So after much trial and error it turns out that I’ve mostly just been getting lazy. I’m still not sure about the clean release, but most of the rest seems to be a matter of putting everything into each shot, drawing while the bow is still high, keeping balanced, and waiting for “It” to happen.
The quirky “Tag Surfer” function here at WordPress came up with a post where someone describes several forms of martial arts and then finishes up with an argument about why Christians shouldn’t practice them. I didn’t really pay much attention to the last part, but one of the quotes he chose to illustrate kyudo was quite interesting:
Kaminaga Hanshi, a famous kyudoka, describes the process of shooting as follows: ‘If you consider shagi (shooting technique) in its individual parts, there is always discrimination and differentiation; but in order to perfect shagi, to unify it, and to give it life as true kyudo shooting, you must completely use up all of your energy, right down to the last ounce. When you reach the state of utter desperation where you are at the bitter end, where the bow has taken away your strength and where you can no longer apply any technique, the conviction that you yourself must take care of your own situation will come into being. That is, when your ego is stripped away, the kihaku (spiritual strength, guts, and determination) that makes the shooting crystal clear will grow like an explosion from deep within your heart and soul. It (kai) should be deep until everything quietly becomes clear and serene, since this will nurture the spirit of absolute certainty, where, no matter what the situation, there is no hurrying, no agitation, no fear, and no hesitation. In this way, you show your true Self, and then and only then will bright and open-minded sae be born. In kai, when spirit and technique merge, a spark is ignited and this becomes kai (meeting), that is, hanare (parting). The instant that kokoro and technique meet is hanare. In this instant, all idle thoughts are extinguished, and you enter the state of shinku muso, the Void of No Thought. Because you are in the Void of No Thought, the transition called hanare occurs…
The citation is the Kyudo Kyohon, vol. 2, pp. 55-56. I don’t have that volume but will check it out at the dojo. And then see what I can do. There’s another taikai tomorrow, so I end up sending the night in town so I can get there in time for the morning start. But that means I can stay in kyudo mode for two days, which is good.
Note: It looks like the quote above is from an unofficial, personal translation that can be found, along with interesting commentary, here