The first taikai of the year was a disaster, at least from a superficial point of view. Toward the end of regular practice the day before my teacher made changes to daisan and kai (all very important things: maintaining the vertical line and keeping the left shoulder down, two things that had gotten out of alignment due to bad habits) that left me feeling very unbalanced. Clearly some other factors needed to be adjusted to fit, but I wasn’t sure what they were and the only time I had to experiment was during the taikai itself. But the mind got in the way and I ended up shooting in ways that were both unbalanced and uncommonly fast. I guess I wanted to get it over with somehow… Arrows went generally behind the target, but sometimes way, way behind. One of my dojo-mates said she wondered if I’d aimed at the wrong target!
After the taikai we had our shinnenkai and I was kindly criticised by my teacher for shooting with my hands instead of my heart. Actually he said he’d been watching me do this for six months now, waiting to see when I would figure it out, but I guess the bizarre performance at the taikai convinced him to say something. I did know that was happening, of course, but was (and still am, I suppose) at a loss for how to correct it. I told him that I was feeling very unstable because of the recent changes but he didn’t accept that. It doesn’t matter what happens technically, was the message. You have to shoot with your heart/spirit/kokoro no matter what. You may hit, you may not. That’s not the point. It’s the heart that matters.
A good lesson.
During the early morning hours, when everyone was still asleep (it was an overnight thing at an onsen) I spent some time thinking about what had gone wrong and decided that, as a technical matter, while keeping the left shoulder down, the left arm was going too high at daisan. Bringing that back down some solved things technically and in half-asleep practice the next day things were better than ever. But I still have to work on the heart.
Still this is why I began kyudo, so in a way I feel like it’s progress to be at a point where I’m focusing on that goal.