Just recovering from a weekend tutorial with an overnight at an onsen. The main purpose of the tutorial was actually to build up some strength within Hokkaido for the national competition, so the majority of both days was spent in competitions of one sort or another, interspersed with breaks and free practice time. During the free practice we got some instruction, which was good, but for in-depth discussion the best way was to corner one of the teachers at the onsen. The amazing thing is that, despite time and pretty free-flowing alcohol, they remember so much detail of each person’s shooting.
In my case I’m sure there are many problems but most of the advice I got was on tenouchi, which was perfect because it’s been nagging me for a long time. I could see in the video made earlier what was happening at the release, but everything I did to try to correct it was ineffective, in part because my natural reaction to apparent slack in the left hand is to tighten up my grip on the bow, but as usual that is not the way, and the main suggestion is to use less force on the bow, but tighten up the hand itself. The key idea here is to squeeze the base of the thumb and the base of the little finger together quite strongly, so much so that the bow is really only in contact with those points because the left palm is somewhat cupped. At that point the bow is resting (“accepted by”) the “tiger’s mouth” with the web of skin between thumb and forefinger rolled down, with no need to grip the bow at all. Instead it’s held there by the two counterbalancing pressures: the root of the thumb pushing left while the root of the little finger pushes right. It’s very light. Just enough to support the bow, but not enough to keep it there if someone were to pull the bow down while you’re holding it. “Use just enough strength to create the tenouchi form. No more.” Then in kai you push forward toward the target, with 90% of the push through the base of the thumb, and maybe just 10% at the base of the little finger. Push forward so that at hanare, the left arm neither sinks up or down nor really moves the the left. And of course, not to the right, either. Another point was that the thumb needs to come forward, surrounding the bow, but with a bit of a twist so that it’s definitely the side of the thumb contacting the bow, rather than somewhere between the side and the inner (ventral) surface.
This is a bit awkward at first, and while my efforts to do it during the competition did help with the movement of the left hand at release, the shooting was unstable because it was difficult to create the shape consistently. I think I need to find the right balance of many different factors before it will really work for me. But it’s progress. And now I have both an image of what needs to be done, and knowledge that it can work. So, just a matter of getting there (after which I’ll come up against the next thing).
Another piece of less me-centric useful advice was to think that hikiwake continues all the way through to hanare (or really to zanshin). The teacher said that if you think “Now I’m at kai,” that thought will cause some slack (yurumi) to develop, and in order to create the release you’ll have no choice but to use some extra force. So instead just think that hikiwake continues all the way. This is hard… it requires not just a leap of faith, but fighting against these strange, subconscious (or nearly so) urges to release the arrow. The nice thing about this idea — thinking that hikiwake never ends — is that it gives the mind one less thing to latch onto. One less thing to think.
The main point that this teacher emphasized was that hitting isn’t enough. He wanted us all to shoot properly, keeping in mind that there are nine crosses in kyudo, and we have to be aware of them all the time. If you let one go, you’ll have to add extra moves later on to correct it, and that’s wasted effort. So don’t do that. Shoot properly, gain consistency, and once you’ve gained consistency, having the arrows fly to the target instead of some other location is just a matter of the aim.
Also for me… as often happens I’m told to lower my uchiokoshi (and therefore daisan). Need to keep that in mind.