Some good advice from a number of teachers over the weekend. Some of this was specific to me and my own difficulties, but some stuff might also be of interest.
- Useful details on how to hold the arrows in the right hand. Apparently these explanations are from the Kyudo Kyohon but I’m not sure where:
- When holding them at the tips (itatsuki), you clamp the tips of the arrows between your thumb and index finger and then hold them in place with the ring and little finger. This is they style I use and it really does provide good control.
- When holding them at the first joint (itsukebushi), the thumb and index finger form a ring and you press the arrows to your hand using (I”m pretty sure) the ring and little finger.
- In kiza I need to bring my upper body slightly more forward. Apparently I’m leaning back, though it doesn’t feel that way to me. I probably need to practice in front of a mirror.
- When standing up the bow in front for yatsugae (zassha), it should be at least 10cm in front of the knees, but for bigger people (ahem) it should probably be farther out. This presents a bit of a problem when knocking the arrows because the length of my femurs already put the bow way out in front of my torso. The solution is to both twist the bow so that the string comes closer to the body and lean it somewhat back toward the body. Alternatively I have seen some people raise up on their knees somewhat so that they can nock the arrows without moving the bow. I’m sure there must be a “right” way to do it, though, or this wouldn’t be kyudo! Need to check.
- As an aside, the 10cm standard measure that seems to get used everywhere was originally 3-sun. That in turn came from the length of the first segment of standard bamboo arrows. Presumably use of the same distance in many different postures creates a kind of unity, and of course, when shooting in a group it helps if everyone is synchronized both in time and position.
- When standing up from kiza, the hazu of the nocked arrow should be held by the thumb and fingers, with the hazu concealed from view (so that shinsa-in, or anyone standing/sitting in front of you, can’t see it). For some reason I’d been holding the combination slightly lower, still concealing the hazu, but my thumb wasn’t on it.
- At torikake, need to move my right middle finger farther back on the thumb. It seems to help with hanare, even though it’s kind of counter-intuitive. My teacher told me that once a while back but it seems I’ve slowly slipped back to the more shallow position.
- After establishing tenouchi, don’t lose contact between the bow and the tenmon line of the left hand. While the bow is still low, that requires (for me) extending the wrist more than I’d been doing.
- Need to take care with the sanju-jumonji. Not only do they need to be parallel, but the lines of the shoulders, hips, and feet need to be stacked so that they are on top of each other vertically. As in kiza, above, apparently I’m leaning my shoulders back somewhat as I straighten up to (I thought) establish the vertical line. This is hard for me to work on myself because I feel like I am standing vertically. One teacher had me raise up toes (from dozukuri) and then drop down with a thud onto my feet. I guess the idea is that it sort of shakes the body into alignment. Obviously you wouldn’t want to do that too often or people will start to laugh, but maybe that’s one way to get the right feel for it?
- Need to work on keeping/bringing both shoulders down from uchiokoshi through hikiwake. One teacher told me that I was bringing the right down but leaving the left up. I suspect that this is all part of a larger pattern of difficulty I have with the left shoulder. This is going to have implications for the height of uchiokoshi and the move into daisan, so I’ll have to find the right balance.
- Along similar lines, I was told to bring my shoulders forward more, while bringing the chest back. It’s interesting that this advice seems to puts your torso in exactly the opposite position as the “Chest out! Shoulders back! Stomach in!” posture beloved of drill sergeants everywhere.
- To avoid having the left hand drop at release, one suggestion was either to straighten out the left thumb so that it actually points toward the target or to at least have the feeling that it does. Need to experiment.
- The larger advice was to strive for a perfect cross at zanshin, left and right straight out, but you have to get there honestly. No (conscious or unconscious) moving out of alignment and then back into the right position. This is also very hard to see oneself (unless you use video) because the movements/corrections happen in a split second, before you’d have a chance to glance over at a mirror.
So, some good stuff. I’m particularly interested in the notes on posture because I’ve sensed that something wasn’t right, but didn’t know what. Probably the first step will be to figure out how to become aware of what I’m doing wrong, so I’ll know when I get it right. Lots of disparate things to work on tomorrow, assuming I can go. Work keeps intruding. I need to focus on a more fully developed release, too.