They say that when the student is ready, the master appears. That’s what Seminar A was like for me this year, and I learned the solutions to several problems that I’d been struggling with for years, sometimes even without really knowing it. So although the shinsa didn’t go as well as I would have liked, I’m very happy with how the seminar turned out. In particular:
- It’s crucial not just to keep my left shoulder down, but to keep it relaxed. The reason is that, if you tense the left shoulder it essentially locks up the joints in the left arm, making it impossible to expand into nobiai, and if you can’t expand then the only way for the release to occur is if you force it, which is to say, release the arrow intentionally (a fact that the archer himself may not actually be aware of), after which all sorts of weird recoil action can occur with the left arm, wrist, or hand. I’ve probably seen it all…
- Having the shoulder relaxed/down means I also need to change the apparent position of the target at daisan, as well as opening up more on the right while the bow is still high (in daisan). More practice is needed to get that right, but the yardstick is whether or not the arrow is parallel to both the floor and the line of the shoulders.
- Also related to the left shoulder, I think, is the angle of my head, which needs to be tilted more downward so that I’m looking straight at the target, and complete the “arrow and the neck” cross of the goju-jumonji.
- I need a lighter tenouchi that doesn’t grip the bow at all. It merely receives the power of the bow. Doing this well means leaving enough space for the bow to turn freely at the release, so rather than sliding the thumb forward until the middle finger contacts the pad of the left thumb (something I’d been doing for a while), I need to maintain a gap (or rebuild the grip so that it’s more narrow). I need more practice for this as well because it feels kind of weird/unstable not to grip the bow at all.
- Once in kai, expand along the line of the arrow. And the key: don’t think of kai as the point of maximum power. Instead, zanshin is the point of greatest power, and you expand through kai until zanshin is realized. Hanare happens along the way but you don’t even need to think about that. Part of this also involves finding the correct balance between mind, body, and bow that will allow both a natural release and fulfillment of kai. It seems to involve a delicate balance, but I imagine that, once it’s found, it will seem obvious in retrospect. We’ll see about that…
It’s quite a joy to have these solutions, though looking back, I also realize that none of this is new. I’ve been getting the same advice for a long time and from various different teachers. So what’s become clear to me (or at least clear-er) is that the master who “appears” when you’re ready isn’t a wise old man with a wispy beard. It’s you. You’re the master who won’t appear until you yourself are ready, at which points things you already knew as words will suddenly come to life. Pretty cool.
I have more notes from the seminar, plus some photographs that I want to post, but like many of the people in Seminar A, I managed to catch a cold immediately after the shinsa (apparently the little virus guys were also waiting until I was ready) so I need to sleep that off. In addition I have another post that I’d worked on during the seminar, but due to a coincidence with the Nagoya written test, I need to wait until after Seminar B is over to publish it.
Meanwhile congratulations to all who received new dan levels, and especially to Taiwan’s first renshi. Well done!