I doubt if the average person who even knows about Kyudo has any idea how difficult it is. Like Tai Chi, it looks easy enough, but only because someone put in a lot of time making the movement look easy, natural. I have been doing this for some 5 yrs now and I am just now understanding, the complexity of the details. There is a saying in Tai Chi Chuan that it takes 10 yrs to understand the basics. When I first heard that I thought whatttt, no way. After 10 yrs, and time with a good teacher, I understood. I am understanding now why it is said until you reach Yon-dan you are still a beginner. Or something like that.
It is not just about hitting, it is about looking good while you are doing it. It is not just about looking good and hitting, but looking good, and hitting with a certain spirit. Looking good, spirit, relaxed, natural body and hitting. There are certain details to looking good, hitting, with a strong spirit, and elegance, with certain details, boundaries, criteria and alignments. It is in fact the essence of the Zen philosophy that everything is connected, everything is codependent on everything else. There is no duality, it is the same in Kyudo. Like a tree, if the roots are poor, tree will be weak.
It is simple enough to pull the bow and arrow and even hit the target perhaps. That does not make it good kyudo. It can be called archery, perhaps even good archery, but not good Kyudo. If the angle of the hand, ether hand is incorrect…No good! One may hit, but that does not make it good Kyudo. When one makes that change to the correct hand angle, the hit no longer occurs. You shift the balance of your body forward, backward or to the side, turn your foot differently, lower the angle of your shoulder. The truth, ( the arrow flight, the hit ) changes.
It is interesting when the Kaicho is directing me as I go onto Kai and once there settle in to his directions, i can feel things click into place and the Truth expresses itself at the moment of release. Before it hits I know it will hit as it is in flight. Repeating that over and over and over is the challange. How was the breath at that moment, how were my arms, balance, hand tension, chest expansion, extension to the mato, extension away from the mato, the counter extension. The yin to the yang punch it would be called in Kung Fu. The counter action in science terms.
There are no same drops of water in the ocean, no same two days, snowflakes, yet one needs that sameness, or as close to it as possible each time one shoots…and still express elegance, refinement.
Shinsa is two days away I am still struggling to express the same truth in my shots. Truth as in everything is as should be, before this moment. Before I make this flower, which is the release of the arrow, the hit, all of the tree is in harmony with itself. My hit percentage has dropped over the last week. I am still adjusting details. I did not push the same on that shot, my arm angle is different, my Hikiwake balance is off, my elbow path is not on the same plane of travel, the angle of my Daisan, Toyrikaki, too much tension in my forearm. I am feeling like a cluts. My confidence going into this is low. Better than my first try at San-dan, but lower than I think it should be. On one hand it is not good to be overconfident, yet under is also not good. There needs to be the middle ground. My determination will not be so focused on “winning” but being “present”, mindful at each step. Having Sanmi-Ittai. Doing my best with spirit and focus. This is the Shaolin Chan way. This is Chan practice. This is also my self pep-talk…