Kyudo Notebook: Sharei

Today I accidentally walked into a practice for hitotsu-mato sharei. K-sensei could tell I wanted to join, so even though they were mostly practising the three-person form, we did a four-person version. Afterwards S-sensei mentioned that it was very good to practice this because it contains just about all of the taihai moves there are. It’s also a bit different from the more usual practice because of the far greater emphasis on group harmony. In the end that’s what makes it so beautiful and impressive to watch, but the catch is that, in order to focus on staying in sync with the other people, you have to be able to do your own moves instinctively, without thinking about them.

Some more or less random notes for future reference. Some of this could well be wrong:

  • After the standard entry and walking forward along the sadamenoza with everyone else, make a right turn to face the kamiza (in our dojo) and then sit seiza, rather than kiza.
  • For the sitting rei, straighten up to face the kamiza, then bend from the hips as usual. The right hand drops straight down to the floor as you do this, and once there, slides forward until it reaches the right knee (this reminds me very much of the Manchu salute). Exhale. Then reverse the procedure when coming back up, sliding the right hand back along the floor until it’s next to the hip, then bringing it up to your hip again as you finish straightening up.
  • The height (not necessarily the angle) of the rei should be the same for everyone in the group. This means that, if one person is taller than the rest, people should adjust the depth of their bow to match that person.
  • Then the ochi becomes the leader. Everyone stands and walks back along the sadamenoza makes a left turn to walk out a bit behind (and parallel to) the honza. The ochi makes a 90 degree turn. Everyone else makes a rounded turn. It’s amazing how difficult these left turns are. I’m not used to them, so I had to think. Also because it was awkward my heels tended to rise up off the floor while turning. It was noticed.
  • Left turn to the honza, sit in kiza, yu, then make a right hirakiashi turn in the direction of the kamiza (although you’re not actually facing it, but rather the wall to the right of it). In this case, though, you have to prepare for hadanugi, so while making the turn, men simultaneously stand the bow up and bring the right hand over to grasp the bow just above the left hand when you are half-way through the turn (45 degrees). After setting completing the turn, you have to subtly shift the hands down a bit on the bow so that the center line of the thumb of the kake is on the top line of the grip. That is, half above, and half below. Then the left hand comes down to the top of your left thigh (thumb against your body), and the bow is held with the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger of the right hand. The other two fingers are curled below. Women will balance the bow on the arrows on their left thigh and prepare to tie the tasuki.
  • Hadanugi or tasukisabaki.
  • Still following the lead of the original ochi, now make a left hirakiashi turn. As they’re doing this, men bring the lower end of the bow against their left thigh, and slide it down so that, when they complete the turn, the bow is back in their left hand with the urahazu on the floor. For women the movement is more familiar because they already had the bow down to start with (raise the urahazu up to make the turn, bringing it down to the floor again while turning). During all of this it’s important to keep the urahazu in line with the centre of your body. That’s the trick. I found it phenomenally difficult to make this left turn smoothly. I’m too thoroughly conditioned to making the right turn.
  • Now everyone stands, advances to the sha-i, sits down in kiza, right hirakiashi turn, yugamae, and the first person stands to shoot.
  • Everyone else remains in kiza. When the first person finishes shooting his haya, instead of closing ashibumi in the usual way, it’s different. After yudaoshi, and returning his gaze from the target to the space in front of him, he makes a left turn in place, so that his body is facing the target squarely, but without moving his feet forward or backward. The feet are then brought together either by sliding the left foot back even with the right (for people who use the issoku form) or sliding the right foot forward half a step, then bringing the left foot back even with the right (for people who use the nisoku form). After that, he takes a shorter-than-normal step backward with the right foot, then continues walking straight backwards to a spot about a step behind the honza, then sits down in kiza so that his knees are on the honza line..
  • While all that is going on, the second person is on the move, too. When the first person does yudaoshi, she brings her right hand up to the hazu of her (nocked) haya. When the first person turns his gaze from the target to the space in front of him, the second person rises up on her knees. When the first person does the left turn-in-place to face the target, the second person stands and finishes standing up just as the first person brings his feet together. This kind of timing seems to be the key to making it so impressive. Then as the first person begins walking backward, the second person walks forward to the position where she can start ashibumi.
  • Same deal with the third and fourth people, except that, when the second person turns her gaze from the target, while the third person is doing his thing, the first person must also move. He rises up on his knees when she turns her gaze to the space in front of her, and stands when she makes the left turn-in-place. Again, he finishes standing when she brings her feet together. Then while she is moving backward (to the place he now occupies), he makes a left turn and walks along the honza over the point directly behind the fourth person, except that, a few steps before arriving, he makes a bit of an angled turn to the left so that, when he sits down again in kiza, his knees will be on honza again.
  • Likewise, when the third person finishes shooting and turns his gaze, and the fourth person is doing her thing, the first person also (in sync) moves to the space at the sha-i that was occupied by the fourth person. So in this instance all four people are moving simultaneously, all in sync, even their breathing. Cool.
  • And it goes like that again for the otoya, except that, after each person shoots their otoya, they walk backwards to the place about a step behind the honza, and then sit down in kiza (so knees at the honza). To make this happen without collisions, the first and second person walk backward at an angle to the right, the third and fourth people walk backward at an angle to the left. That way everyone ends up the proper distance apart. One trick is that you walk backward until you can clearly see the back of the person to your right. That way, when you sit down, your knees will be on the honza like everyone else, all matching up. Because of differences in height (or more precisely, femurs) each person has to work out exactly how much of the person’s back they really need to see to get it right.
  • Both teachers pointed out that everyone has to move together, so each person watches the one who is visible in front of them. Everything is keyed off of the movement and breathing of the ite, the person shooting, so that person has to be careful and move a little slowly, so that the others can catch up.
  • Once all are back on the honza, another right turn to replace the sleeve of the kimono or untie the tasuki, then another of those infamous left hirakiashi turns to once again face the targets. Then the original o-mae becomes the leader. First yu, then stand, then take one step back with the right foot, turn left, walk until reaching the sadamenoza line. Make a right turn on to that line and walk along it until the original locations are reached, then a right turn to face the kamiza.
  • Then sit seiza, rei toward the kamiza, stand, and the ochi leads the way out.
  • It’s important when leaving for all except the ochi to take small steps, because people must not stop moving, even if it means taking tiny little steps while the people in front of you bow to leave the shajo. Also you should apparently keep your bow to the left of the person in front of you. Perhaps this is a matter of etiquette because it seems like that would invite a collision as the person in front turns to yu? Must check.

There’s more to say but we’re getting a lightning storm. Must shut down everything before it gets zapped! Here is some video from the IKYF seminar, which is far easier to understand than the words, but I find the words helpful in pointing out what to look for.

Part One
Part Two

It seems like they are taking more steps than we did. The Chuo-Dojo is huge.

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