So it’s been a while. Much has happened, some of it in the dojo but most of it out in the other corners of the world. The death of a family member, after a long illness, had me thinking about what’s important, work took a turn that is both interesting and exhausting, and summer has come early to Hokkaido, which means (thus far) both a bountiful harvest and a whole lot of weeds. I’m hoping that with the three-day weekend (Monday is Ocean Day) I may be able to catch up. At least after the weeding is done.
The “big” kyudo questions in the back of my mind hark back to the last topic of beauty, but also another theme that runs through the Kyudo Kyohon: sincerity. I’ve been to a few taikai since the last post, experiencing the constant challenge of whether what I do is a spiritual practice or just a game. And then, there are the practical things.
At a taikai last weekend we shot two sets of four arrows. In the first round was something like OXXX, but in the second I remembered something I wanted to try and reversed it, OOOX. Then at Thursdays mini-taikai OX OXOO OOXO. What I remembered was working, and I suspect it’s very similar to the way I was shooting a few years ago, when it seemed that I couldn’t miss. The difference is that this time I know it’s wrong, have an idea of why, and won’t get attached to it. At today’s practice I played around, trying to see if I could fix the form and the spirit while still allowing the hitting. Success there was partial, and I count that as good.
What I was doing (that’s wrong), is (1) bringing the left shoulder forward so that, at kai, I’m almost looking straight down along the arm, with the target in the very centre of the (translucent) bow. I suspect that this provides a degree of stability, similar to that in archery where the grip is offset and the arrow is on the other side of the bow. However… to compensate (2) the right shoulder shifts back (or put another way, I’m twisting my upper body), and it seems impossible to have a good release from the centre. The other thing it does is create that situation that’s been my nemesis for years now, where the left hand bounces to the right at the release. But now at last I understand. With the left shoulder forward that’s all that can happen, because I’m pushing the bow straight forward, and there is no tension to cause it to move to the left. Instead the left hand is pulled to the right by the force of the upper and lower limbs as the bow rotates in the left hand. Physics.
So… today’s work was preventing that twist of the upper body. It’s hard because I can’t yet detect when I’m doing it, so I’m left trying to compensate blindly. And I need to change the aim in a corresponding way, also blind. Nevertheless it’s a step forward, and even this hint at a resolution has me suddenly looking forward to the autumn shinsa season. Unfortunately the next opportunity will be three days after I get back from the US, and am in the depths of jet lag. But maybe it will be a chance to shoot while my brain is still somewhere over the Pacific. Who knows? Maybe I don’t need it. Well, except for the written test.
Anyway, I hope to write more about beauty and sincerity later this weekend, along with some thoughts about the very unusual documentary film, One Shot, One Life. Also congratulations to all who participated in the Paris shinsa. Those who passed, passed. Those who didn’t get the opportunity to reflect and to improve. Everybody wins!