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.