Sunday was the day of the Tai Kai, it was also the day of a big typhoon hitting Osaka. As I walked from the train station to the dojo, It was raining pretty hard but not too bad. I wore my boating foul weather gear, so I was prepared.
I arrived at the dojo just a little later than planned but not enough to be an issue, even for Japan. I quickly changed and signed-in and got a feel of what was happening. Today was to be a fairly large Tai Kai. There were three Dojos in attendance, that I knew of at least, so perhaps more. Including the one that would not let me join. That however turned out to be in my favor, as my current Dojo is much better. Anyway, the ones that remembered me spoke and everyone was friendly enough, one person even offered congrats on my passing the San dan exam. I have no idea how he knew.
Now that I have done a Tai Kai before and I am a “local” it is a much more relaxed feeling for me this time around. I am part of a team this time for shooting. There are three of us, a Sensei , a Go-dan and me. Oh boy, I thought, good this is for fun. My group was number 15, so I had plenty of time to do my school chore, photography. I was ready, I had three cameras. One point and shoot on each wrist and my Nikon SLR around my neck. One point and shoot was a floater. I traded it off with another person when I was to be shooting, we were partners.
Things ran smoothly with the shooting, and before I knew it I was up. I was feeling pretty relaxed for the most part. I knew what to do this time around and I was not the lead. That meant , at least in my head less pressure. I would do my best, but having a new Yumi I did not expect, to shake things up and be a force to deal with :-).
My plan was to do the same as I did for the shinsa, only faster. Be fully in the moment. I missed my first three shots, oh well. On my last shot of four in the set, I thought I hit the edge of the mato. However it must have been on the outside and knocked on the rim because I received no point. Oh well I thought. I am not the only one with no hits. I went back to taking pictures, there were two more rounds still to finish.
Whilst I walk around for some candid shots and different angle. It is nice being asked to do this, since I like doing the photos and I can now go places I would not have dared as a simple student. Yeah totally cool! A nice perk of being part of the “Wa”.
I encountered Watase Sensei, he said when I was shooting ( Kyudo ) or walking after shooting, something I did not quite get, but my toes should not cross the line. That is no good, all whilst pointing to the Dojo floor shooting area. Hai, I say and bow, being new to the Tai Kai thing. I figured there was a mark I did not see, know of. I made a mental note to flow my Sempai’s lead and alignment closer on the next round.
Next round comes up. I have a better feel now for the yumi after targeting on the first round. I make the smallest of adjustments and shoot! Bam! A hit. Ok, nice, and let that go. Next shot! bam! Another hit. Too bad I am not testing for Yon-dan. Now I pickup the last two arrows. Breath, focus, relax…another hit! I am pretty shocked now, but did not dwell on it. It was time for my last shot. No thinking, just did the same thing, felt the shot more than saw the shot, much more felt, almost like there was a connection to the mato. Another hit! I get a big round of applause, since I was the only one to hit all four. Whoa I thought that was cool and surprising! Still I had to watch carefully as I exited, I did not want to step on any lines. Perhaps it was the exit I thought to myself about what Sensei had said earlier. The exit location was different from normal because of the Tai Kai setup. I heard something like a thats better remark this time, maybe it was just “hai” or good, as I changed my exit step and location. Later, I had to remember to use the proper polite and humble thank you response to the congratulations. Did I mention I was quite surprised to hit all four.
So now lunch time. Everyone heads out to common area of the Kishiwada gym. The storm rages outside, but we are comfortable. How great it is to have a place like this at a time like this, well most times, just specially today. We are comfortable and dry whilst the other dojos needed to close for the day, as they are exposed to the elements. In the winter we stay fairly warm (more then being outside), on the summer fairly cool (fans), in the rain and Typhoon season we stay dry. The indoor dojo is a treat and a blessing.
After lunch everyone gets ready for the final round. Soon it is my turn. I again watch my step as I enter and leave, following protocol. I try to repeat myself as before, therein lies one battle. Not to attach oneself to the last shots, the last performance, this one is new. Here is where some experience with detachment practice comes in handy. Although there are those that say you can not do Zen/Meditation and Kyudo at the same time. One or the other. Anyway focus on the breath and not the prize, non-attachment. Not shooting for the prize , just doing one’s best at that moment. My next moments were not as good as before. I hit my first shot only. I could hear a disappointment sound, behind me when the second ya missed. Oh well, some days it is sunny, some it is not.
I am busy doing my photo thing when I told I have to do something else, shot again, as part in a final. Ehhhh I say! It is cleared up to say my group is shooting again, because we had one of the highest group score. We have a shoot off with another school for the championship! Once again I am shocked. Oh boy, I think, now some pressure, the casualness is over. We had one shot each, unless it was a tie. Sadly we lost, I missed, my sempai also missed. The sensei in our group hit. Two people hit in the other group. I figured out later looking at the pictures at the line up how we were arranged. There is one upper rank, but below Renshi rank shooter, one low rank, and one Renshi to a group. Anyway, no one was concerned that we did not win. It was all in fun even though there were some small prizes handed out afterward. The name of the Tai Kai is the Goodwill tournament and it was about everyone enjoying the day.
Unlike the other tournament which finished late in the day, this one finished early afternoon. Once everything was cleaned up, packed, and put away to normal, many from all ranks took the opportunity to practice. I needed to catch the train before the next rain started, and since the wind was done, so I headed home.
I was not into the Tai Kai scene back in the states, if I recall correctly they were only held when a seminar was held or one was coming, but here I am enjoying it.
The people, the challenge, the practice, the group fellowship. Interesting I would feel more comfortable here, even not understanding most of the talk…oh well one of those vibe things.