Since fundamentally this blog is just my kyudo notebook, I want to note down the advice I received from the different teachers. Sometimes when you go to these tutorials you get so much different advice from different teachers that it becomes confusing, but this year the teachers seemed pretty much in agreement about my own shooting.
- Tilt my head down so that I’m looking straight at the target. I tend to tilt my head up through hikiwake, perhaps in a way that is related to my habit of raising my left shoulder. Interestingly, facing the target head on like this seems to reduce the tendency to blink at the release. I seem to become more concentrated.
- Tenouchi needs to be such that the bow is held less tightly (“like holding a small bird’s egg”) while ensuring that contact is maintained between the root of the little finger and the bow. Usami-sensei offered another exercise to strengthen the muscle used to flex the little finger, but I need to make photos or drawings to communicate that. He said we should maintain a space in the cupped left hand large enough for a bean. This matches the advice I received on tenouchi back in February, but as usual, old habits are hard to break! In another explanation we were told that the three lower fingers of the left hand (三指 sanshin) stay together as one unit and merely touch the bow.
- Hineri with the right is accomplished by moving the right elbow, not by twisting the right wrist or hand. Indeed if you try this, raising the right elbow at daisan, you can see that it has this effect. One function of the hikae, the (usually) hardened portion covering the inside of the wrist on the yukake is in fact to bind the hand, wrist, and forearm so that they move as a unit without requiring any use of force by the muscles in the wrist or hand. [On return from Nagoya my teacher also said I had the arrow too far away at daisan, and reiterated the usual advice to have it within about a fist’s distance from your head]
- Raising the right at daisan also necessitates raising the left hand in order to keep the arrow level. This is also where (for me) the bow tended to become disengaged from the root of the little finger. Enomoto-sensei would forcefully turn and squeeze my hand so that the two were back in contact, but I’m not sure how to manage that without using a lot of force. It’s something I need to research.
- Yugaeri is created by the twisting action of the nigirikawa against the skin between the left thumb and forefinger. This 虎口 is often translated literally as “the tiger’s mouth,” and indeed that is what the kanji literally say, but the meaning is “the most important point,” or “the vital point.” Usami-sensei likened the twisting action to shibori, the action of wringing out a wet cloth.
- Draw with the arms, keeping the left shoulder down.
- Maintain dozukuri and the sanju-jumonji, since I have a tendency to twist my torso, which again seems to be part of that whole raising of the left shoulder. I think that this twisting, plus the left shoulder plus the lifting of my head are all consequences of essentially bracing myself to draw a bow that is too strong for my arm muscles. So the first order of business right now is to use the weaker bow while trying to build arm strength and use the proper muscles during hikiwake.
- Make sure the arrow does not sink below the kuchiwari line of the mouth during tsumeai. What I think was happening was that I was straining too much and slowly pulling the right side of the arrow down (the left doesn’t change because you can see it). Naturally this makes the arrows fly high, which was typical of misses early in the seminar.
- Some additional advice was to keep the left hand still, as if shooting a pistol. Don’t let it move left/right or up/down at the release.
I’m still deciphering my notes, but some additional general points applicable to everyone were:
- In hikiwake you draw the bow with your arms alone (not using your shoulders). Once you have drawn the bow then you expand left/right using the shoulders and elbows.
- Kai is not something you think about or do. Rather, it’s something that someone watching you can see. This is important because, as noted before, if you think, “Now I am at kai” you will relax the tension in your body (yurumu) and that will ruin your shooting. Instead, it’s better to think of just hikiwake to infinity, left and right.
- Likewise hanare, we were told, is a phenomenon, not a conscious action. Somewhere along the way it will happen, and you just have to trust in that. I find this hard at times, especially when my mind gets in the way, and ultimately this is what caused my otoya to go wrong in the shinsa. But challenges like this are what make kyudo interesting!