The stronger the Yumi, the more you relax…

This was my first Sunday going to Kishiwada to practice. I have been there on Sat. Before with a vague hope of seeing Yamashita Sensei, my contact from Nogami Sensei. I have seen him a couple of times but never had a chance to practice with him.


Today I arrived at Kishiwada and as it turns out everyone was leaving. It seemed like I would have the dojo to myself. Totally cool. I wanted to do some video of my form for a Sensei back in the states to review. Someone who I have great respect in his advice. 

As I made ready to practice someone else showed up. So I was not alone, it was just her and myself. I set about practice and filming. I got the film that I wanted done, whilst the other person was still preparing. I was making ready for another round of shooting when another person arrived. I turned and greeting him, as I turn back it registered that he looked familiar, it was Yamashita Sensei. I keep warming up more and we chatted a bit. He said he also rode his bike to the Dojo. I think I must be kind of famous for that as seems like everyone knows. He prepared to shoot and also helped the other person that was there. She was of some rank , but I am not sure what I am guessing at least Yondan, perhaps more likely Godan. Another person came in. The three of them prepared to practice.

In the mean time I went and shot. After I finished, Yamashita Sensei was there and said good job. Sugoi. I was shocked. Usually I have been getting adjust this and that from the Senseis, this was the first good job. I felt like I do have a chance at testing in june after that. I have been putting all the changes given into play so I guess it has paying off. A little later he said relax my shoulders more. That is an on-going challenge for me. But it is improving.
The the big players shot. I watch, even filmed a bit to watch later. Afterward I go gather the ya. When I return Yamashita Sensei says something about shooting. Which in thought was, are you, will you shoot more, again? I say yes a little. Turns out it was do Tai Hai with us. It registered when he said I would be number two in line. Gulp! Ok, I am shooting with the big dogs. It is good training. I like the #2 spot. It is my favorite, so Yosh!
I fell in line and we went out on the floor. I did ok, I do not recall if I hit, I think I did one. I think my hit rate for the day was fifty percent. An improvement. So after the Tai Hai was over I got a correction. I Had reach for the string too soon. I should have held my position until after his Hanare then reached lock in my glove. Ok, not bad, I breathed in relief. He showed me a poster on the wall With the descriptions of who does what at what time. It of course is in Japanese, so I will need to get it translated. Anyway it was helpful. A Sempai had told me there is a Tai Hai training class a couple of times a month, I can see I should go at least a couple of time before testing, to make sure I am compliant with the norm.
Another thing Yamashita Sensei brought up was my grip with the right hand. It was too strong, to tense. The is causing my release not to be as smooth as it should be. He said that my fingers should be much more relaxed. The glove should hold the string and only a twist is needed to lock thing in place. I had been told this before but this time it was clearer the way he explained. He showed me his draw with only the thumb holding. He sad the fingers should be lightly in contact with the glove. More for safety than holding or locking the string. All my upper body should be relaxed throughout Hikiwaki. “The stronger the yumi, the more the body should be relaxed.” Now to me, this is a very “zen-like statement and also goes into Tai Chi. Bruce Lee once said something like, be water, the Tao Te Ching says something about the softness of water overcoming the hardest of rocks. With a small change of image The stronger the Yumi the more you relax fits the same. Or maybe it is just me and my weirdness. I digress…
It is a common mistake to add the arm power to the Yumi power says Sensei. It should only be the Yumi power, and the body expands like a balloon to draw. I watched him, I said ohhh, your base is like a tree root, a Bamboo deep, expanded, your upper body is the branches relaxed, flexible. He said yes! it clicked, One of my favorite saying, is “be the Bamboo in the storm” it is valid even in Kyudo, without a storm just in the act of Shooting.
I think today was my best lesson. Still “Understanding is easy, doing is difficult”. It will take effort to bring it all together, but today I feel like I have a real chance of a break through to the next level.
Yamashita sensei asked me what days I generally come in on. I told him and he said that Watashi Sensei who is usually there on Thursdays when I go, he very good and helpful. I have found that everyone I have encountered there is helpful. Again I am grateful to Nogami Sensei for giving me the introduction to Yamashita Sensei. He is very knowledgeable and helpful. He is the head instructor at the Osaka Castle KyudoJo. He also travels a lot out of the country giving seminars. Like to New Zealand. This is a big deal as the Federation does not send light weights out to these things. I am fortunate to have him as another guide. Yokatta!

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