Kyudo Notebook: Teaching Notes

Meanwhile my teaching assignment has come to an end. I thought it went pretty well but have been thinking about how to make it better. Of course everything depends on the student, but it seems like there are still a few general things worth remembering:

  • Need to make sure to get all the dojo etiquette down early: the right bow at the right time, the aisatsu, rules regarding the glove, where to place the bow and the arrows, and how to carry them. Safety rules, too, though you’ll want to review those again when you get nearer to shooting at the targets.
  • I thought it was good to review the hassetsu, then watch experienced people practice and identify each step. In fact, watching should be a part of almost every session if there’s time. They’ll notice more and more. Observing is a kyudo skill, too.
  • I go back and forth between getting someone going and building up the hassetsu step by step. It would be good, for instance, if ashibumi was firm before moving on to other things, but… how many times can a person practice standing before the mind glazes over? Not sure, but it probably would be good to keep the early steps in mind.
  • At least with a Western adult it seems good to emphasize that there is a reason for all the rules and conventions. Japanese students might be more inclined to just do what they’re directed to do, but personally I feel it’s fun and adds depth to know the reasons.
  • Likewise emphasize that it’s better to get yourself into the right posture/form from the beginning than to correct it later on. In many cases the reason for doing something at one stage is to set things up properly for a later stage.
  • Should emphasize synchronization with the breath early on. It helps with timing, but that means resolving some of my own uncertainties there, and it may be too much at once in some cases.
  • I need to think through the physics of it all. It was interesting to see that something is not right, say, with the left hand, yet not know how it got that way. I suppose it’s something you work out by experience.
  • Because beginning students don’t have yugaeri down yet, when they do start shooting at the target, the arrows will usually go in front, so it’s good to have them use targets toward the back of the shajo (farthest from the kamiza).
  • When correcting some postural thing, ask the person to check for themselves how it feels to be in the right position. Maybe even back off and have them try to set up the correct position themselves. I had some trouble explaining some of this, especially daisan through kai, where you can’t see your hands/arms, and I think if I’d done that more it would have helped.
  • People have a tendency to hold the bow with the left hand and do all the work of the draw with the right. Need to figure out a better way to correct that. Likewise when you talk about the expansion at kai the tendency is to overdraw, so that the arrow sinks down from the kuchiwari line. Emphasize expanding both vertically and horizontally, and horizontally along the line of the arrow. Remember the jumonji...
  • Might be better to have someone start practising with a weaker bow and then move up if it seems sensible. With a lighter bow you can do more repetitions without sacrificing form (or causing muscle strain).
  • Need to be sure I’m not doing the thing I’m telling them not to do! For example, I have a problem keeping the arrow parallel to the line of the shoulders, so… better to fix that in myself before trying to tell someone else to do it!
  • It seemed useful to have analogies for different things. Like, keeping the left hand/wrist oriented as if holding a wine glass and trying not to spill anything, holding the bow as if it’s an empty eggshell, hanare being like snow falling off a bamboo leaf.
  • Good to recommend that they keep a notebook (or write a blog!) so they can review points from previous lessons before coming to the dojo, record questions, etc.
  • I’m ambivalent about making videos. I know I have a tendency to look at my own shooting and immediately try to fix a dozen different things, with predictably unstable results. Maybe the old-fashioned way really is better.

Just some notes to myself for next time.

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