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…