Back to practice after a week away. I wasn’t sure how it would be. You get kind of fine-tuned after a while (or maybe it’s a rut?), repeating the same things in the same way. This trip, the time away from the bow seems to have had a good influence. Also before going to the dojo I read another article by Takeda Yutaka in the latest issue of Kyudo magazine. He talked about kai and the way that the target “tempts you like a beautiful young woman beckoning with her hand.” I can’t say the target has ever appeared to me in quite that way, but after four days in superheated Shibuya, with everyone trying to keep cool as best they can, maybe I understand the feeling. He says it requires an act of willpower and endurance to remain in kai until spirit, technique, and body become one.
So that was on my mind when I went to the dojo. What does that really mean? Well, I won’t know until I find it. The other advantage of a week away, I think, is that I forgot some of the little tricks that I’d been relying on up until last week, so when I started shooting, it was perhaps more “innocent” than before, and it showed, particularly in the full extension of the right. My teacher commented saying that I was shooting much better and asked if I’d had some sort of inspiration. Unfortunately I had to say that I hadn’t, and I didn’t know why it was going well, but I definitely felt it. Thinking it over, I suspect that “forgetting” was the key. In particular, one of the tricks I’d relied upon was a way of twisting both left and right hands in opposite directions at kai, and when I added that to a couple of arrows, the right hand didn’t extend nearly as far at hanare. So I suspect what was happening in the past was that, because of the trick, I was too much “in my hands” and the tension there prevented the full extension.
In the earlier “innocent” shooting my emphasis was mostly on drawing evenly from both sides and then going inside mentally/spiritually, while continuing the physical effort. And then of course there was the influence of the article. Rather than just shooting at the target, I was searching for something inside, too. I can’t say I found it, but perhaps the week away has allowed some things to settle into their proper place a bit more, and opened up an unexpected way forward.
The caution, I tell myself, is not to think that this is the magic thing, and so let everything else go. A tremendous amount of effort is still required all around. In fact I felt like I needed more effort than ever before, just drawing the bow, just keeping the left hand properly oriented. Shooting was a struggle, but sometimes a good one. At one point I asked if my hikiwake was strange, but was told no, so maybe I’m just more aware of it now? But I definitely felt it afterwards, and even now, the next morning. Taikai this weekend, then an enteki taikai the weekend after that. Lots of chances to practice willpower over the beckoning targets.
Oh, on my last day in Tokyo I had a few hours before the plane so I went to Meiji Jingu just to see if anyone was practising. It turns out there was an enteki taikai going on, so I sat and watched for a while. I think rather than the “tilt at the hips” method, maybe I will try just drawing into the proper position. It looks more stable to me and has the advantage of one less movement. Nakatsuka-sensei (hanshi, 8-dan), and several of the older participants used that method. It seems to let you develop kai and shoot more naturally. The down side is that I’ve heard it can affect your kinteki performance. We’ll see.