A while back someone mentioned reading about a taikai here, and seemed to feel it was somehow not in the true spirit of kyudo. We had our monthly mini-taikai today and on the way home I was thinking about it, and really it seems to me that taikai are very important, especially for people interested in kyudo as a path of spiritual development. The reason is that you can practice all you like, and maybe shoot well while you are practising, but unless you confront your self, it’s just technical training, and you can’t really confront your self unless there is something you care about at stake. Taikai and competition are good, not because of winning/losing, but because they raises the stakes, and introduce pressures that don’t exist in ordinary practice. They help you see what is going on in your mind for real.
I think this explains something one of my teachers mentioned sometime back around the New Year. I asked how to strengthen the spirit and she said, “By going to taikai and shinsa, the bigger the better.” At the time I thought maybe she misunderstood me, but now I realize she was giving me a straight answer. You have to train until you can shoot well, from the heart, no matter what the stakes are.
Another thing I realized (again) at the taikai today is that you can’t give up. There is a tendency, when something goes wrong in the draw, or something slips in the right hand — it could be anything — to want to release quickly, to get it over with. But you can’t do that. You have to try to correct things, bring things back into balance, use more effort. One shot, one life. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but I think the lesson stands and is important. Too often it’s as though, when something goes wrong, it becomes an excuse for giving up. But we shouldn’t accept any excuses. It’s like in meditation: it’s when your concentration is poor, or you don’t feel like meditating, that you can sometimes make the greatest progress, because you have to overcome the obstacle, whatever it is.