Kyudo Notebook: Autumn

Autumn has come to Hokkaido, in its way, with beautiful blue skies and golden sunlight, at least when it’s not raining. Time to get ready for winter. But first, we had our regional shinsa over the weekend, with some of the same judges as last time, and I guess they recognized some progress — enough, at least — though still with much to do.

As I was preparing for it I began to think that this is why shinsa are necessary, at least for me. Can I maintain control? Will I let my spirit be thrown into disarray by a piece of paper (either the target or a certificate) and the opinions of others (judges or people watching), or will I maintain that everyday 平常心 mind despite that? Being able to do that in practice sessions is not enough, I think. I need to test myself in a situation where the outcome matters, at least to my ego… then it’s real practice (in the Buddhist sense).

The other thing that I’ve been thinking about, as a consequence of preparing for the written examination, just the big gap that seems to exist between what we do and what we’re asked to discuss on these exams. I’m trying to remember, for example, if I’ve ever heard teachers talk explicitly about truth, goodness, and beauty? These are, the Kyudo Kyohon tells us, the highest goals of this pursuit, and it’s obvious from reading the Kyohon that the old masters who put it together had things to say, things they’d found But how to approach that? The easy answer is just to continue practice, hoping that the meaning will be realized through action. But I don’t know… is that valid, or are we just fooling ourselves?

As usual, I have no answer, but have been intrigued by something Satake Mariko (hanshi, 8-dan) said once at a seminar in the US: “That which is right will always defeat that which is wrong. that which is genuine will always defeat that which is false. Please train so that you can understand this for yourself.”

It seems light-years away from where I am now. Or even where the world is, if you take a glance at the news.

This weekend is the All-Japan tournament at Ise. Maybe if she’s there I’ll try to summon up the courage to ask her what she meant, and how to train in order to understand that. Given the state of humanity and our world, being certain, through experience, that what is right and genuine will always defeat what is wrong and false would be incredible, wouldn’t it? Oh, and if anyone else is going, let me know!

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2 Responses to Kyudo Notebook: Autumn

  1. Malte says:

    I’d be happy if you met her and if we were able to read her response here.

    I always enjoy your writings. I train Kyudo in Germany, heki-ryu, and it’s interesting to see that, despite it too often being claimed that shomen is so different, the basic questions are very much the same. Goes to show that usual cliché thinking struck once again, I guess.

    Anyway, from my limited understanding and from my therefore just as limited heki point of view, we can only train the mind through the precise repetition and refinement of the technique, can’t we? Every other year I realise that I keep coming back to the same old questions, but with different insights. I hope, at least. The mind part – to me – is then the letting go of superfluous thoughts, which are there only to make me screw up the shot again.

    Training for the genuine and right is then – to me – aiming for the highest level of precision that is available to me at the moment and resisting the temptation to try and trick the arrow into the mato, just in order to hit, which involves deliberately making mistakes. An arrow that has been shot that way can not be as precise and as fast as one shot correctly. That way the right would win.

  2. karamatsu says:

    Thanks for your note. Much to ponder there. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to talk to the Satake-sensei. I forgot that there is this very deliberate effort to keep the hanshi doing the judging separate from the participants to avoid any appearance of favouritism, so they stay at different hotels, eat at different places (except lunch), and aren’t supposed to socialize. But I’m going to carry my questions with me to tutorials and other events. Eventually perhaps she will appear!

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