Things have been busy. Two taikai have gone by, with another two next week, then another shinsa, and then the chuo-shinsa for renshi. Also I fletched my first arrow, have been working on problem areas and taihai details, and have been getting caught up in some wonderful conversation about Kyudo, Japanese culture, and Japanese art.
The two taikai went well, at least on the surface, but despite the superficial result, something weird is going on with my left hand that is throwing things off, and I’m still not sure what it is. S-sensei suggested a little while ago that I need to do more to keep the arrow parallel to the line of my shoulders from uchiokoshi to kai, so I’ve been working on that. Combined, though, with the higher daisan that is my standard now, this means I can’t see the target at daisan (it’s behind my left arm somewhere), so either something else has to change or I need to figure out how to settle into it by feel. It’s proving difficult, because partway through the draw my left hand gets awkward.
I’m still looking into possible causes, but thanks to some video that Tさん made yesterday, one thing that suggests itself is that the right hand is too high in uchiokoshi, leading to a situation where the arrow pitches down too much at daisan. It may be that, simply by bringing the right hand down so that the arrow is horizontal, some of the yaw will take care of itself. Clearly the right arm is too straight at uchiokoshi, in any case, so I think I’ll try to take care of that first, then see how the change affects everything else. One thing at a time…
That said, after a while on Tuesday I started to think, “Well, maybe this is just the way it is,” and rather than fight with it too much, just drew as best I could and then tried to go “inside” at kai, to overcome whatever residual weirdness was there. The effort seemed to pay off, but I kind of miss my old reliable way. More creative destruction?
At the shinsa I’ll be cheering and working, rather than testing. It will be nice just relax and enjoy Kyudo World without the tension, though after watching other people shoot all day, twice, I’m sure I’ll be itching to get out there, too.
With taihai there have been many small corrections: trying to keep my upper body closer to vertical throughout, trying to stay relaxed, trying to keep my head aligned vertically during tsurushirabe and the turns to look at the target, kiza, kiza, kiza. There’s also been a correction in footwork. Up until recently, when bringing my feet together for the yu on entering or leaving, I guess I’d sort of swept the trailing foot forward along an arc so that it met the leading foot. Honestly I didn’t think about it too much. But what I’ve been told instead is that I need to turn the trailing foot in sync with my hips so that it’s parallel to the lead foot first (while still behind), and then bring the trailing foot forward to line up with the lead. Once paying attention, I could watch the teachers doing sharei and see that this is indeed how they move, but I never noticed it before. I wonder how many thousands of other things there are like that?
Meanwhile I’ve been conversing with Tさん, who is a real joy to talk to on all sorts of subjects, most recently kyudo and Japanese culture. Since the spring shinsa and reading through all those questions (still trying to get some of the earlier years) I’ve felt the need to go deeper in kyudo, and investigate some of the strange ideas within and behind the statements in the Kyohon. At the same time I feel I need to break through some kind of invisible wall that I can sense, but not yet define. It’s experiential rather than intellectual, and T is helping me work some of that out in a Socratic sort of way, by asking questions.
Likewise I had a good, but much shorter talk with Hさん, a teacher and an artist, about Japanese art and the role of the invisible or unrevealed. I can’t help finding parallels there. Of course you can only generalize so much, especially when it comes to art, but the importance of “empty space” (in both spatial and temporal senses) in Japanese art and in Kyudo, as well as the other traditional Japanese Dō is pretty hard to deny.
Another theme has been this notion of “shoot with your character” or “within each shot see your own nature.” Just what is going on there? The teachers often say that they can see our character by the way we shoot, but why is it hard for us to see our own? And what do they really mean by “seeing” our character, not to mention our true nature? This in particular is where I hope I’m paddling toward some kind of experiential result. I suspect that it will come suddenly or not at all.
And then, the arrow. The nearest kyudo shop is about 150km from here, and the last time I asked them to re-fletch some arrows it took a month and cost a pretty penny. So after some conversation here and a visit to Asahi Archery I’m trying their fletching jig, and they were kind enough to include some cut feathers to get me going. It’s been a bit of a challenge (especially the thread binding the quills to the shaft) but great fun, and I expect to improve with practice, though for better or worse it’s not something I’d do very often. If I did start doing it often I might try the Tri-Jig, an innovation from Carol’s Archery, which would reduce the fletching time considerably, and is also one of the few I’ve seen that are large enough for normal Kyudo fletching (about 17cm long with quills). The trickier part is going to be getting feathers. I wonder how much the local hawks would charge me for a few? Anyway when I do the next arrow I’ll take some photos and post something. It’s fun.