Kyudo Notebook: #1 Kaizoe Notes

Yesterday I had my debut as #1 kaizoe. Until now I hadn’t been volunteered for this because I’m a bit bigger than most of the ite doing the shooting, and the kaizoe are supposed to be in the background, not attracting attention. Apparently someone had a back injury and the job was mine!

These are some notes for my own future reference. Most of the details are either written in the 「介添え」book, from the ANKF, or implicit in the photographs, so these are just things that I want to emphasize/remember, plus a few things of my own. Since in my case the ite was a woman I’ll refer to “her” rather than repeating “him/her” all the time, but except in a few details (hadanugi/ire versus tasuki) it doesn’t matter.

  • If you can, practice with the ite and #2 kaizoe ahead of time to get the positions right. In particular decide on the spot where you will exchange the arrows with #2 kaizoe. In most cases this is obvious but it’s good to verify.
  • Before entering the shajo for the yawatashi itself, the ite and the two kaizoe will sit in seiza and exchange a bow (rei). As #1 kaizoe it is also your responsibility to check the ite‘s clothing and equipment to make sure all is well. In particular if the ite has a second bow (kae-yumi) ready (in case the string breaks when shooting the haya) you need to know where that is so you can get it quickly and without error.
  • When walking in, you’ll be last (the ite is first, then #2 kaizoe, then you). Even before you enter, fix your attention on the lower back of the ite, and as you step forward after the entering bow (yu), match the movement of your feet to those of the ite.
  • During the bow (rei) in seiza at the sadamenoza, keep your elbows in, rather than extended outward as you might otherwise do for sharei, etc. You’re trying to be inconspicuous.
  • When the ite turns right from the sademenoza in order to walk to a line behind, and parallel to, the honza, stay focused on her, but don’t start walking until she turns left to walk behind the honza. [possible correction here later]
  • Follow behind the ite, walking diagonally first to a location slightlyfarther behind (relative to the honza) the place where she turned. Then make a left turn onto a path that is parallel to, but further back from, the path she is walking.
  • Choose the place where you will sit in kiza ahead of time so you’ll know, but stay focused on the ite. Sometimes mistakes occur here.
  • When you sit down in kiza (at the same time that the ite sits), orient your body so you’re faced toward a point somewhat to the left and behind the ite. The idea here is that you will be able to walk straight from where you are now to that point where you will turn and sink into kiza behind the ite when helping with hadanugi/tasuki-sabaki. A good way to get a visual sense of this is to watch this video of Satake Mariko-sensei (hanshi, 8-dan), as #1 kaizoe. That video is also an excellent tutorial for how to perform the role when the ite is a woman.
  • In addition, at this point, memorize a landmark beyond the ite that is on a straight line joining the location (a) where you are sitting, (b) the spot where you will turn in order to be directly behind the ite to help with hadanugi/tasuki-sabaki, and the landmark itself. You will need this landmark later.
  • When the ite is a man, you stand and move behind him after he finishes the three moves with the left sleeve, then turns his hand into the left sleeve. When the ite is a woman, you stand and move behind her when she grasps the bottom of her right sleeve.
  • What you will see in the video is that Satake-sensei bows forward when she reaches the ite. That gave me the idea of doing the same, which allowed me to hide somewhat, and not appear to be looming over the ite.
  • Sometimes things go wrong here, which is why you’re there. When the ite is a man, the most common thing seems to be that he can’t find the edge of the left sleeve after removing it from his arm and shoulder. So you help with that. When the ite is a woman, what can happen is that the tasuki gets twisted, or worse, caught on the collar of her kimono, so you fix that. It’s a delicate question… whether to disturb the ite by “helping” or just let things be. I found it helpful to ask how much help the ite wanted if something like that went wrong. People differ. One point when the ite is a woman is that, if the bow/arrows fall, she will pick them up. That’s not your job.
  • When the ite is a man, you return to your previous kiza spot (walking backwards) after he tucks the edge of the left sleeve under the ties of the hakama (before pulling it back to his left hip). When the ite is a woman, you return to that spot (walking backwards) after she has brought the tasuki around both shoulders and is starting to tie it.
  • This walking backwards is when you need the landmark. If you walk backwards along that same line: the line joining the landmark and the spot where you turned to approach from directly behind the ite, that same line will take you back to the location where you started. Maybe some people have an innate sense of that, or if they’re at their home dojo, simply know, but I found this method very helpful.
  • So then there is the shooting. As the ite moves forward and backward, you’ll need to shift your position so that you are facing her directly, maintaining your focus on her back, synchronizing your breathing with hers, using your energy to work together.
  • Things can go wrong. Arrows dropped. Strings broken. In one case I remember the ite getting confused and sitting in kiza at the sha-i. Be prepared for anything by recalling that your only goal is to make the ite look as good as possible.
  • There’s a section in the book on handling errors. If the string breaks and the ite prepared a second bow, you go out and get the bow while the ite is picking up the string. Then there is some sleight of hand that has to take place, as you exchange the second bow for the first, as well as the broken string, all done from behind the ite as she sits in kiza. I need to get some instruction on how to do that sleight of hand bit. My guess at that point is that you would take the bow and the string out of the shajo, to the place where the second bow was kept, since you obviously won’t be able to carry them with you later. I need to verify all this.
  • Likewise if an arrow is dropped, the ite will pick it up, bow (yu) in apology, and move back to the honza. At that point you move forward to take the dropped arrow, and bring it back with you to your chosen spot. Then you lay it down at your right side. Don’t forget to take it with you later!
  • Anyway, if all goes well, there were no errors, and the two arrows were wonderful, the ite returns to the honza, then turns to face wakishomen. If the ite is a man, you stand up and move behind him, as before, this time to help with hada-ire. Getting the left arm back in the sleeve is complicated and lots can go wrong. It’s your job to figure out how to fix it. Usually what you need to do is reach around and pull the left front of the kimono and the underlying juban forward, creating a space so that the ite can insert his elbow. Another thing that can happen is that the ite gets his arm partway in the sleeve but the juban is tangled and he’s unable to get it all the way out. In such a case you reach into the sleeve from the outside, find the ite‘s hand, and pull it out, all the while trying to stay inconspicuous. It’s quite a challenge! In addition, sometimes the ite‘s kimono gets shifted around at the back, so you may want to adjust the kimono so that the kamon is centered in back, and the collar is correct. Great fun! Once hada-ire is finished, you stand, back up three paces (while bowing forward toward the ite) then turn and walk to the place where you’ll exchange the arrows with #2 kaizoe.
  • If the ite is a woman, you have it easy because there is nothing to do. Nothing much can go wrong, or if it does (like the bow/arrows falling, or some trouble with the tasuki), she’ll handle it, so you don’t approach her at all, but just stay where you are, in kiza + shiken-rei. When she finishes untying the tasuki and begins to pull it over her left shoulder to fold it up, you stand and walk to the point where you will exchange the arrows with #2 kaizoe. Check the video above to get a better sense of that.
  • So then you’re off! You and #2 kaizoe arrive at the exchange spot. You lead the sitting down. Take a half step back with your right foot and sink into kiza. #2 kaizoe will sink down into sonkyo.
  • After receiving the arrows from #2 kaizoe, bring them to your body at about waist level then tug back a bit with the right hand (through the encircling grip of your left hand). That is to say, you’re using the right hand to pull the arrow tips back toward the edge of the left hand (watch the video very closely). That will allow your right hand to come forward to the itsukebushi, where you need them to be for the rest of the procedure (regardless of whether the ite shoots in reishakei or busshakei).
  • There is no need (and indeed it’s quite difficult) to place the arrows between your body and the right kimono sleeve. Try to keep your movements small and to a minimum.
  • After the bow (yu) from the #2 kaizoe, your rise up on your knees and execute a right hirakiashi turn. Then without sinking down (that is, while staying upright on your knees) stand by extending your right foot forward on a line to a spot about 2 meters directly behind the ite (who is at this point, sitting at the honza, facing the targets). Walk to that spot at a brisk pace (the ite is waiting), turn to face directly behind the ite, and sit in kiza about 1.8 meters behind her.
  • Now comes that set of moves that you really need to see. Check the photographs in the book and (better) the video, but just for the sake of making notes, do these steps without unnecessary delay:
  • (1) The following three things are done simultaneously: (a) step forward with your left foot at an angle , so that you will be facing to the right of the ite, (b) extend your right hand so that the arrows are vertical (pointing up) and directly in front of you, with your right hand, elbow, and arm level at about the height of your chin, (c) use the left hand to grasp the arrows at about the nonakabushi.
  • (2) The following two things are done simultaneously: (a) slide your right knee forward until it matches up with the left, (b) slid the left hand down to a point just above the fletchings. Keep the arrows vertical.
  • (3) The following two things are done simultaneously: (a) execute a hirakiashi turn to the left so that you are sitting behind and to the right of the ite, with your back turned to the kamiza, (b) bring your left hand down to the hazu of the arrows. The arrows are still vertical.
  • (4) Tilt the arrows clockwise so that they are pointed along a line that passes just to the right of the ite‘s obi (on her right side), then insert the arrows, pressing them lightly against the obi (so the ite can feel them), then shift them down so that she can grasp them. If the ite shoots reishakei, you’ll need to do this so that the arrows extend beyond her hand and the itsukebushi is near her index finger. If she shoots busshakei, you’ll insert the tips so that they will be concealed by her hand. The book recommends pulling the arrows slightly to verify that she’s grasped them firmly. Note that the book recommends that this step be done while you are bringing the left foot around to join the right, but in practice it looks to me (see the video) like people don’t usually to do that. Sometimes the two arrows separate a bit at the fletchings, and I’ve seen kaizoe correct that by pushing them together.
  • (5) Now do shift yourself back so that you’re directly behind the ite by sliding along the floor, leading with your left leg (see the video), stand, take three steps back while in a bow (yu) orientation, then straighten up and continue walking straight backward until you reach an intersection with the path you followed when entering (that is, further away from the honza than the path that the ite will walk), and go briskly to the sadamenoza. Sometimes if the ite is an older person, or who otherwise might have trouble getting up from kiza, the #1 kaizoe will wait to make sure that the ite is safely standing before turning in order to walk back to the sadamenoza. It depends on the situation.
  • Once at the sadamenoza, you go through the bows (rei) with the ite, stand, take one step back with the right foot, then while maintaining focus on the ite‘s back, turn in place slightly to follow her progress toward the exit. Once she turns for her closing bow, you start moving toward the exit as well, taking tiny little steps but never stopping. Once the ite has exited, you do the usual exit bow (yu) and you’re done!
  • Afterwards you’ll sit in seiza with the ite and #2 kaizoe and mutually thank each other. You’ve lived to tell the tale!

I asked my teacher for comments on things I’d done wrong, and mainly he just said that my movements weren’t smooth, but that like anything else it comes with practice. I also think that, because it was my first time for this, I was focused more on what I needed to do than I was on the ite, so perhaps like an amateur Noh performance, the energy was also lacking.

There are a few points where I’m not entirely certain and I will try to remedy those. The benefit of writing all this down is precisely that the missing knowledge becomes clear to see, so if anyone has corrections or practical tips, please let me know!

PS For the timing when the ite is a man, see this video of Yoshimoto-sensei (hanshi, 9-dan) as ite, with Usami-sensei (hanshi, 8-dan) as #1 kaizoe and Kawamura-sensei (hanshi, 8-dan) as #2 kaizoe. For #2 kaizoe I recorded some earlier notes here and here.

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3 Responses to Kyudo Notebook: #1 Kaizoe Notes

  1. Zacky Chan says:

    WOW! Excellent notes. To put all of these little details out like this in such an accurate listing is remarkable. Again, WOW. Going through your notes I found a couple things to comment on, so here they are:
    -When sitting in kiza while watching the itte with your hands down towards the floor, there’s a couple things I mess up in the posture, which is having my thumb stick out too far and my back slightly slouching. To fix these, I keep my thumb straight and glued to the side of my hand with the tip of the thumb touching near the first joint on the pointer finger, and then for sitting with a straight back I stick my butt out and slightly arch my back. This is what it feels like, but what you really achieve is a straight back. Hard to feel, easy to see when someone is slouching.
    -When walking backwards to kiza after helping the itte before they shoot, it isn’t mentioned in your notes but I remember learning that we should also be slightly bowed forward when sliding back. This is what I remember learning, but maybe I’m wrong.
    -When going to the dai ni kaizoe and sitting down together, the dai ichi kaizoe bows first before receiving the arrows. Maybe you mentioned this and I missed it.
    -As for all the tricky parts in returning to the arrows to the itte, one thing I thought was that the dai ichi kaizoe should definitely fix the arrows if they come apart. I’ve seen lots of times where the dai ichi kaizoe doesn’t fix them, and I think it looks bad and reflects a lack of attention to making the itte look good, but maybe that’s just me.
    -After returning to the line with the dai ni kaizoe waiting for the itte, one should be watching the itte the whole time as they return, bow, and eventually leave. Might not seem like a big detail, but it’s easy to see from the outside whether the dai ichi kaizoe is paying attention enough or not.
    -Lastly, when everyone is heading out, one must wait for the itte to leave first while also continuing moving, even though there is no space to do so! Like you wrote. One technique to make you look like you’re moving when you’re actually not is to slightly lift up the feet like you’re stamping where you stand. Feels funny, but looks a lot better than just standing there.
    -Lastly lastly, when doing the usual yuu bow at the end before you leave, be sure to return your spine to a straight position before turning to leave, instead of blending the bow and leaving together. This is basic and used in all times exiting the shooting area, but for some reason a lot of people seem to forget to do this in kaizoe.
    So yeah, these are the notes from my thoughts. Maybe some are different from what you learned, and maybe I’ve distorted what I learned by lack of practice with three people, but I hope it can help to fill any gaps you may have missed. Again, what a remarkable account of the dai ichi kaizoe. Have you done a dai ni kaizoe post before like this? If so, please repost. If not … onegaishimasu yo!

  2. karamatsu says:

    Thanks for your comments and especially the tips for how to manage certain moves, like keeping the back straight while sitting in kiza. That was a challenge. I agree with everything you’ve written. In fact I’m sure there are a lot of missing points that could be filled in! My main aim was jot down the things I needed to remember, and especially to capture some of the details when the ite is a woman. It’s hard to find much information about that situation.
    You’re right about bowing forward slightly (a sign of humility) when withdrawing (backwards) from the ite after helping with hadanugi/tasuki-sabaki. You walk that way for the first three steps, then straighten up. And I agree about fixing the arrows. Those are the kinds of details that can matter.
    I did write some notes about dai-ni kaizoe. I’m not sure if or how this link will show up in a comment but they’re mostly here: https://karamatsu.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/kyudo-notebook-nagoya-2014-2-kaizoe-notes/
    Let me know if anything catches your eye there, as well! Thanks!

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