I mentioned before that when my teacher changed my position at daisan it was like pulling one corner of a spider’s web, and that the ramifications and vibrations would take a little while to work themselves out. Well, the process isn’t finished.
Although at first the new position created a very strong yugaeri effect, it quickly vanished. I tried to correct that by making sure that the bow was aligned along the tenmon line at daisan, but from that point the arrows started going reliably under the target, as if drawn there by an extra-strong gravitational pull… it didn’t matter what I did. It was really strange.
Then as I was walking back from the targets at one point yesterday I started thinking it over… stretching for the tenmon line, no yugaeri, left arm dropping at release, arrows under the target… I realized that what’s probably happening is that, because of the way I’m setting tenouchi at daisan, by the time I get to kai, my hand is pitched down. Instead of a 90 degree cross between left hand the bow, the line of force is actually pointing downward, therefore:
- No yugaeri because the bow isn’t resting flat in my hand, but at an angle, so it can’t spin freely
- Left arm dropping at release because that’s there I’m pushing it!
- Arrows under the target because that’s where the line of physical force at release is sending them
It all makes sense. Trying it out, just by consciously tilting my left hand up (not “up” up but just so that it’s straight) to get the proper cross at kai did indeed solve the “under the target” problem, and seemed to help with the left arm drop as well, but it was just at the end of practice (I have to catch a bus home) so I didn’t get to delve into it much. Also I find that the right hand is also acting up, perhaps twisted/tilted in some odd way to compensate for what the left hand was doing. So it all comes down to those goju jumonji, and it’s fascinating stuff, at least for me. Early on things like that seemed so theoretical or formal, and to be honest, I never gave them much thought. But now it seems like everything depends on these tiny details. How can that be? How did I ever hit the target before? I can only imagine that the sum of all my errors came up to a temporarily effective technique, and it’s kind of hazukasii to recall the little dose of pride I’d felt at doing well. It was a trap.
I’ve begun to see technique as a kind of landscape in which there are many peaks surrounding Mt. Meru. You can go up some of the lesser peaks, and start hitting the target quite reliably, but there is always a limit to how high you can go because they conceal a hidden problem at their core. The trouble is, once you are hitting, say 80% of the time, it becomes seductive. You rise in rank and in the estimation of the people around you, and so it’s heart-wrenching (one time last year I even felt tears in my eyes) to deal with the deep problem your “old reliable” method conceals because you have to go back to performing poorly again. It’s like you have to descend from the peak you climbed up in order to start climbing a better one.
It recalls something my teacher said a year or two ago to one of the 5-dan students. The student was feeling confident after shooting well, but missed while the teacher was watching. The teacher said, “If you’re going to shoot that way, it’s better that you miss.”
Anyway, now that I’m back at ground level, there’s nowhere to go but up, and I’m looking forward to figuring this whole thing out. Also maybe I’ll try not to rush up the next peak quite so quickly…