Winter has come down rather hard this past month so when not at the dojo I’ve kind of been hibernating. We had our final taikai of the year and while the results were good (8/10), but I wasn’t very happy with the shooting. It’s my mind, really, but it manifests as lack of balance, in the draw leading to more uncertainty in kai, and an overly-fast intentional release. Since then things stabilized a little bit through:
- Very important to firmly set the vertical line. Recently I heard one of the hanshi say that without the vertical line there can be no horizontal line. Worth keeping in mind.
- When raising the bow in uchiokoshi and on to daisan, support the bow with the left hand rather than grip it, holding it more or less with only the little finger.
- Need some hineri on the right but it shouldn’t be excessive. It’s a balance thing.
- At daisan the right elbow needs to come up and the left also has to be high enough so that the arrow will be parallel to the floor (or pitched just slightly down). When I’m lazy the angle is too steep.
- Need to be sure that the cross formed by the left hand and the bow is correct at daisan, and in particular that the bow is in contact with all three points on the left hand, rather than just two. This is a little hard on me because my arms are long and I have to really bend my left wrist.
- Draw into kai with the full body. Then expand, expand, expand, and just let it happen. Need to work here. Shoot for fulfilment, not to punch a hole in a piece of paper. This requires trust that fulfilment will come.
One other thing I’ve noticed is that when I get tired I’m no longer able to work “naturally” and instead use arm strength to draw the bow. Often in that situation I end up overdrawing. It’s an interesting contrast. Also I suspect I don’t have the sanjuu-juumonji aligned properly and that there is a twist in my hips, but haven’t been able to verify that.
- Still working on getting the left hand/arm correct at the release, along with good extension on the right. What seems to happen is that forces are introduced during in the movements leading to kai, but are then hidden within it, perhaps because they are balancing each other out. But these hidden forces are revealed at hanare and zanshin. Need to work with those forces from the beginning rather than trying to force the appearance of a “correct” zanshin at the end.
- Still working on breathing. Watching one of my favourite teachers a while back I noticed that his breathing is the opposite of what I’m usually accustomed to. As we talked about before, there is actually some disagreement in the texts about the correct breathing pattern, but this teacher would go through a full breath cycle in every move, breathing in at the start and exhaling through the moves. I’ve been trying that out but find that I frequently lose the correct rhythm.
- On the other hand, I think it is getting better, with the breath settling further down toward the tanden. Just yesterday there was a sudden change that seemed to bring on some extra stability, so I know it’s possible.
- Small problem that popped up toward the end of practice yesterday was the bow rolling clockwise from daisan to kai. Not sure what was causing that but I was pretty tired at that point, and probably fighting with the bow.
In other news, there have been two more articles by Takeda Yutaka that I want to summarize, plus some teachings from a tutorial. I’m hoping to work on those over the holidays. And then take a look at this post from Zen. Pretty spectacular dojo! Follow the voyage here.