After ten days away, back to the dojo yesterday with only about five hours of sleep. One interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed before is that, when I have enforced time away from practice, but then come back to it after a couple of weeks or so, I often shoot really well. It’s as if, with regular practice, my mind gets too caught up in thinking/planning or trying to figure things out, and so gets in the way. But during a (non-kyudo) trip somewhere all that falls away, so when I go back I’m fresh: all I remember is what my body knows without the mind getting involved. Unfortunately the mind barges in on its own accords after a time, so it never lasts!
Yesterday was a tutorial. Every year it seems like the ANKF, or at least our local association, has themes, particular points that they want people to devote special attention to. This year our main things are
- Entering the dojo
- Exiting the dojo
In the May issue of Kyudo there’s an article from the recent gathering of hanshi, too, and in there the focal points (and things they look at in shinsa) seem to be
- Entering the dojo
- Exiting the dojo
- Turning while walking
- The movements after shooting is finished, from closing the feet to exiting
That last one is kind of interesting in that it seems what they’re checking for is whether you lose your concentration after the “real” work of shooting is done. Don’t do that.
Meanwhile some notes on things I need to practice:
- Need to maintain the vertical line. I tend to lean somewhat to the right, which is either a cause or an effect of raising the left shoulder.
- In hirakiashi the left knee should not come off the floor, but instead come around in front of the right knee (for a right turn). Also by the time you’re 45 degrees into the turn you should already be about halfway descended down to kiza, so that the descent is smooth all through the turn. This last part is a little hard to do, but probably gets easier with practice. We heard much of the same thing in Nagoya and obviously to some extent it does depend on the person’s body, but the above is apparently the ideal.
- In yatsugae great care must be taken to keep the arrows parallel to the floor. In the move where you flip the otoya around so that the hazu points toward the target, it was recommended for me (because I’m tall) to flip the arrow around at a point below my left hand, bring it to a point where it’s parallel to the floor, then raise it upward to meet the fingers of the left hand. Need to figure that out. The yatsugae process is given in detail in Kyudo Kyohon, volume 4. (Need to fill in page number)
- In the slight shifting of the bow and arrow to the right just before torikake, don’t twist the bow and arrow, because that will affect the angle of the arrow, which should not change. This is something Ishikawa-sensei taught in Nagoya but I wasn’t sure why. Now I know!
- The revision to my tenouchi, keeping more space below the thumb, seems to be working very well, so just need to find the right angle and pressure left/right pressure.
- At daisan the right hand shouldn’t be more than about a fist’s width from my head. Any further and it interferes with the ability to extend the right shoulder.
- Elbows should be at the same height/angle when standing up from kiza.
- When wearing kimono the right sleeve blocks my view of the right foot, so when doing the second part of (ni-soku) ashibumi I can’t actually look down and see what the right foot is doing. Nevertheless I’m told that I should lower my eyes as if I can see that. Otherwise it’s like I’m just staring into space, which looks odd.
- Keep the motohazu aligned with the vertical line of the body during uchiokoshi.
- From daisan into kai, you can draw the bow partially with hands/arms to the point where either the hazu or the motohagi is at your ear (need to experiment to find out which), but then from that point you use the muscles of your back — that flattening of the shoulderblades — to “enter into the bow.” Needs experimentation, but gives a cleaner release from the centre.
- Don’t shoot so fast! This is becoming a bad habit and needs to be counteracted now. Hayake seems to sneak up on a person through repetition. Beware!
- When finished shooting, it was reiterated that the idea of first making a short step to the right and then walking forward is obsolete, and what you should do is walk in straight lines. O-mae simply makes a 45 degree turn (angle actually depending on the dojo), starting by turning the hips/body and then the right foot, and heads for the door. Other people bring their feet together and then walk straight to the point where they can make a turn towards the exit. Except of course the last person, who has to back up as usual.
- Also one point about errors (shitsu) was that you must close ashibumi in one direction or the other (toward the left or toward the right), and not in the usual way (where you end up on the sha-i). Apparently this is true even if the arrows, say, was dropped right in front of you. I don’t understand why this is, but that’s what we were taught.
The fundamental principles for a lot of the taihai points were “no unnecessary movements” and keep the fundamental form, especially dozukuri, throughout. Some of these need more practice and/or experimentation. Obviously this is a little at odds with the idea of not letting my mind barge into my shooting! I suppose that’s practice, too.
And we finally have some sakura blooming. Must take a photo next chance I get.