Last Friday I went to Tokyo for work and stayed through the weekend. It was pretty nice… blue sky, relatively warm, plum and even some cherry trees (kanzakura) blooming. Spring! Of course, when I got back here it was still snowing.
On the ride down I was thinking more about the spirit of kyudo and what I should do to approach that. There remains, in my mind, a fairly large gap between some of the more philosophical/spiritual points in the Kyudo Kyohon and what I do in the dojo, so I’m still exploring. As part of that, with some free time on Saturday I want to the Chuo Dojo at Meiji Jingu in hopes of learning by watching. As it happened, Chiyoda-ku was having their monthly semi-formal taikai (getsurei shakai), so I was able to see a lot of people shoot in a context that meant people were under a bit of pressure (as opposed to just practice).
There were some impressive people but the main thing I took away was a hypothesis about the phenomenon where the left hand bounces to the right at release. Around half a dozen people had this habit, which surprised me because it’s usually pretty rare, so I was happy to have a chance to study it. There seemed to be a couple of different forms but the one I think is most applicable to me occurs when the left shoulder is brought forward at daisan, and there’s a corresponding shift of the right shoulder back that becomes more pronounced through hikiwake to kai (the left and right changes have to occur together otherwise it’s impossible for the arrow to touch the cheek). At kai, what you see on the left is that the left shoulder appears raised and forward, while on the right it seems like the elbow, especially, is down and back. So my theory is that as the person then expands left/right, the forces involved push not just forward, toward the target, but there’s also this small vector to the right. Even though it’s probably quite minor, when the tension of the bow is released at hanare, the counterbalancing force is set free (Newton’s Third Law), and that temporarily carries the left hand to the right.
This also helps explain why the advice I was given back in January/February seems to have been so helpful, since part of that involved intentionally bringing the right shoulder forward, and a more balanced draw so that the arrow is parallel to the line of the shoulders. So… I have more confidence now that I know (or think I do!) what was happening, and what is fixing it. This is important for me, at least at this stage, because if I just rely on habit then I’m lost when something breaks my rhythm or concentration.
Meanwhile on the mental/spiritual side what I’ve decided to try to do is seek that “purposeless tension” that Awa Kenzo held out to Herrigel. Just put hanare out of my mind, to the point where, in the midst of tsumeai/nobiai, I’m not even waiting for it to happen. Not sure how, but maybe I don’t need to have a theory.