Many ups and downs. Things were strangely out of balance at practice before the final and that carried over into it, but oh, well. When your friend wins it’s still a win! Then we had another tutorial over the weekend, with different teachers and yet more different advice.
The main focus of the tutorial was on taihai and there were some valuable pointers:
- After hada-nugi or hada-ire, when the group turns back to face the targets men have this extra move after the bow is down, bringing their right hand back to their right hip. Women need to take an extra breath to allow for that before continuing.
- At the same time, when men bring the bow back to their left hand, it’s important that the left sleeve fall between the bow and the bowstring. This can be a little hard to do. The secret is that, from the 45 degree point you insert the bow straight down along your left side, rather than moving it in an arc. That description alone probably isn’t enough to really explain it, but in the context of what we were doing it made a big difference.
- Likewise the moves of the right hand from the hip to the hazu, and the hazu to the hip at yatsugae should be in a straight line, not a curving arc.
- At shinsa it’s extremely important to pay attention to the honza. What we were told by one of the teachers, who is often a shinsa judge, is that if you end up in front of the honza (which is to say, too far forward), that’s an instant X. One practical reason is that the judges can see the honza marker and check. So particularly when people are wearing wafuku it’s best if the first time you sink down into kiza your knees are about 10cm behind the honza line. That way after hada-nugi, when you turn back around, you won’t end up with your knees ahead of the honza.
- Another word of wisdom at shinsa is that some of the judges will watch the top line of a person’s hakama as they stand up to make sure there is no leaning left or right. If there is that instability, another X.
- During yatsugae, especially, keep the arrows parallel to the floor and the elbows up when holding the bow stationary.
- Before doing the rei or yu upon entering and leaving the shajo, be sure to make eye contact with the object you are supposedly bowing to, and try to have the correct feeling behind it.
- The obi should not be visible above the hakama, either for men or for women.
- It’s a standard thing but the bowstring needs to be lined up with your nose at the various times when you’re holding it stationary in front of you, and the top of the bow shouldn’t tilt one way or the other as you go through the various movements.
- When men and women are together in a group and wearing wafuku doing hada-nugi/ire and tasuki-sabaki, there are five points where in the process where you’re supposed to be in sync. The major one with hada-nugi is removing the left sleeve, which is supposed to happen at the same time that the women bring the tasuki around their left shoulder. But there are others and it’s worth getting synchronized with all of them.
Women Men Remove tasuki from the hip Insert left hand into sleeve Extend tasuki and grasp centre of right sleeve Grasp sleeve opening from inside Pass tasuki around outside of right elbow Extend left hand toward target (second time) Pass tasuki around left elbow Remove left sleeve Tie tasuki Arrange left sleeve in opening on left side of hakama
- The person who is o-mae has a tough time because, of course, you can’t see what’s going on behind you. It’s important to keep time with the breath and go perhaps a bit slowly so that others can keep up. Before turning back to fact the targets, you can wait if you hear things going on behind you (women have that scraping sound as they draw the bow across the floor, so that’s a good sign), but if it’s quiet then you should not wait. Just turn. And then if you can see that people aren’t ready, you wait then.
- If in hada-ire you can’t get the left elbow into the sleeve of the juban, lay the bow down on your left upper thigh and raise the left knee, then when you have the arm properly inserted immediately pick up the bow again and raise it before adjusting the kimono.
Then after the tutorial was over we had some time left for free practice. One of the teachers came over and commented that I was turning to the left during hikiwake. I knew something was going on, but didn’t even realize it was this. His advice was not to put any much strength into the right forearm/wrist/hand from uchiokoshi into daisan, and no effort to twist them, either. Just let the right be pulled along by the left until the right hand is ahead of your face (as you see in the diagrams in the Kyohon). What this does is allow a natural tension (hari) to develop in the muscles of the right upper arm and the right side of the body, and you can then use that tension in the draw for hikiwake, being careful to open from the centre.
As often happens when the teacher is right there, this had very good results at the time, and people seemed to think it was an improvement. But time will tell as this and the many other pieces of valuable advice I’ve received lately start to shake out and come to terms with each other.
There’s a document that my teacher gave us at the end of the previous tutorial that I want to translate. It’s called “Preparation of the Mind for Training,” and is very interesting. One of its points is that we shouldn’t get stuck in a rut or set pattern, and should always be exploring, gaining wide experience. So I figure all the advice is helping with that, but I need a way to approach it systematically or I’ll just get confused.