Thanks to some medical unpleasantness I’ve missed most practice on weekdays since the taikai, but went on Saturday and managed to catch an interesting conversation with S先生. We started talking about (bamboo) bows, and how the personality or style of each maker comes through in the instrument that he produces, so there are some makers whose bows allow her to shoot in the way that matches her spirit/personality, and others that don’t. I can’t imagine how much it cost to try enough bows to come to that conclusion, but I guess when you reach her level it’s what you do. The conversation then meandered to arrows, and she said the same thing, that the arrows, too, had a personality and essentially “life” or “spirit” of their own, even the steel ones. She then took it even further and talked about how she could count on certain arrows to 当たってくれる, an expression implying that the arrow itself decides to hit the target, and she confirmed this by saying that the bows and arrows are not mere tools, but living things, things with a heart.
This is taking practice to a different level, and recalls the discussion in Kushner’s One Arrow, One Life where his teacher points out that Kushner is “killing” the string he is using to measure distances for a construction project by treating it badly.
So now I have to try to rethink my own relationship to these guys. I tend to be very hard on, um, tools. Maybe it comes from living in a farm community, where objects and animals are valued in a very utilitarian way. But some is also unavoidable, I think, due to size. Still, perhaps I could learn to take care of them better and/or use arrows, say, with more durable fletching.
Meanwhile I brought the arrows home with me and will try to give them some tender-loving care later. I need their friendship.