Just some additional notes/memories that have bubbled up to the surface in my mind since getting back:
- At one point Uozumi-sensei told the people in the wafuku (4-dan and up) group, “By now you should be able to shoot with your eyes closed.” I’m not sure if he meant that literally or figuratively but it is interesting to think about, particularly in light of Ishikawa-sensei‘s ability to hit the target in the dark once ashibumi is set. In theory it does seem like we should be able to do it all be feeling, but I know I still use visual cues for daisan and, of course, the aim. Might be fun to try, though, once the snow wall is down, and on a day when there aren’t many people.
- Usami-sensei told us that we should practice taihai until it’s the way we move naturally. This connects to the idea of practising until the moves are so natural that it seems you are making them up spontaneously, in the moment, fresh, and for the first time. I suspect that this also feeds into the idea of seikitai, that vitality… You’re not performing a dance that you’ve learned by rote any more. You’re beyond that, as in Noh, where the various dancers, singers, and musicians come together and perform without any prior rehearsal as a group.
- Along similar lines, for several years now the annual commentary on the All-Japan Tournament, as well as others, have talked about how people entering and leaving the dojo may have failed to actually bow to the kamiza. That is, they made the bow, but it was just a rote thing, not directed anywhere in particular. Sometimes, as at our shinsa yesterday, you see people bow in a direction somewhere off in the distance, not even oriented toward the kamiza. What I always took the critcism to mean was both proper positioning of the body and also eye contact, so made it a point to orient my feet properly and to look directly at the flag, say, when doing the bow. But our teachers said that this second part (eye contact) was not right. In fact in the customary bow to a person of higher status you don’t make eye contact, but rather look somewhere around chest level (something I’ve also been taught about the bow at the sadamenoza in sharei). What matters, it seems, isn’t so much where you look but the feeling you project. On entering, says the Kyohon (Japanese pp. 86-87, English pg. 47), you want to convey gratitude for the opportunity to shoot and for the attention of those watching. On exiting, you should convey consideration and gratitude of safe completion of the shooting. Somehow we need to express those feelings.
All of these things require a kind of sincerity or genuine-ness, as well as sufficient time and mental/emotional space to carry them out, which seems to imply enough practice that the technical aspects no longer require conscious planning, let alone worry. There was a scene in the movie Shine in which the character played by Sir John Gielgud tells the young David Helfgott, working to learn Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto, that he must “learn the notes in order to forget them” and “Play as if there is no tomorrow.” One shot, one life?