Kyudo Notebook: Stability (Again, Maybe, Who knows?)

After a long struggle it seems I’m finding some stability. My teachers continue to emphasize shooting from the heart (kokoro), and I can’t say that I’ve made any progress on that, it seems like various threads are coming together. Some of this is technical and may or may not be of interest to anyone else. I’m just writing this down as a way of organising things in my own mind.

  • When I set my tenouchi, what seems to work is to line up the lower three fingers of the left hand at about the middle of the back of the grip, then slide the thumb forward to wrap around the outer edge of the grup, leaving a gap between the tip of the middle finger and the base of the thumb.
  • Then from uchiokoshi to daisan, slide the thumb forward so that the tip of the middle finger now touches the base of the thumb, and the left wrist is positioned so that it is properly lined up with the bow.
  • Daisan is high but not too high (no other way to say that), with the right hand a fist width or two from the head and the arrow parallel to the line of the shoulders. Or it should be. I still have to make a serious effort not to bring my left shoulder forward. Actually that “high but not too high” is one of my themes these days: moderation.
  • The result of the shooting depends on hikiwake. Although the Kyudo Kyohon says this and I’ve read it many times, it never really sank in until I discovered it for myself. So, yeah… they’re right. Hikiwake has to be smooth, and above all, balanced. What seems to help with this is to draw the bow using only the muscles on the underside of the upper arms, keeping the lower arms relaxed.
  • Likewise the expansion at kai also focuses on those muscles. One interesting aspect is that, because of this, the left elbow naturally rotates clockwise, so it’s not necessary to do it intentionally: something I’d tried on and off. As the expansion occurs along the horizontal line the shoulders are brought closer to the line of the arrow, but again, this is natural, not done intentionally.
  • Need to give this expansion and the exhalation of breath time to settle, yet not stop or go slack. This is where a degree of faith is needed, a decision about what you are doing and why. The easy thing is to release the arrow when you feel things are lined up for a hit, or for a good shot, or whatever. But that, it seems, is not The Way. But faith is not easy. One of my teachers, who should certainly know, said the she always feels a certain amount of  不安 (fu-an, uneasiness) in doing that, because, it seems to me, by doing so you give up control over the outcome. A little more about that in a different post, though from a distinctly Buddhist point of view.
  • What happens when I give in, or overdraw in hikiwake in an effort to “get inside the bow,” is that the arrow goes reliably behind the target, or at best, a hit at 9 o’clock. So one thing I want to do is experiment and see how to correct that if I end up in this situation. I can feel it at kai… I know when things aren’t right… but am not yet sure how to fix it.

And then there’s the mind and the usual delusions. In this case, knowing that my best chance of a successful shot depends on shooting in this way should help, but I need to guard against attachment to hitting. It’s insidious.

This entry was posted in daisan, hikiwake, kai, kyudo, kyudo notebook, mind, tenouchi, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Kyudo Notebook: Stability (Again, Maybe, Who knows?)

  1. Peter Sebastian, Germany says:

    In kyudo mokuroku ( heki ryu insai ha ) there is an answer:
    Chapter 4

    Hiki yo no koto

    Itsutsu ari
    Ya o hiku
    Yumi o hiku
    Sabetsu no koto

  2. i just had my first lesson in kyudo in Osaka at the dojo near Osaka Castle. i live in Osaka half the year. I stumbled upon your blog trying to find some writing on kyudo and geometry. there’s something “sacred” or natural, as in the golden mean, that i think I am feeling and wonder if others have thought about this. i am sure people have. now to find them. i’ve studied aikido and chanoyu and actually find more similarities to chanoyu than to aikido. i’m looking forward to learning from you. any suggestions for this 63 year old beginner. you can get to know me if you like at Thanks.

  3. karamatsu says:

    Hi Bruce,
    The best advice I can think of offhand is to practise as often as you can, trust your teacher, and be willing to follow his/her advice even if it seems wrong. But since you’ve studied these sorts of things before I’m sure you know all about that, and better than me!
    Also have you seen the Kyudo Kyohon book? There are four volumes in Japanese. Only the first has been translated into English but it’s well worth diving into. The relationship to geometry is implicit, I suppose, in the fundamental form of the body (including the limbs and joints), the bow, the arrow, the string… There is much discussion about the various perpendicular lines (crosses) formed by this and that. Check out the diagrams in the back, too. The Japanese edition uses some colour there that is helpful.
    The other thing you might consider, though it might also be too soon, is the international seminar in Nagoya in April. Registration for that is still open and you don’t have to sign up for the test. You could just participate in the seminar. Maybe ask your teacher about it. At the very least it would be a good chance to meet a lot of like-minded people, and Nagoya isn’t so far away.
    Either way I look forward to hearing more about what you find! PS Where do you live the other half of the year?

  4. Robert Kesselring says:

    I could use either sketches or a YouTube video of the tenuche, diasan … sequence of the hand especially the fingers. Some words I cannot visualize the motion for as I lack sufficient experience. But I have observed great differences in teachers in videos or photos, on this detail. I suspect it can be significant to provide balanced control.

  5. karamatsu says:

    I’m sorry about the long delay. The summer is always hyper-busy here, making up for our winter hibernation. I can’t see Youtube right now, but will look for a video the next time I have a chance. In the Kyudo Kyohon it essentially punts and recommends receiving instruction from a teacher, but I recognize that many people don’t have that luxury! Until I (or someone) finds some video, there are some good photographs in volume two of the Kyudo Kyohon that might help. You are right that it has a big influence on balance. Everything in the hassetsu does!

    But because tenouchi is so individual from teacher to teacher, one bit of advice, if you don’t have a teacher there, might be to find video of a teacher whose shooting impresses you, someone you would like to emulate. Make that person “your” (virtual) teacher for a while, and just focus on how he/she shoots.

    Also, do you read Japanese? If so I could recommend a book.

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