend. For relief, I recommend Working Class Acupuncture.

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