The Way of Kyudo breath
The breathing issue has been on my mind a lot lately when practicing. Breathing is key to life, it is key in playing Shakuhachi, it is key in
doing Chi Gong, TaiJi, sitting Chan/Zen and it also states so in the Kyuhon. In my first Kyudo school breathing was touched on in one class, even then it was on doing “Kiai ” at Hanare and a little about breath when doing Kai. When were told to do two different style then choose which “felt” best. For me it was the breath that matched my Kung Fu/Tai Ji (Tai Chi) breath. Perhaps because I was already trained in that.
When starting practice Chan, we had the same breath as M.A. So it fit. Basic it was low and slow. Expand the navel area “Hara” in inhade, contract on exhale. Because we were sitting, or standing, we did not have any movement to match or think about what so ever. There are other things the mond is dealing with but movement is not one of them. Ok, so basic breath, what is called Buddhist breath. There is a Taoist breath that is pretty much the opposite.
The read some things on breath in Kyudo, the Kyuhon speaks about matching them is to bring harmony to your movement. I figured I must have missed being told what to do in my Renmei based class because I just keep doing what I was doing and no one said anything. The Kyuhon says about inhaling when starting a standing or starting motion. A couple of other bloggers on both side of rank as myself also where seeking fuller answers for their own breath and Kyudo practice.
The other day I was at a night class, I was told more about breath upon entering the dojo floor, when doing Tai Hai. This later prompted me to ask about Uchiokoshi breath through Hanare. The head Sensei was busy, so I asked another Sensei there. He said inhale raising the bow, at top, exhale, go into Daisan inhaling, when complete, exhale, start Hikiwake inhale, when in full Kai hold breath, then it was release breath then ya or release Ya and breath. This was Japanese so did not get it all. Start inhale when lowers arms from Zhanshin…
Ok, I thought ok, I had gotten enough to try, I could feel if something needed timing adjustment when I practiced. Another High ranking Sensei who was introducted to me via: Nogami sensei had told me after Shnsa testing my breath was just as it should be timing wise, not rush, not shollow. It was good. So I had a good sense of my basic need to do, breathing do. With the new Shakuhachi class breath is a current major thought issue.
Right, so I went to Sat class for practice. There were a lot of people there practciing. I was suprised. Once settled in I gave thought to breath amoung the other stuff planned for the afternoon. Yamashita Sensei was there, ( Nogami Sensei’s aquantance) he was watching my shooting as said my grounding was good, however i was dropping my arm on Ya release. He went on to explain to me, my hand and forarm were to tight, the tension should only be in my triceps area and chest rib cage, then grounding out through my base. He should me how relaxed my had should be, this tensio was also causing me to open and close my hand to get “yogari”. He gave me a few visual aids to show me the difference including having me push hand tention and none. Focusing my “power” at the elbow not the hand. Ah I said, ahhh, like Tai Ji! Yes he says. Power and support from here (body to elbow ) not from here ( hand/forearm) . From the hand and forearm cause your hand to drop on Hanare. He gave me a demo, using my hand. ALso the other way, the correct way, my arm did not drop it went forward. Hand should be relaxed.
Great something that will help, more to work on, but the results will be more than worth it. Once I get it. So I had been on and off that morning thinking about asking Sensei about breath. He had a while back gone over breathing with me whilst doing the knocking and yukiokoshi. I was hesitant partly because I did not want conflicting answers, also I felt like I was checking over another’s help. One the other hand… I had though, already gotten a little change, when questioned on the Kaicho’s direction, which turned out to be correct over this Sensei. I overcame that thought after this arm drop and power transfer talk. I asked and demo’d what I was doing. Sort of right he said, and went on to explain the way he did it.
Basically he said was he followed a 7-3 or 70% -30% pattern. Inhale 70% , exhale 30% each movement. Movement and breath he said should be like a smooth wave not a sharp one. Sometimes a small wave, sometimes a short wave. Uchiokoshi, Daisan, Kai…he also said there was not just one Zanshin, but several one at/after each move. It reminded me of what is called “Sung” between each move in Tai Ji. He, Sensei says With this in mind, and doing it, your Tai Hai would look perfect, this is how the masters do it.
I tried it today at my Makiwarajo. 70-30. If felt comfortable. Some small timing adjustments and it felt more natural. A much better feeling of actually doing Nobai and expanding on an Inhale. Kai felt much more steady through Hanare. Next I will try. It at the Dojo…yosh!