It’s been a while! A lot has been going on, but no point in complaining about it! Instead I want to catch up. I’ve been making some modifications here and there to the way I shoot, and in general seem to be finding a way slowly forward. It began by paying more attention to the diagrams in the back of the Kyudo Kyohon. Sometimes people don’t pay much attention to these, but they’re packed with useful information that isn’t in the main body of the text. And then on top of that, the diagrams themselves are worth studying. At the Asia-Oceania seminar this past Spring, one of the teachers told us they were drawn from life (the model was a hanshi, I think, but I’ve forgotten his name) by an artist who specializes in Buddhist art, so every line on the diagram, where it shows muscles, etc, has meaning. They’re not just there for decoration. Look. for example, at the left arm in kai, and then again in zanshin. See the difference?
The one that initially caught my eye, though, had to do with the aim. Notice how at daisan, the kyudoka is sighting the target with his right eye. This implies that the arms have to be held quite far out, and not as high as I’d originally been doing. So I decided to try that. In addition I’ve been putting more effort into keeping the arrow parallel to the line of my shoulders at all times, keeping shoulders down, twisting left and right elbows just slightly inward at daisan, creating an even draw during hikiwake, maintaining the cross between the left hand and the bow, taking time in kai to let things settle, and most important, breath control and not releasing the arrow on purpose.
All of these remain challenges, but it’s good to have a plan of action, of what to work on. I find in particular that when I’m able to draw the bow evenly in hikiwake, the results are much better than when there is some imbalance, because in the latter case I have to try to fix whatever is out of kilter once I get to kai. Better not to mess things up in the first place! One way I’m working on it is by watching myself in a mirror at the dojo (placed that the sha-i, or by the makiwara), that is, facing forward in hikiwake instead of looking at the target. Then when the draw is just about complete, turning toward the target. Obviously it’s only a temporary thing. The idea is to get used to the feeling. Also in cooperation with a friend S, I’ve been making some video. It’s painful to watch but you can see a lot, especially if the angle is right. I find that photographing from the back (that is, the camera is behind me, photographing my back) is in some ways more informative than photographing from the front, because it’s easier to see the form.
Finally there’s one bit of advice that K-sensei gave me which I find very helpful. He said, “When your shooting feels good, it makes those watching feel good as well.” This seems to run quite deep.
PS Apologies to people who commented while I was away and I didn’t get to approve them or get back until now!