Leaving the word problems far, far behind, today I finally had a chance to have a short one-to-one conversation with my teacher about all the ups and downs lately. He told me everyone goes through it. At the beginning, when you are learning from a teacher, if you simply set your self aside and do as you are instructed, things can go very well, and it’s quite fun, yet still “empty,” in the sense of boring… having no content, no taste「中身はない」. But in time your own mind starts to assert itself, and that leads to the kinds of confusion and uncertainty that I’ve been going through. He says it’s good though, that everybody goes through that, and it is (or at least can be!) a sign of progress. In particular he reassured me that, although I’m not hitting the target as well as before, the shooting itself is better. Maybe because of the struggle involved, it’s starting to show some flavour? As time goes on, he says, the ups and downs become less violent and you start to stabilize. Maybe you don’t hit the external target as often, but the satisfaction that comes from the shooting itself increases nevertheless. But I can only find that myself.
He did sort of warn me, though, that it’s important to make sure you have the fundamentals down solid. “Otherwise it’s just 「我流」(ga-ryuu), doing things your own way, inventing your own style.” [Compare the American Frank Sinatra ideal: “I did it myyyyyy waaaaay“] He said that if you watch the masters, their fundamentals are solid, yet their shooting still has its own 「個性」(kosei) personality/individuality. I suppose there’s a line that gets drawn, allowing some personal character, yet they still develop the full draw, still go through tsumeai, nobiai, yagoro, still release from the centre. I’ll have to be on the lookout for this next month at the All-Japan Tournament.
One other thing I noticed today is that, in contrast to the way I used to shoot less than a year ago, I’m now much more aware of small things. I have a dojo-mate, renshi 6-dan, who makes the most detailed notes after every time she shoots, and it always kind of amazed me how she would notice these tiny little things, experimenting by changing this or that. I suppose I’m finally starting to get a sense of what she does. Maybe time to get a (physical) notebook…
Oh, but speaking of the All-Japan Tournament, it’s in Tokyo this year, September 19-23 at Meiji Jingu. If anybody’s going and wants to catch up, let me know! Meanwhile I hope everyone gained much from the seminar and shinsa in the US. Yosh!