The arrow speaks …with no words.

Training, the unending saga…
While I think

Thoughts about this n that…
The arrow speaks the truth
With no words

I have zero confidence for the upcoming shinsa. However as Zacy Chan says on the Black Arrow Blog, it is not about Confidence, it is more about having a calm mind…(maybe)
He lists it as this :

Heijoushin. ( also used in the Kyuhon: a condition of calmness)

But I ( he says) like these less than the understanding I get from seeing the Chinese characters: 平常心。

平 means: flat; level; even; calm; ordinary; common; peaceful.

常 means: ordinary; calm; normal.

心 means: mind; core; heart; soul.

(Definitions found in “Kodansha’s Essential Kanji Dictionary.”)

(Perhaps, at least partly)…Yeah, so a Calm mind is not really my issue. Form is more mine, at least this is what I gather. I had a going over the other day, about my right shoulder rising up too much in Daisan, and Hikiwake and not laying flat when in kai. Those are not mind relaxing issues. Well at least they were not, noW they are as I am so focus on that, my hits , small as they were have gone to hell. So poor form causes inconsistency.
I am reading a book, called “Zen Mind, beginner’s mind“…by Shunryu Suzuki. it is not about Kyudo, but in a way has a lot to do with Kyudo. Form and formless, these are things I was told in Chan study. A bit to complex to go into here on a short blog post. Anyway there are things said in this book that relate directly to Kyudo. A lot of things!! It is just a matter of switching words. Kyudo for Zazen. A great book on Kyudo, that is not about Kyudo. The more I read, the more I relate it to Kyudo.
Another thought, not from from the book, but from my personal teachers…when doing Zen /Chan, if one does Zen to achieve, calmness of mind or enlightenment, you are already set for losing what you seek. Do, practice Zen because you can do Zen, not for any goal. ( I found later this also in this book)
The goal, the prize as said by Chaung Tz is the glitter that blinds the archery and takes away his skill. 

When an archer is shooting for fun
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 Tz

Shoot for fun. Yet the shinsa, the quest for a Dan, the carrot takes away that for “fun” equation. So the goal is over coming the attachment to the goal, yet is not that in itself still a goal? Having “fun” a goal? Shooting with perfect form, a goal? Only being in the moment, focus on each motion, each breath, another attachment? A Zen master once told me, when I asked about stopping all thoughts. He said, can you do that? I can not, it is the nature of the brain, the function to think! I used meditation to clear my thoughts, to see the good and bad of myself…clearly
With that thought it could be the nature of humans to have goals. I tell my students, in doing meditation, thoughts are a natural function of the mind. Do not try to stop them. Threat them like traffic on the street, the cars come and go.

The thing, I figured out later is not to be “attached” to them. Carrying that thought over to Kyudo. Our challenge is not to be “attached” to the outcome of the shot. When it is said “hitting does not matter”, perhaps it is better interpreted as be unattached to hitting. Because if hitting did not matter, why have a target? It is a waste, a distraction from the “fun”. It is said in the Zen book I am reading, sit proper (form ” Outward Appearance…Raiki-Shagi”) the rest will take care of itself. I have read elsewhere, on Kyudo, “be” (my word) within the proper form, the hit will happen.
It is said that meditation (Zen/Chan) practiced in the city is superior to that practiced in the mountains. There is a Zen story about a monk who went into the mountains to study Zen. He achieved what he thought was enlightenment, calm. He was told by his master, go back to the city to test your “enlightenment”. There in the chaos of the city he “lost his cool” .
There is value in Shinsa, Taikai, as with the old monks of Shaolin the “combat” of Shinsa, shows your true mind under pressure. There is purpose to the Shinsa/TaiKai. Perhaps testing, is the wrong state of mind for it. More like self evaluation under pressure.
I am just thinking out loud in written words here, to release my training frustration. There is no one answer. How does one seek to perfect the form, but not be attached to perfecting it. What is the sound of one hand clapping? If a man says his opinion in the woods and no woman can hear him, is he still wrong? 🙂 What came first the chicken or the egg?
There is the thought in Zen practice of doing the “right” thing, having the “right” job, attitude, etc. in Kyudo, one can make the right adjustment and hit the mato, however without the “right “form” attitude, spirit, you are classified as crude, a target “whore” is the common vernacular. You can fail your Shinza With that, you can win (hit) and still lose. This at Hanshi level shinsa is common. It is complex, yet simple, very much a living Zen Koan. Yet there are those who would have a cow at the mention of Kyudo being Zen. Of course these same people have never studied Zen, but that as they say is another story.
So, yeah, back to confidence, I am fairly sure everyone who goes to their Shinsa has some degree of confidence. Right now the only confidence I have about it is I will not lose face and carry myself well. Perhaps that is enough, and when it is my time ( whenever that it) to hit, I will. I have decided that I will attend this Shinsa and do my best with each movement and breath, focus on form, and unattachment. I will continue to train in the full spectrum of my studies for this. Meditation, Kiza, core strength, Tai Chi, reading. I will do this Shinsa and the next which is also at my original school in Sept. Then I will take a training break from the mental pressure of the exam until next spring. The winter shinsa is at another location. Besides it is not like I have a time table to beat. My only time factor really is death, and like the second coming of Christ, but with more certaincy, who knows when that will be.
Next year in spring my original school will again host the shinsa. Or perhaps I will just pass on it and attend the April Nagoya, as it is only my trip of wanting to pass Yondan at Banpaku. Nogami Sensei is beyond caring about such things and no one else cares, it is really just my “trip”. As is for that matter even passing to the next level. Passing levels in Kyudo is a purely personal journey. It is not like you can open a school and make money, like Karate, Judo, etc. Teaching Kyudo really is about sharing the Love. Well, at least that is so teaching as part of the Japan Renmei. Outside of them, “The Black Bamboo Eastern Martial Arts Academy, featuring, Tai Chi Zen Kyudo Kung Fu”. Maybe possible, even for a San-Dan. Hmmmm maybe a move to Spain…
As far as Nagoya seminar, perhaps there is some bit I can pickup from an English lesson Or being able to ask, that will take me over the hump to the next level. Language is another challenge I have, since I am no where near fluent in Japanese, kind of like The German guy from “Zen and the art of Kyudo”…or I really just need more practice time to break through my bad habits. Over at Black Arrow his Japanese is way better than mine and he is also “suffering”. Interesting side note we are both working at the same Dan level. So it is very interesting to read his thoughts at this time.
Anyway there is no simple answer to any of this, perhaps which is why Kyudo is such a challenge, as an internal martial Art. ( more on that thought later)
I asked the head sensei the other day, how long he had been practicing Kyudo, 20 yrs he said. I asked did you, do you practice everyday? No, said he, 2 or 3 times a week. He is Ryokudan Kyoshi. He still misses. He hits more than he misses, but he still misses.
We are as the days
Some are sunny
Some are cloudy
Some it rains
Some the winds sleeps
Some it roars
Sometimes we miss the mato
There is no duality
We are the days


3 thoughts on “The arrow speaks …with no words.

  1. Great post. Totally feel you with the amount of input one can receive from others. From within ourselves we probably have a couple things we want to work on, but then people come from the outside with their own bits and swirl it all around and things get chaotic. I’ve had some of my most frustrating moments getting too many tips from others, but on the other hand, I’d take it over just shooting alone endlessly anytime. Not sure about you, but for me if I practice alone too much I just downward spiral in my distorted ideas of technique. Surely I may rise again on my own, but getting tips from others is like magic, and most likely they’re really helping you. The days I feel like I’m getting too much input I just bite my lip, try as hard as I can and say thank you a million times, cause I know I’ll be lonely again someday and be super thankful for all the help I was given. Sounds like a great practice you have! Cool pics.

    • It is one of the nice things about study in Japan, there is always someone above you willing to help you succeed. There is a true sense of we are in this together.

  2. Another great post. Thanks for the shot out! Good luck with your test. No one ever knows what will happen. Maybe you’ll shoot the best two arrows you ever had in your life. No matter what, I’m just super pumped I got to read great wisdom in this post: “If a man says his opinion in the woods and no woman can hear him, is he still wrong?” haha!

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