I'm happy to be hitting the tail end of winter, with the days stretching longer. I visited Pittsburgh and Rockville for training and was able to get more corrections on Yin Bagua and Taiji Spear. I am looking forward to a Taijiquan seminar in June in Silver Spring, Maryland, focusing on teachings from the Taiji classics. I also visited a Bagua and Taiji colleague in Bellingham twice over the winter and look forward to future training opportunities. I have found solace training in Woodland Park on the weekends, and have made an effort to work on both Bagua and Xingyi consistently this winter.
In January, I visited a local Daito-ryu Takumakai dojo at the Japanese Cultural Center and was impressed with the precision and dedication of the small group there. I have found another dojo where I can eventually rent space to practice Jiki, but for now have mostly been focusing on working on my neijia outdoors. The temperate weather is a welcome change from Maryland; this winter has been somewhat cold but also dry, relatively speaking. I have not felt constrained by the rain.
The more I practice Shinkage-ryu, the less I miss training in Katori. I had thought I would keep my Katori practice active, and maybe seek out a local group to train with, now that it has been two years since I left Sugawara Budo. But I find myself drawn to the Shinto-ryu kata less and less often. It is a deep practice, and I found it very rewarding, but Jiki feels more and more complete to me as I continue to examine its depths. Maybe if I understood better the Shingon elements of Shinto-ryu, I would understand better the rationale behind some of the kata. I was excited to get a copy of Sugino's book Katori Shinto-ryu Kyohan from 1941, which has been recently translated into English. It is very interesting in that is very explicitly an instruction manual, speaking to the art very directly, and benefiting from the input of several instructors of the art in its compilation. It also provides a window into the art as practiced before the end of World War II.
I have been trying to follow on-line discussions about internal training, but have not had as much success in doing so as I would have liked, and have not wound up contributing to the discussions I read. Too much of it seems like gushing ad copy for people who are happy with their current training, resulting in others chiming in that their training is good too. I get disinterested as soon as internal vs. external becomes equated with good vs. bad. Life is more complex. That being said, I was interested in being finally able to see video posted of Roy Goldberg and Dan Harden teaching, and in reading Allen Beebe's blog on his mapping of ideas from Ueshiba, Shirata, and others to Shingon cosmology. It was also an excellent opportunity for me to be able to join a class of Daito-ryu Takumakai as a visitor. I appreciated the detail and soft precision of the art, and the dedication of its practitioners. Regardless of my forum fatigue, I think it is good to see different groups sharing their knowledge and trying to develop higher levels of skill. The result for me is a desire to improve my own practice, and make sure I am doing neijia as correctly as possible and getting the full benefit I can from the instruction I have received. Mastering what I have been shown is challenging, but I feel the rewards are clear. It has been a long journey, with no lack of adversity, but my view of martial arts is completely different than it was ten years ago. Yin Cheng Gong Fa and the Hobyokan have been extremely important to my skill development and in shaping my worldview about martial arts, from both China and Japan. The more I train, the more I realize the current limits of my skill but also the continued path I need to walk in order to progress. The Pacific Northwest already has excellent resources in traditional Chinese and Japanese martial arts -- I am aware of many and am fortunate to be friends with some. It is good to know there are people who take their practice seriously around. It keeps one motivated.
Rounding things out, my fine art work continues; I am working on printing a bit on a regular basis, and making sure I take the time to photograph regularly. I hope you enjoy some of the photos above. I recently found a sangha with a schedule of meditation sessions, practices, and mindfulness courses I look forward to participating in. I am glad to have found that kind of community as well.