Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving and Wolfenoot

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Um... you think those are MINI pumpkins and corn?!"


Happy Wolfenoot!

You might be thinking "Wait, what...?"

Here's an explanation:

Also, I just found the official Wolfenoot Facebook group

Jeff and I first heard out about this a few months ago and immediately decided we would be celebrating Wolfenoot.  When doing our shopping for Thanksgiving cooking, we picked up cake mix, icing, and the meat (steaks).  We forgot about the hiding gifts part, but that's okay. 

The cake has been baked, the meat will be cooked tonight, and we will be enjoying our first Wolfenoot! 

I hope everyone else has been enjoying the holiday(s)!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Yabusame Competition - Quick Recap

(A quick recap here, much more to come!)

The Yabusame event was this past weekend.  I've been in recovery mode all of this week.  It was a HUGE thing for me to do, on many levels - battling my social anxiety, stage fright, etc., etc., and it took a lot out of me - though it was AWESOME!

In the weeks leading up to it, I'd decided that I had three goals for the competition:

1: Stay on the horse.

2: Don't drop anything (bow or arrows).

3: Fire off all three arrows each run.

Once the event arrived, I added another goal:

4: Run a qualifying time each round. 

After all of that, the cherry on top would be to get points for hitting a target.

I'm happy to say that I did 1-4; I stayed on Toby, held onto all my gear, managed to shoot all of my arrows each time, and ran qualifying times.  What I did not do was hit any targets.  I was missing consistently, hitting about 6-8 inches past the target.  I think it was because Toby was running faster than he does in practice and so my usual point to fire at was going by faster too.  I was dialing it in though and I think with another run or two, I might have gotten one!

For the practice sessions the two days before, and the practice runs each morning over the weekend, I wore a Go Pro on my helmet.  Jeff and several friends were there taking pictures.  As a result I have a TON of video and pictures to go through.  I need to finally stop procrastinating and learn how to edit videos.  (for example: the first practice day resulted in 21GB of video - need to trim that down!)  I can't promise when I'll have videos available, but hopefully soon-ish...?

In the meantime, here are a few pictures from the Saturday morning practice:

Friday, October 12, 2018

Yabusame Crafting

The Yabusame competition is a week away (eeek!) and I've got a few craft projects to put together before it gets here:

1: Helmet cover

2: Decorate my arrows

3: Make a thumb chard, or two

I finished number two today, decorating the arrows.  I've been practicing with a set of arrows that my friend Angie loaned me, but during a yumi (bow) lesson a few days ago, I learned that they are too short for me.  So, I took the plunge and bought my very own set of three arrows!

They come with a plain wooden tip and most everyone decorates them, sometimes they are painted, but many of the ones I've seen are covered in washi paper. 

I hadn't ever done anything like this, but figured I'd give it a go.  Thinking it'd be fun to document it, I snapped a few pictures along the way.

Here's the plain wooden tip, they put a label with my name on each of the arrows:

I was told I should reinforce the tip with some tape, so I started off by doing that. 

Here's the pattern I made, using printer paper:

My idea was to wrap the paper around the tip and then glue down the tabs.  (Side note, see the owie on my thumb?  Hence my desire for thumb guards.  I realized just recently that it appears I'm giving myself "paper cuts" with the fletchings, particularly these new ones which are still crisp and sharp.)

I think it will work!

Here's the real paper, some pretty washi paper I've had for a while.  I wanted something to match my riding kimono (which I received yesterday and: It. Is. GORGEOUS - more on it in a future post).  The top of it is my favorite rich blue color, which oddly I don't have in my paper stash...  but the bottom is shades of white, pink and purple, so I went that route:

The "spine" and first side glued down:

Time to cut the tabs on the other side.  I was going to cut all of the tabs before putting them on, but then decided it'd be easier to cut them where I wanted them on the actual tip.

All glued down!

Here are all three of them.  My paper wasn't quite long enough to cover the whole tip.

So I went back and added some strips around the top.  I also put a strip of pretty washi tape around the start of the shaft. 

I think they are ready to go! 

As for the thumb guard, I think I might actually try and wear my cycling, fingerless, gloves.  My last lesson, at the club, is tomorrow, I'm going to be experimenting with a lot of new stuff: arrows and gloves.  If they don't work I'm going to make a leather or synthetic leather cover for one or both of my thumbs.

The helmet cover comes next!  I was given the extra fabric from the two kimonos that were combined into one for my riding kimono, so can make the cover to match.  I'm far from a seamstress; I think the most sewing I've done has been on model horse blankets.  Ha!  But I'm sure I'll figure something out. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Yabusame Practice

Wait, what, I'm doing a blog post??  Yes, yes...  I've been really neglecting my blog (and vlog).  I could trot out some excuses: I've been busy, I've been depressed, I've just gotten out of the habit of blogging - that last is the most to blame at this point - and discuss them, but instead I'm going to forge ahead.  Onward and upward!

I've mentioned Yabusame (traditional Japanese horseback archery) on here a few times, including the one time I got to take a lesson at the horse club closest to where we live.  During that lesson, I rode a horse around a bit and tried to practice the Yabusame riding position.  I'd also had a brief bow lesson on the ground.

The closest I'd come to doing Yabusame "for real" was when I paid for a Yabusame experience at one of the competitions: wearing a traditional outfit, shooting the (looong) bow from the ground, and then sitting on a horse in front of a target to take the three shots.

I knew before we'd even completed our move to Japan that I'd like to learn the horseback archery, if I could.  I had no idea what to expect, where I might find it happening and if it would even be possible to be involved.  As it turns out: about 45 minutes away and not only possible, but encouraged!

For a couple of years I've put off getting serious about it - taking lessons, entering competitions - because of the cost.  However, our time here is winding down, which makes me very sad.  It's basically now or, most likely, never.

So, I've joined the riding club, started taking lessons, and...  I'm officially signed up to enter the Fall competition in just under a month!

I've taken about 6 lessons now I think, spread out over the past 4 months or so.  This past Monday I had one and Jeff was able to come along to take pictures and video!

Without further rambling, here are some pictures:

We don't know which horse we are riding until we get there.  My ride for the day was Toby, a sweet palomino gelding.

We'd been paired up in one lesson before.  Other horses I've ridden for lessons have been Suzaku and her sister, Opal.

In the barn, getting cleaned up.  His mane is SO thick.

Chatting with Angie, she would be riding Opal.  Angie and I had met 2-1/2 years ago at an outreach event the club was having.  She is also from the U.S. and is here teaching English in some of the local schools.

Time to saddle up.  Most of the saddles used for Yabusame are Western.  I've seen one Australian stock saddle and a couple of traditional Japanese saddles at the big competitions.

Bridle time.  Toby's bridle had some pretty turquoise accents on it.

After getting our horses ready, all of the lesson participants mount up and ride to the track, down a dirt road a little ways behind the barns, and past the pastures.  It's a pretty ride.

Once we get to the track, we do several warm up passes, the first at a walk.  I think here I was admiring some clouds in the sky.

"I'm on a horse!"  Though it's happily become more common than once or twice a YEAR over here, it's still wonderful, every time.

That picture also gives a glimpse of close to the Yabusame riding position.  The stirrups are actually tied forward.  You then lean forward, stick your butt out, arch your back, chest up....  The idea is you are supposed to take the motion of the horse with your legs while your upper body doesn't move.  I'm not there yet!  Some of the people who are really good appear to be floating above their horse.  The top of their head won't move, while their horse races underneath them.

After a pass down at back at the walk, we trot, then canter.  Then we get our bows and the horses know that it's go time.  They will run faster as soon as we have a bow.  I've also noticed that some will run even faster when we hit a target.  They know their job.

This was the first day I shot all three arrows on most of my runs.  So far I'd been shooting only one or two, but I was determined to speed it up a bit and get all three out.

Here I've launched the first arrow and am pulling out the second.

Firing that second arrow.  I have a bad habit of holding the bow at an angle - it's supposed to be straight up and down.  It's a habit from the Plains Indian style archery that I had learned first.

I love this picture, this is the lesson group walking back after one of the runs.  Along the walk back, the instructor hands us our arrows and gives up feedback, tips to work on, or just says "good" with a smile.  Angie is in the lead, then a little girl who is very good - better than all of us I'd say - me, and a woman who I think may have been fairly new?

Coming down the track for another round, trying to remember the instructor's words "up, push, pull".  The process of putting an arrow to the bow, drawing, and firing is actually a very precise 10 step process.  There is a lot to remember!

First arrow up...

Push, pull, fire!

Last arrow, push, pull...

Another "gangsta" sideways bow shot.  I really need to work on that...

Did I make it?  I made a few in the target that day.  The instructor is at the end of the track.

More shooting:

One of the walks back, probably deep in thought.  I do a review of my own on the walk back thinking, thinking, thinking.  Sometimes I practice some of the steps as we return to the start.

The last picture is from far away, but I thought it was a neat shot.  Toby launching into stride as I prepare for "up, push, pull".  The horses know that once we have a bow and arrows, their job is to run down the track.

To wrap up, here are a couple of videos that Jeff took!

This last video was my best ever run - so far.  I fired all three arrows, making it into the target with the first and third!!  The instructor and I both were laughing at the end, because Toby slowed down on his own for the end of the run and I took the shot anyway, at a trot, and made it in! 

The competition - which is the World Yabusame Championship (no pressure) - is October 20-21.  I'm planning to do as much practice as I can before then, including weekly lessons, at least.  Another friend loaned me one of her bows, since she won't be competing this time due to an injury, and Angie loaned me some arrows.  So I'll be doing some bow practice in the backyard.

Oh!  And I'm having a traditional riding kimono made.  I'm very excited about that! 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Motivation Monday - Can Do It

I've been a really bad blogger (and vlogger) for a little while now.   Trying to get things back on track, starting with a Motivation Monday post!  As always, I hope everyone has a great week and has the chance to do things that make them happy!  

Friday, May 25, 2018

At Dawn, We Ride!

When I was a teenager, I was a fairly avid cyclist.  I thought nothing of riding 50 miles in a day (and often did).  I spent a fair bit of time hanging out and chatting with a guy in the neighborhood who was pretty hardcore, he regularly did things like Ride the Rockies and Pedal the Peaks.  I had aspirations of doing such things - American Flyer was one of my favorite movies, in addition to the usual roster of horse films.  I pretty much rode the wheels off of every cheap WalMart bike that I got my hands on.

I still remember the first time I was in a real bike shop and saw a Cannondale with the STI shifters.  Basically it's a system that makes your brakes and shifters the same lever.  Pull back to brake, push in to shift.  It seemed like magic, but with an $800 price tag, such a steed was out of my budget as a kid.

Fast forward to last summer.  As it turned out, the BX (on base department store) had a wide range of Cannondale bikes.  Our friends John and Holly bought two new bikes and we went to check out the selection.  I found they had several Cannondale road bikes..  with STI shifters.  :-O 

My bicycle at the time was a rusty old WalMart mountain bike that wouldn't shift anymore - even after Jeff worked on it and was just pretty much worn out.

Jeff bought me a Cannondale...  with STI shifters.

I rode the heck out of it for three days, planning to launch back into cycling as a way to get back in shape.  It was going to be awesome!

Then, I did a number on myself, a Grade 3 ankle sprain.  No more cycling for me, not for a while. 

My beautiful NEW Cannondale sat parked in the living room, while I sat on the couch, elevating and icing my ankle and feeling sorry for myself.

I got back into riding a bit before winter set in and then the snow sidelined us again.

This spring, I've done a handful of rides.  I'm still far from considering myself a "cyclist" again.

Well...  tomorrow is the "Tour de Ogawara", an annual group ride that circles Lake Ogawara, just north of here.  It's a 53km (roughly 30 mile) loop.  As a teen, during my cycling days, it would have been cake.  Now, I'm not so sure. 

Nevertheless, Jeff and I are both signed up and ready (as we can be) to go.  The bike rack is on the car, our tires are topped off, our steeds are waiting in the hallway...

Jeff had bought a new Cannondale too, but he opted for the full mountain bike version.  I call it the Clydesdale.  He's ridden much less than I have and says he'll definitely be earning the miles on his big-tired beast tomorrow.

My bike is definitely a Thoroughbred or Akhal-Teke... or gazelle.  She flies.  So I've got that going for me. 

Another challenge for us will be the 0800 show time/0900 start time.  Jeff's been on swing shift for a while - generally gets home between 0200-0300 and then we sleep until 0900-1100.  I've been keeping to the same schedule - it makes things easier around here, but makes it very hard to get up in the early mornings!  We are hoping he'll be home a bit early tonight and hoping we can get some sleep before we stagger to the start tomorrow.

A few days ago, he randomly looked at me and asked, "Are we going to die on Saturday?"

To which I replied,