So the verdict on rearranging the bones of the left forearm is that it seems effective, but it takes some experimentation to find the right degree of twist. One hint that I’m twisting too much is that it starts to bring the left shoulder forward. But it’s not hard to find the right amount. The only thing I noticed was that it was much easier to do this when shooting at a target than at the makiwara. I suppose my mind is still a little tricky in that regard.
Another thing I found is that when I concentrate on some point of technique, psychologically I want to rely on it exclusively, especially after struggling for a long time. “At last! This solves everything!” But the reality is that these things are just small tweaks, components of a larger whole, and I need to remember that. Use one “corner” of the mind to check on the technical point, but keep the bulk of concentration balanced and all-encompassing.
Practice on Saturday (my first chance to try the arm thing) was OK, but ironically it was during the taikai, a time of stress, that it all came together. I still consciously gave the left arm the twist it needed, but because I was focused much more on getting a balanced release (at taikai I figure it’s better to shoot well and miss than shoot badly and hit), somehow the internal balance of attention was right too, and I was surprised by the results. But that was weird, too, because one of the things I’ve found with kyudo is that when you’re doing well, it’s almost like you’re not even there, and so it’s hard to take credit for anything.
Somewhere there’s a lesson in that, and actually I was thinking about it the night before the taikai. Cause and effect seem so natural. We’re used to the idea. But if you examine carefully it’s mysterious. How is the arrow released? If there is a cause, it no longer exists at the point where the arrow is actually released, yet at the point where the so-called cause does exist, the arrow is not yet released. And they can’t be simultaneous because to be a cause something has to precede the effect. So what connects the two? Maybe that’s Awa-sensei’s the “It,” again, but from a Buddhist philosophical point of view, this may echo Nagarjuna in showing the emptiness of cause and effect. Conventionally the relationship is there, and reliably so, yet ultimately empty. A good example.
The interesting thing is that it won’t happen without all the effort that comes beforehand. You must make effort, set up the causes just so, expand, and then just wait. It’s a dynamic kind of waiting, to be sure (Awa called it “a purposeless tension”), but I’m not sure how else to describe it because there’s certainly not a lot of doing going on at that point. The effect comes on its own, and in its own time, somehow or other, and I guess you just have to have confidence. I need to work on that more.
Looking forward to practice tomorrow.