Kyudo Notebook: Hayake Therapy

WordPress has been all but unusable for days. Even now it’s taken 20 minutes just to get to the point where I can write this. I guess it’s showing the stress and strain of popularity!

Anyway while I was concerned about releasing too fast I went back to some articles in the monthly Kyudo magazine from the ANKF. Many teachers will say that there is little or nothing that can be done about true hayake when it develops into its full and pernicious form, but the August edition reprints an article from 1956 that nevertheless offers some practical techniques. In this, Hirayama-sensei (at the time, kyoshi 6-dan) suggests that there are two main ways: matters of spirit and matters of technique.

On the spiritual side, it seems to be largely a matter of determination. He’s talking about the more pernicious form of hayake, the type that derives from fear (subconscious or not) of not hitting rather than simply using a bow that is too strong, and suggests focusing on the breath and using the force of will. You must develop courage, tanryoku, a kind of confident attitude that accepts challenges with relish.

On the technical side he offers a list of possibilities that I just want to get down for future reference, because they’re useful in other situations as well. These are all techniques to use every day for as long as it takes:

  • Stand in front of the target as usual and draw the bow as usual to its fullest without an arrow. Maintain kai for an appropriate time (seven or eight seconds seems right), and then quietly, calmly, return the string to its neutral position without any release. Maintain ikiai throughout.
  • What he calls the “sandglass method,” again in front of the target, you draw to kai and then either count on your own or have someone else count for you. This is where the suggestion from the tutorial, to count backwards rather than forward, may be useful.
  • An alternative is to have a poem (or a tune) that you like, and which requires the necessary amount of time. Of course, you would do this mentally rather than out loud! Sometimes I’ve used mantras.
  • Draw the bow as usual, but as you get close to kai, close your eyes and complete the draw by feel alone. Then count of the number of seconds (as above), and when you reach the end of the count, only then open your eyes, aim, and let the release happen. As an aside, I saw a student use this method in Sapporo earlier this year, but didn’t understand why he was doing it. He made it into the final round that way.
  • Shoot together with a teacher or dojo friend in front of you, but rather than following the normal sequence, go through the hassetsu at the same time (teacher in front), and do not allow yourself to release before he/she does.

The purpose of these things is to train body and mind, get them accustomed, through repetition, to the correct timing. Then like the raft of Buddhist fame that takes you to the other shore, once you’ve crossed the ocean of hayake, you can leave the method behind. But remember where you parked it, in case you need it again!

It’s great to see this kind of practical wisdom from the past refreshed and made available to us. The magazine is inexpensive (¥4,000/year), too, so people in Japan might want to consider it.

One other thing is that in this month’s issue they announced the 2012 International Seminar of Budo Culture, to take place in Chiba, March 9-12. It’s a great opportunity, so foreign residents of Japan studying martial arts might want to look into it. Note that the link currently only has information about the 2011 program. I assume they will update it once they have all the information finalized. Watch that space…

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3 Responses to Kyudo Notebook: Hayake Therapy

  1. ceterum censeo says:

    Well, I’ve been following your recent posts with some interest.
    I also gather from you comments a while back that you read the Unknown Craftsman… I might write about that too, but first: hayake…

    A question has sprung up in my mind over this:

    What use is the 8 second regulation kai to shooting?

    What use is it to a beginner in particular?

    We all feel under pressure to release before we lose control… failing strength, nerves or simply the dynamics of shooting can cause it.
    So we practice and we try not to succumb to the pressure to release.
    The release is supposed to be natural after all.
    You spoke of the shot being ripe, earlier we had spoken of hanare being something that happens rather than something you do.

    Here is where my problem lies…

    Isn’t holding and counting, reciting poetry etc just dulling down and taking our mind off the situation?
    Is that the answer to the challenge of shooting?
    Is retreating to a safe detached place at the back of your mind better than giving in to what our body does naturally? What it does naturally is react by instinct…
    We do naturally get faster as we get better – as things become natural to us…
    Repeat any physical task 10.000 times and you will notice how your body learns and becomes more accurate and economical.
    In shooting, and especially if you train a lot and under time pressure (like many students do) the dynamics can take over. Your body finds a point where the dynamics are right. Tension, balance, direction are right… a point where you CAN release and with energy to spare.
    When you look at students with pronounced hayake and good hit rate they are mostly just “efficient”.
    If they slow down they loose the dynamics and very quickly the balance too… and the hit-rate.
    Hayake here is a sign that shooting is becoming natural to them, balance and timing (as far as the release goes) are ok, the release is natural and sharp.
    Give a student like that 8 seconds do perform nobiai, they would not know what to do with it.
    …and of course the real challenge is to learn to.

    But then… if you count down…, you don’t have the first idea of what nobiai is for either do you?
    And you aren’t even trying…

    Do you occasionally have arrows you remember, that seem significant?
    Are they the ones where you were reciting poetry, counting, closing your eyes?

    Why do we condition our minds to stay in kai for 7,8,10,… seconds?
    What do we actually do in kai?
    So, we draw, reach tsumeai,… then what?
    Then we stand, hold, wait, count, recite poetry, think lalalalala…
    Isn’t that just dulling down?

    We draw, we reach tsumeai, we work on nobiai until we reach yagoro…
    Yagoro, the point where the tension is full, the draw is at its maximum, everything in balance and everything still moving, expanding… until it bursts.
    You never stop drawing, you never stop pushing, growing,… you expand on a line to the mato., where is there room to recite poetry?
    When the work is at its limit a release happens – naturally.
    How does this sit with: hold, wait, count, close your eyes and recite a little prayer so you don’t release before I say so?
    Where is the work, where the natural release?
    Who is to say work is always 8 seconds, or 7 or 12.
    Timing is unique to you and in a beginner it is rarely 8 seconds, it is as much as they can muster before the shot falls apart.
    Yes you can condition yourself, count, watch your teachers,… whatever…, the timing will always be someone else’s though – external and artificial.

    The exciting thing in shooting is the search for yagoro, that split second moment when a natural release is possible.
    The point where the shot is ripe. When tension is full and in balance, when you have reached your limit.
    To me the critical quality here is the movement. We can not suspend it. If we draw, hold, wait,… then restart building up… we lose something.
    On the other hand if we go too far shooting becomes cramped and unbalanced too.
    We can over-do it too, we over tension, we get tight and out of balance.
    You have to find the exact point for a natural release – that’s what nobiai is for.
    Holding too long, especially if it is just holding, often means you go past that point – or you pay no attention to it in the first place, you just suspend work, wait, restart,…

    So what does the 8 second kai add to the shooting?
    Well, I’d say in beginners not very much actually.
    Few beginners have the first idea of what to do with a 3 second nobiai, let alone 8.

    That doesn’t mean they don’t need to constantly be reminded to do more but my personal feeling is that in a beginner a 2 second kai is not necessarily all wrong.
    Or the other way round… to suspend work in nobiai to accommodate an external timescale is more wrong.
    If we really work and nobiai becomes a meaningful part of shooting then hayake will naturally disappear.
    Timing will be correct when the work is correct.
    What use is good timing to bad shooting? How can a release be natural when it is timed externally?

    In heki tradition my experience has been that teachers tend to primarily correct the underlying deficiency in shooting rather than the outward symptom of timing.
    When I look at the corrections I get…
    Shomen teachers ask me to hold longer – quite literally, and they don’t care how…
    The last heki teacher who was here asked for more work in nobiai. It amounts to the same thing but the advice is never to give up the shot and count if you have to to stay within the 7 second time frame. The 7, 8, 10 second nobiai is a goal but not an end in itself. He wanted to see nobiai… more nobiai, not just holding…
    I can hold the draw for 70 seconds if I relax into it… but that is not the point, the point is to learn to find yagoro, and you don’t find it without trying.
    The teacher last summer had commented how sharp my release was – the energy was there, balance too, but yagoro had not been reached. Often you think you are there… you are definitely somewhere… you teeter on the edge of it and hanare happens…
    Yes, too soon more often than not. An experienced archer will be able to get more out of the shot, a teacher looking at you will think: there could have been more…
    So the appropriate advice is: there could have been more, …not: next time count down and pass the time by reciting poetry.

    Anyway, perhaps it is just doing the same thing a different way round. Maybe we start with brute technique which is then refined (or not) and shomen people start with empty form which is then filled (or not).
    And once you have a hayake problem, the awareness of it takes on its own dynamics, so resetting the mind by mechanical means may be a way to calm the emotional struggle.
    I accept it as a remedy for true hayake, it worries me in training beginners though if it is given as an option to achieve “correct” form.
    It is not an option, it is dulling down and playing for safety – the exact opposite of what should be practiced.
    Anyway, just my personal feelings… there seems to be a difference in emphasis…

    So Yanagi…

    You don’t see what the fuss is about… his objects don’t make you jump up and down with excitement…

    Well, they are kind of ordinary, that is the point.

    I mentioned Yanagi because he advocated a particular, natural aesthetic and because he draws parallels between art and spirituality – buddhism in particular.

    As I said before, The Unknown Craftsman is a kind of manifesto… it is imbued with a certain nostalgia for a “simple golden age” that, like so many golden ages, probably never was. Then there is a certain national chauvinism attached to the whole mingei movement too… you mentioned it before. I’m not sure if it is fair to tar Yanagi with that particular brush, but he does need to be taken with a small pinch of salt.

    As for the objects…
    they have universal qualities I can try and point out, they are also personal to Yanagi. We are not turn-of-the-century japanese men, well I’m not anyway…
    I don’t see the “sad lines” either, I see other things… not everything will resonate with everyone in the same way.
    Tastes differ, if they didn’t the world would be buying Nina Nastasia records, my wife would hum along to Kazuki Tomokawa’s 夢の総量 instead of rolling her eyes, I might finally see the point of Chopin tinkling up from the piano in the hall…
    There are endless theories about ideals of art and beauty, from Plato and Aristotle to Schelling or Kant …or Yanagi, each with their very own personal ideal.
    Not every Yi dynasty pot is beautiful though, and certainly not to all men.

    The other thing is this: when we talk of beauty, when we assess it, what do we mean by it?
    More often than not our desire for something is our measure of its “beauty”.
    You mentioned friends “obsessing” about objects…
    You on the other hand are not into objects…
    Do you mean by that that they covet things and you tend not to…?

    Too many people look at objects only through the filter of their own desires.
    When they wander the museum of the world, they are just window shopping for the rare and exquisite, for things they’ll never own.
    They never see the humble utilitarian clay pot, let alone its unnamed maker. They are busy dreaming themselves as kings and knights and samurai and pharaohs.
    Yanagi saw the humble pots…
    He saw value in their humility, in the lack of artifice, the ease of expression.

    Yanagi was born just past the hight of the industrial revolution. Industry had come into its own and was spewing out pointless, soulless objects laden with decoration to make them desirable and hide their lack of purpose. Yanagi reacted to that – like Morris and Ruskin had a generation before. Yanagi went back to a pre-industrial purity in his objects.
    Interesting that his contemporaries were not Morris & co but Gropius, Le Corbusier, Kandinsky,… I’m thinking of the Bauhaus movement here… pure modernism. Not devoid of spirit, not at all – just look at Kandinsky, Klee,… they were Yanagi minus the nostalgia. Anyway,…

    Yanagi’s objects are almost generic, they look totally natural, restrained, purposeful, balanced,…
    There is an element of the universal in the objects Yanagi chose.
    There are variations in taste but there are also universal aesthetic experiences.
    We all respond to rhythm, we all respond to colour, to light, to form, to balance,…
    Yanagi’s objects are not bland or safe, they are “just so”, they are self contained, complete, often vibrant but never shrill.
    They all have an inner harmony.
    To me most are beautiful, the lines, the quality of the surface,… they are generic in their way, but never banal.
    There is nothing unnatural about them, nothing labored, that is what strikes me always – always the ease of expression.
    They quietly express many lifetimes of work and skill and human culture… all in a flick of the wrist, in the few seconds it takes to throw a pot or perhaps paint a few lines on the surface.

    That is the link with kyudo for me too, the natural expression, the honesty, the lack of artifice or individualism – suchness…
    There is a quality of just-being in the objects Yanagi valued so much.
    To me kyudo evokes a similar response, it is also about studying the just-shooting, the nature of it, refining it to its essence and in its ultimate perfection expressing our humanity through it – hopefully.
    There is a process of loosing yourself (or you self) in the shooting, as there is in music, in the making of objects, in technique, in tradition, in repetition,… not at all mindless, but self-less.

    Yanagi reminds us of our shared humanity.
    To Yanagi haute-art had become aloof and elitist, detached from the people, that was one thing Yanagi reacted to when he went looking for his kind of art. He felt that in his objects art and man were still connected.
    The objects he chose are conspicuously lacking in individuality and in aspiration. That was kind of the point to me. They are an expression of the collective and they are no less vibrant for it. They are alive with the spirit of a thousand unnamed hands working in time-honored tradition, full of vitality and humanity.

    We always over-analyze. We collect facts and dates and provenance and context for objects.
    Moreover in our everyday lives we judge objects on the basis of functionality, price, fashion, status,… desirability, as I mentioned, not spirituality.
    We always look for intrinsic value. We covet objects.
    We should have a chat about the bow you mentioned sometime. Was it that you covet it or was it that it moved you and you wanted to enter into a dialog with it?
    I am currently on a bit of a quest to find a bow that suits me so I’m very interested in what people feel about that.

    There is a spirituality in Yanagi’s objects I feel.
    Its nature, but not nature, emotion, humanity,… arghhh, I can’t put it into words…

    Anyway,… I detect the same loss of spirit in object and the arts today that Yanagi saw.
    Few can resist the commercialism or the cult of celebrity in art. Fewer can muster the sensitivity to produce spiritual art without falling into the trap of just making symbolic gestures. There is nothing spiritual about making symbols. Putting a ying-yang, a cross, sun, moon,… on an object does not make it spiritual.
    Many have lamented it, Kandinsky, very close to my home here for example.
    Donald Kuspit, quite recently spoke about spirituality in art, evoking Kandinsky’s “über das Geistge in der Kunst” – quite an interesting listen:
    Kuspit states Pop Art was the turning point in art, well I would put it way before pop art… at Marcel Duchamp’s “fountain” at least, or even with the human condition in general… we covet things… I make a living from making people covet things. We are materialistic. Materialism oozes out of the Sistine Chapel as much as it does out of Warhol’s Marilyn, it is just Michelangelo made art for people who, despite all their materialism, still recognized the needs of the soul.
    Anyway, I do agree with Kuspit in his assessment of art today – most of it is soul-less self regarding twaddle.

    I was thinking about Kuspit here because he also once wrote quite specifically about satori through art.
    He likened some work (namely that of Daniel Brush) to a zen koan.
    T D Suzuki said about koans something along the lines of: by defying logic you go beyond intellection. What could not be solved on the empirical plane is now transferred to the deeper recesses of the mind – intellection turns to connation and intuition.
    Our rational mind is at its limits so we respond emotionally…
    The paradoxical nature of the koan brings that out, the same can happen with art.
    Like just now, not being able to put words to it… sometimes art or objects just move you. When they are evokative, nature but not merely naturalistic, alive somehow and with a mystery about them. They speak to you but you can’t quite make them out – like a zen koan. When that happens viewing them can become a spiritual experience. When we relinquish control, stop trying to decipher, analyze,… when we just go by faith and intuition, then we truly see them and they suddenly become clear.
    As long as we use the intellect we just practice art history but we see nothing.
    Not every work of art will move all of us on that deep emotional level. Yanagi’s objects may not move you like that but something will.
    A bow perhaps…

    We live in a materialistic world. We have largely forgotten how to nurture our souls through art (or The Arts… kyudo included).
    We judge by intellect, wit,… and not the heart. Where are we now in art-chronology… post-postmodern post-ironic,…. I forget… We are in the age of soul-less, celebrity-driven, money-crazy, self-regarding art, that much is certain.
    Even 100 years ago nearly Yanagi already reacted to that, to that and to the elitism he found in the arts. Art has become detached from society at large and is still drifting. Yanagi tried to take art back to the people, to recognize humble once commonplace objects as work of art, of beauty, of spirituality.

    It is not about intellectualizing or desirability, it is about the heart,
    suchness perhaps – spirituality, an expression of nature in humanity,
    a spiritual revival through art…
    Anyway, I felt some of what Yanagi has to say would resonate with you at least in the abstract.

    I ramble…
    good grief! this must be my longest rambliest comment to date…. ; 0

  2. karamatsu says:

    Wow, that is one epic ramble! I don’t know how I can do justice to it. As it happens I’m in Tokyo now and, Fates willing, will go to Yanagi’s museum on Saturday. I may or may not respond to what I find there, but I’m sure the chance will be much greater “in person” than by looking at a book.

    With the bow I can say very definitely that I wanted to enter into a relationship of some kind, whether it’s a respectful dialogue, a feverish conspiracy, or a passionate love affair… not sure. It wasn’t a question of owning, anyway, but just the sense of something quite mysterious there, “more than met the eye,” or at least, more than I expected, and wanting to find out. No doubt Yanagi might have said the same thing about his favoured pots. But of course that’s the other thing I mentioned before. For me it was tactile rather than visual. Just looking at my friend’s bow would not have produced that same sensation, and I suppose (for me) that was the point: handling the bow was more than I imagined simply by looking. Over time that may change but I doubt seeing will ever be as immediate as what I felt that day. Could be wrong though…

    I do know what you mean about the intrusions of the intellect, but since I’ve never really been attracted to objects I could never bear to study their history, and so I’m really pretty ignorant when it comes to art. The friends I referred to went very much the other way (one became a museum curator, the other will be but hasn’t surrendered to destiny just yet… keeps trying to do things that pay better), and while I think they do covet these things (their houses are full of them), they can also enjoy them for what they are when finances don’t permit owning. Anyway I’m not being critical (unless I have to wait while they go to a flea market, second-hand shop, or used bookshop — that’s torture). It’s just that they react differently. Except for a Platonic bow that is out there waiting for me somewhere I honestly can’t think of any man-made thing that I desire per se. The closest would be tools (like a fletching jig), but that’s because of what they allow me to do, not for the things themselves.

    Dunno, though. Maybe the right bow will make me a convert, and the world will never be the same!

    About hayake, I think one of your concluding ideas hits the mark: “And once you have a hayake problem, the awareness of it takes on its own dynamics, so resetting the mind by mechanical means may be a way to calm the emotional struggle.” I think these techniques are all rafts, or perhaps crutches. They work by conditioning to undo counter-productive habits of body and mind. Once those are gone, you let the techniques go. Put another way, Hirayama-sensei was presenting them as therapy for a disease that is already present, not as guidelines for the healthy. I don’t think there’s anything magical about the number… 6, 8, 10, 20… More likely 7-8 number is just what experience has shown most effective as a rule of thumb, but as you say, it will undoubtedly be different from person to person, and I assume the teachers can sense when it was “right,” regardless of how much, or how little, time it took. They know it by feel, I think, rather than clock ticks.

    But it’s hard for me to talk about… Why the need to wait without any self that is doing the waiting, and what’s on the other side of that without there being one side or the other? You know, I’m sure. There are those arrows where you come away feeling like you’ve just opened the window to a spectacular spring day, cool breezes, blue sky, mountains, and endless possibilities. I don’t know what that is. Could it happen after two seconds? Maybe. I have no idea. What many teachers all seem to say is that it takes time for it to ripen, for the forces to come into alignment or balance or whatever they do. It certainly has the feeling of a wordless koan, because I don’t know what happens. I only know what it feels like when it does, or when I get close to it, anyway. Who knows how deep this could go?

    I don’t mean criticize the students for finding the optimum way of hitting. I just think there is a difference of ends and means, which I recognize because I find them both in my own mind. But they are distinct. Somewhere along the line, perhaps semi-consciously or by virtue of trains of thought, a choice gets made, and you can’t do both. Or at least I can’t.

    I see many of the points you mention about Yanagi, but perhaps, lacking reference points to compare them with, simply didn’t feel them as deeply. I agree with many of his criticisms but am just not sure of his praise! The one thing that has stuck with me since the book was his discussion about Tea and the idea that the methods employed are more than just form: they’re the most perfect way to accomplish the task, even when they may not seem that way at first. Haven’t we all found similar things in kyudo? Movements that seemed awkward and “merely formal” at first but which later took on great depth when done just right (or at least better). Recently for me it’s been just a slight change in the position of my right hand at uchiokoshi. The change in the quality of the draw into daisan, and beyond, is extraordinary, yet I’m sure I never would have felt it one way or the other a couple of years ago. It would have been lost in the thinking of what to do next.

    Interestingly I found the same idea (about perfect ways) expressed in Nitobe Inazo’s book on Bushido. “If there is anything to do, there is certainly a best way to do it, and the best way is both the most economical and the most graceful.” You also seem to express the same idea, with almost the same words. But it’s fascinating, isn’t it, how what is truly most economical and graceful can at first appear to be nothing but stylized form? And feel so awkward in practice? So much still hidden in the world… Today as I sat in an endless meeting I wondered why we were all wasting our time on the things that everyone seemed so engrossed with. I fear I have outgrown my career…

    Ah, but I must sleep so I can go to more endless meetings tomorrow. Thanks very much for all you wrote, though. I need to go back and re-read this before Saturday.

  3. Pingback: Kyudo Notebook: Things | Mu

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