For a while days now I’ve been trying to work out what to say about the death of Uozumi Ichiro-sensei, hanshi 8-dan. He taught the group I was in the first year I went to the Nagoya seminar, and for some reason I felt especially close to him, and had been looking forward to seeing him again in 2016. But now, as with O’Brien-sensei, that door is closed.
He was special, one of those from the old school for whom 射即人生 (sha soku jinsei, kyudo, or literally “shooting,” is life) was a palpable reality.
I remember at Nagoya in 2013, after we’d all gone out and done our initial “show and tell” shinsa houshiki demonstration, and, at least as I remember it, his first words were, “You all move like dead people.”
He meant that we lacked 生気体 (seikitai, vitality or literally “a living body”), but that pithy comment set the tone, and he had lots of similar observations, full of the wisdom of long, hard experience. I think he was one of those people who, as it says in the Kyudo Kyohon, “There are those who with much hardship have exerted themselves in pursuit of the quintessence of Kyudo.” [English, pg. 21, Japanese, pg. 45].
The one other time I saw him besides Nagoya was when we was a judge at the All-Japan Tournament. I particularly remember in 2013, at Ise, I went up to him during one of the breaks, and introduced myself. He didn’t say a word. Just looked straight at me, and I had no idea what to do, so just mumble something like 「これからよろしくお願いします」. Later I was told that the judges aren’t supposed to interact with the participants because it could be interpreted as favoritism, but I was just a spectator/student, so I’m still not sure what that meant, but the feeling of closeness is still there.
He was also a judge at the shinsa last year, so I’m rather ashamed that the last shots he saw me perform left so much to be desired. I’ll have to work harder now. In addition, by way of tribute, I want to post a translation of one of his essays, but his writing is sometimes difficult so I’m still working on that. A goal for later in the year. I’ll miss him.