Time is ticking down on the Shinsa. I have been putting in a fair amount of work at the Kyudojo. As in everyday for the most part, I have been the last to leave a couple of times. I had accepted that I was not going to pass with my hitting as it was. However I was going to do my best. As I said last time a couple of Sensei had given me pointers, I worked on them still I was not there. The other day the head of our local Renmei was in. I had not seen him in a while. He said he wanted to se my kimono drill/work. I gulped and said Hai, I have been practicing and motioned through the routine. Not good enough he wanted to watch me. Ok, I set at it. He picked it apart, a good thing, but disheartening even more than I was. Still I took it all in. The Kaicho, said relax, I said yes, step by step. He said Hai!
I spent the rest of the evening recalling the corrections.
“Pass or Pass not, win you will”
This is what another Sensei came up with a Yoda like quote after I told him, “Even if I did not pass I would still be a winner”. “pass or no pass or will not lose”. I would gain experience, and make advancements in my “form”. The thing is though, the mind, how does one set it. If one believes you write your own story then to just expecting to fail, could mean that you will. On the other hand if you set your mind to win, feel it, form it, you will…So some say. Dreams start in the mind, we make our own reality. Quantum physics say this.
However If it does not happen then one is sad, there is suffering. If one setups the mind that you will lose, there is no disappointment, when you do. However if you do not, then there is great joy, one feels lucky, blessed, whatever.
So the state of Mu is best, non-attachment to the outcome, the reward. There, is that Taoist thing about the archer shooting for the prize…
When an archer is shooting for nothing he has all his skill.
If he shoots for a brass buckle he is already nervous.
If he shoots for a prize of gold
he goes blind
or sees two targets
– he is out of his mind!
His skill has not changed. But the prize
divides him. He cares.
He thinks more of winning than of shooting
and the need to win
drains him of power…Chuang Tzu
So this Shinsa (Kyudo for that matter) is not just a physical thing, beside having to have a written test, there is one’s mind to deal with. I had a friend go to the Tokyo TaiKai, his mind was SET he would win and show everyone how good his skills where. He had confidence. He lost! Greatly, big disappointment. Me on the other had no thought I would win. I had no attachment to it, I just shot and ended up in the finals. Big shock, big pleasure. The point, hmmm, perhaps just luck, was with me, but I was not disappointed. On the other hand with my first San-dan shinsa, I did not really expect to pass and did not. Some disappointment but easy to roll with. The second, Sandan Shinsa that was a really uncertain one going into it. That was really just being in each moment, much more focused than Tokyo, but a small hope of sucess, but not really attachment to “passing”, hopeful, but not attached, as my hit rate was not as I wanted for that challenge. I was more in a state of yeah, I can possibly do this, with some luck, not yeah, I can do this, I have confidence!
Ok, so what am I babbling about. The mind, There are some who have a cow at the mention of Zen and Kyudo. They are so lost in attachment to what they think of as “Zen” they do not see but a small point, a small meaning of Zen. However the practice of stilling the mind is critical in Kyudo, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Aikido, Judo, Karate and that is one aspect of Zen. One can put a label or not on it. The label is just a way to refer to a tool for use. Like hey Joe pass me that pipe wrench,, rather than Hey Joe pass me that “thingamajig”, some tool are specialized and some like slip joint piers can have several uses. A road from point A to point B, will get you there no matter if it is paved, has trees, lights, dancing-girls, yogurt stands, or nothing. There is a Taoist saying about the usefulness of a cup is in it’s emptiness/ hollowness. So whether one calls the usefulness of Zen training in Kyudo; Zen, mindfulness, stillness, emptiness, or george it is the function that is useful, the name means nothing.
Ok, yeah, I am really digressing here. The mind, controlling the mind and non-attachment to the end , only the fullness of each step. That is what I am about right now, or at least trying to be. So yeah, I have been doing this fairly intensive practice. Not doing the 100 arrows thing, but more so the each shot matters thing.
Today I had a break through. I sort of had it last night when it dawned on me what I was doing wrong, hmm more the what(s) things as in plural I was doing wrong. Did not get a chance to test my theory as I was burnt out yesterday by the time enlightenment arrived, and crashed the party.
Today after the Kaicho and others left and he had taken care of a few other questions I had and I got in some practice on non-shooting stuff, the Dojo was mine. It was great. Over the last few days my shooting average was at a low of 16-20%. Today it was the highest up to 58%. Whoohoo. I had a break through for real. I tested my ideas and they worked. It was not big things, but small things connected that made a difference. Several of the things Watase Sensei had said clicked. Expanding the chest I said to a statement of his. Yes but really more Kokoro he said. Yamashita Sensei had said straighten the back more, arch The Kacho had said. Do not your stop arm Watase Sensei said go back with it, not back and over like I had been but directly back. Do not use the muscles in the forearm, Watashi Sensei said the muscles under the arm, but not too much Yamashita Sensei had said. You are pushing too much causing your left hand to open. Today it all clicked! I felt the correct muscles, remembering feeling Sato Sempai triceps, not turning /rotating my left arm so much put the muscles in place just enough to give me support from dropping my arm, but still enough to rotate the Yumi, but not too much to cause little finger to loosen in Hanare. I could feel the push from both elbows, not from the elbow and the hand/forearm. Even after I stop for a lunch break my hit average stayed high. Sweet. I have a week to polish this and for the first time I feel I have a chance.
So within Joy there is sadness, with this new hope comes fear of loss and the greater need to release the mind even more so from attachment to the end and be only in the moment, Zen training. What a circle, kind of like this post.