Over the weekend we had an enteki taikai, shooting at 60m. The last time I shot at that distance was the same taikai a year earlier, so… coming to it fresh, to say the least. But my first four practice shots hit, and I think that sort of set me up, in a bad way, for the rest of the day, and the familiar battle continued.
I knew I was shooting too fast. In enteki the method I use is to draw normally into kai then tilt at the hips. The tilt is slight, about 2-3 finger widths, but for many people the release comes right after the tilt, and I was no exception. At one level I wanted to hit. The practice shots had gone well, so I had some confidence that I could do well in the competition, and last year took 2nd behind my teacher, who hit a perfect 16/16. But because I’d shot fast in practice somewhere deep in my mind the connection was made: shoot fast and hit, shoot fast and hit. Takeda Yutaka compares the target to a young woman beckoning with her hand. “Come over here, but quick, I’m a modern girl with a short attention span… I may lose interest…”
Predictably, as the taikai progressed, I shot worse and worse. But beyond that, even when I decided, “OK, I’m going to forget about hitting and just try to shoot well,” once again I found myself in that bizarre state where I didn’t have the ability to do what I decided I wanted to do. It should be simple. This is not like deciding I’ll jump 8 feet in the high jump. All I had to do here was not act… not release the arrow. But I couldn’t.
Later on over dinner my teacher berated me in front of other people for this, which I take that as an act of kindness, a way to help me achieve my goals. Tough love, you might say, beating down my ego. So yeah… this morning I resolve once again that I’m not going to be seduced by the target, by winning, by the opinions of others… This morning I was thinking that I wouldn’t even be seduced by technique. My goal is elsewhere. Of course I need technique, but maybe I’ll just let my teacher correct me on that, and stop thinking about it… stop being an engineer. Awa warned Herrigel, “[you] should not practice anything except self-detaching immersion.”
But of course I’ve decided such things before. Making that real is, strangely, one of the hardest fights I’ve ever had, because the opponent is an insider, and a shape-shifter at that. But this is why I started Kyudo, so best get on with it.
One small hint. After chewing me out, my teacher turned to the friend sitting next to me and asked why it was that, although he doesn’t hit so often during practice sessions, when the chips are down (so to speak), like at the 4-dan shinsa, he hit with both arrows? That difference, he said, is Kyudo.