Kyudo: Mind and Body and Arrow

So what I was thinking was just that kyudo is like an exquisitely sensitive instrument for detecting internal stress. As I mentioned once before, it seems to me that what makes emotions seem so much more “real” than just thoughts is that, due to habituation/karma, certain types of thoughts condition tension in the muscles of the body (often most notably the face, but also chest, shoulders, hands, etc), as well as other physical changes. All of these tensions can directly affect the ability of the archer to set up a clean release in which the arrow flies naturally to the target, so practice can, at least, come down to recognizing that, in order to get that clean release, you need to eliminate these kinds of tension, and in order to do that, you must either eliminate or develop the ability to remain detached from thoughts. And so the emphasis on mushin.

I wonder about this kind of thing because both I and my Buddhist compatriots sometimes question the time I put into kyudo when, of course, I could be doing other practices. So is it a path to my goal or not? At present I don’t have a firm answer.

This entry was posted in buddhism, buddhist practice, kyudo, mind. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Kyudo: Mind and Body and Arrow

  1. Willem says:

    I find it works the other way around for me , I don’t need mushin for kyudo , I need kyudo for mushin .

  2. markagain says:

    Hi,
    interesting thoughts…
    of course your mindset, external or internal pressures etc, affect how you shoot.
    If you let them get to you you inadvertently change how you shoot. And any little change has a string of consequences as you rightly pointed out.
    They say it is like a net hanging down… pull on one corner and every square will change.

    A big part of Kyudo training is conditioning the mind to not be affected by pressure.
    Not so much a detachment from thoughts I feel but a managing of impulses and focusing on what is important right here and now – being able to act decisively and acuratey even in unfavorable conditions.
    It is not all that different from other martial arts I feel.
    It is no different from having a guy coming at you screaming with a sword. If you hesitate, freeze, flinch,… you are done for.
    Kyudo was like that originally too. You had an opponent who shot back! If you missed, hesitated, etc you might not get another chance.
    So the mental training regime (and effects) are the same really too.

    It is easy to loose yourself in the repetition, in the preparatory movement etc.
    Kyudo is quiet and slow so it lends itself to comparisons with meditation.
    Kyudo now lacks an opponent so it has become more reflexive (is that even a word?)
    It is a mirror of your mental state, that is true.
    I feel it can be a meaningful part of buddhist practice, as that seemed to be a question you posed, but only if the study of the bow remains the focus of practice.
    This is where many slip up.
    Kyudo is a mirror of your mind but looking in the mirror does not improve the mind – training does.
    If the focus shifts from shooting to “meditation” – to self reflexion – the potential benefits of training are lost.
    Looking in the mirror is narcissistic, the more one does it the worse they get.
    It is a slippery slope.
    It is a bit of a chicken and egg situation… try too hard to improve your mind and it won’t work… try too little and you’ll only train for mechanical accuracy.
    You’ll have to find a balance there.
    I’d say if you train to shoot correctly (rather than just accurately) the mental benefits will be automatic. The reverse can’t be said to be true if you just train to “polish the mind”.
    I’ll stop rambling now…
    happy shooting!

    • karamatsu says:

      Thanks! I think mirror polishing has its place, but there are many kinds of Buddhist practice, many kinds of meditation. I don’t think gazing at yourself in a mirror is one of them, though, unless it’s to recognize the illusory nature of what you are seeing. But of course… very easy to get side-tracked by metaphors. In the end I think/hope that the two efforts are complementary. My life is already dedicated to Buddhist practice, so for me it is more a matter of using this method. Where it will lead… I don’t know. But what you say about keeping the focus on the bow points to something important, I think, and something that I hadn’t really given much thought to, which is the value of correctness in and of itself. Recently a kyudo friend mentioned ideas along this line from Shinto and Chinese thought, and I have to admit it’s a dimension that I hadn’t considered. So for me it this is very interesting. In the end I look to extend zanshin to everything.

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