It started like this:
There are periodically discussions here that touch on the interplay of kyudo, meditation, competition and testing. At the risk of offending people, I’d like to start another such conversation. Hopefully it will not break down into accusations and insults. I’ll start with a few of my own thoughts, but I’m open to challenge on any of them.
Mastering kyudo takes serious study and practice. A person practicing it is constantly experimenting and examining results of their efforts. Each shot is evaluated as it happens, and techniques are constantly being polished and adjusted. Without this, kyudo cannot be mastered. Meditation, on the other hand, (and I’m less experienced with this, so feel free to correct me) requires the elimination of such distractions. In sitting meditation a person needs to be able to maintain a stable position comfortably enough that the mind is freed from shifting and adjusting an uncomfortable body. Moving meditation likewise needs to be able to perform the movements without discomfort or distraction. To me, therefore, it seems that someone using kyudo as meditation must either use a simplified kyudo-like kata without attempting to master kyudo, or must have thoroughly mastered kyudo to the point where it is a non-conscious process. I would love to be able to blend kyudo and meditation, but have come nowhere close enough to mastering kyudo to do it non-consciously, and would not want to perform “simplified kyudo-like kata” for fear of ingraining bad habits in my form. Is there a happy medium between these two situations?
I see both testing and competition as ways of keeping kyudo “real”. Periodic reviews and evaluations (tests or shinsa) by qualified masters of the art are the best means of making sure you aren’t following a “daydream” version of the art – of staying on track. And competition can verify the effectiveness of the techniques in the closest thing that is left to us of the martial aspect of the martial art. Without something to measure against we don’t know the extent of the progress we are truly making. And measuring only by whether it feels good doesn’t tell us whether our skills are improving or our imaginations and delusions are growing.
The responses went on and off topic. It did give me something to think on.
Maybe one day my opinion will matter. For now it just the musing of an old Martial Art Hippie. My post:
This was/is an interesting thread. Even the many parts that were not on topic. I would like to interject my thoughts. I notice a fair amount of discord based on the interpretation of words. It is somewhat like getting lost on the finger-pointing to the moon, when speaking of its beauty ( the moon). I feel what Hartman Sensei had to say about basically comes down to what you want to think of what you are doing, makes sense.
An example are the words of Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh “Spiritual practice is not just, sitting and meditating. Practice is looking, touching, thinking, eating and talking. Every act, every breath, every step can be practice and help us become more ourselves. ” Is this not part of the goal of Kyudo to bring out the Shin Zen Bi within us.
On there being a separation of Kyudo and Meditation. You stated you have not reach a level where you can do both Kyudo and meditate At the same time. Perhaps a definition of meditation would have helped clarify things. Mindfulness is called meditation, Zen has a meaning of meditation, focus has the meaning. Reflection is also meditation. There are many forms/ ways, styles of meditation. Some will work whilst doing Kyudo, some need to be done before or afterward.
It is understood in Tai Chi Chuan and Shaolin Arts you can do the outside (external face) of a form/kata or one can learn ( practice) the inner workers and expresses it externally. Just doing the form without inner understanding is the lower , smaller, public face of the art. In doing the art “mindfully” one has to focus/ be mindful/ meditate on each move. Also make each move, one move (flow, no separation). Each move is an entity, yet it is still part of the whole. The breath must be in harmony with each move, to give it power, flow, life. One must eliminate outside distractions, yet remain alert/aware of them, but not attached. Each Movement must be done with full awareness ( position, use, power, angles, balance), but not attached to as disrupt the flow to the next. …Moving meditation
There was a statement made concerning totally emptying the mind. Stopping thoughts. A Zen master once asked me ” can you do that? I can not, the mind is designed to think. You can not stop that, but you can stop being attached to the thoughts. I find solutions to issues when I meditate.” It is a time to expand ones thoughts, examine one’s actions.
In my “style” of Shaolin Chan (Zen meditation) we sit, we learn/practice to go beyond the discomfort of “just” sitting. Removing external distractions, by going inward. We focus on our breath, and certain “points” of the body. In these points we focus on finding energy /Ki, this Ki is “sent” to other location, for “use”. This is not just sitting to empty one mind of thoughts, there is a purpose…sitting Meditation. This same state of mind, awareness, is present in Motion Chan, Moving meditation ( Kung Fu, Tai Chi Chuan), Kyudo.
It is said in some schools of Zen. If you sit with the purpose of becoming enlightened you are moving more away from it. Others say, if you sit without the purpose of reaching enlightenment you are just doing “form”. So many opinions.
There is within the Chinese “arts” a standing meditation. Holding a posture, breathing, focusing on where the breath and Ki is traveling. It looks like one is doing now nothing however internally one is quite busy. The mind is calm, but active and alert. Is the body position correct, balanced, hand height correct, head, spine aligned, stretched, breath. Hmm maybe I should relax this muscle more…
There is also meditation that involves chanting, not practical for doing Kyudo, but my point is there are different ways of meditation. Depending on the meaning ( form of practice) one wants to place on the word would determine if one can do it with Kyudo, or as part of Kyudo training practice. The Kyuhon itself speaks of Kyudo and Standing Zen. It really to me all comes down to the person who is doing it interpretation, or “heart”, intent. Just my opinion from a beginner level of Kyudo and longer term meditator.
Meditating/ focusing /mindful on the correct Ashibumi, Dosukuri, Tenouchi, holding kiza, ignoring the crowds, voices , judges, but alert to your place in line and group timing. Is to me a form of Meditation , there is no duality. However it is not the Soto Zen style Japanese way of sitting in front of a wall to non-attach to thoughts meditation. This “Zen” ( meditation) is not Kyudo, or practical for use doing Kyudo. One of my Kung Fu teachers said, one should not have to stare at a wall to have, be in a meditative state.