Kyudo Notebook: Shinsa Questions

So April is almost here, and although we still have a good meter plus of snow, something resembling spring is in the air. At the dojo what this means is that we’re entering the tutorial and shinsa season, so I’ve been dusting off the books a bit, having another go at trying to bring it all together conceptually, particularly in light of the budo seminar.

Hokkaido in Spring

Springtime?

The more time I spend with the Kyudo Kyohon, the more I appreciate it, though it’s still often difficult to get a consistent sense of what the masters who composed it really had in mind. Once my thoughts on that are more settled I might write something here, but what I want to do now is look more specifically at the questions on the shinsa written exams, as preparation for next month’s excitement (stress).

Resources on the net can also reveal interesting things about how the questions (and even the grammar) have changed over time. Dan DeProspero, co-author of Kyudo: The Essence and Practice of Japanese Archery lists some sample questions along with thoughts about testing in general in an essay called The Question of Testing. The Kyudo Project in the US also has a great collection of test questions (from Kyudo magazine) from the mid-1990’s up until 2000.

My aim here will be to extend that to more recent years, starting with 2009-2011, mushitei through 5-dan (the ones I have on hand right now). To be of greatest use I’m making a separate post for each dan level, but I’m at the mercy of WordPress for a lot of this, so don’t shoot the messenger if it comes out looking ugly! I’m putting both the Japanese and a loose English translation, so beware that the translations may contain errors. Some of the older expressions are particularly difficult, so if you catch any errors please tell me so I can correct them. Except for typographical errors, the Japanese should be right.

I plan to add more questions from previous years, perhaps filling the gap back to 2000, but to avoid any impropriety I won’t add questions from 2012 until next year. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise!

One culture note: at the early levels, the questions are sometimes the kind where there is no right or wrong answer. Your motivation for beginning Kyudo, for example, was whatever it was. But when answering questions that don’t explicitly call for a personal opinion it’s usually better to at least start out by giving to the standard answers found in the Kyohon. Schools in the West like to encourage students to be creative and express their own ideas, while teachers in Japan are more likely to look for mastery of the material as given, rather than expecting any kind of personal interpretation. We could easily argue the merits of each tradition, but from a practical point of view, it’s better to put the standard answer first and then wax poetic afterwards if you wish. That’s just my opinion, though, and what do I know?

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