Off I went again to the dojo, for another round of practice. Almost there I encountered another kyudo bud. She is also testing on Sunday as is her son. I expressed my feeling of needing more training. She understood and felt the same, just from her look. We gave other the let’s just our best, talk…Ganbarimasho!! She was not going to the dojo so we split and went on our ways.
I have learned a lot this week, maybe not learned but defined, unlearned, corrected things this last couple of weeks, that have made a lot of difference in my arrow flight. So that in itself was worth the effort. I received some small info things I had not heard before and clarity on others. Yeah, the language thing has been holding be back, I am pretty sure. I had to reset my left arm twist, that was an issue for a long time and tenouchi, several times. Anyway
At the dojo I was expecting a large group of people again. It was pleasant to find there was only two others there, one was Yamashita sensei. I felt more at ease about just getting to shoot. I did not put on my full gig, just the top and my Kung fu bottoms which I wore them thinking I may practice afterward.
The few people there did not last long. Others showed up, but all were from our group including the dojo Kaicho. I practiced and felt disappointed but continued. The Kaicho watched me practice and asked which bow I was going to use. I explain my thoughts on the matter. He understood, but did not really advise. He did say something minor I did not get. I was ready to change again to the heavier yumi, however after explaining to him my thoughts and hearing him repeat and give some advice on shooting later about. About I was too tense, fighting the yumi, right hand too tense not using the elbow and the expanding balloon dropping instead of exploding outward, I decided the Bamboo was the way to go. Otherwise I am trying to use power to overcome my lack of skill. I can not relax into my form, as I am fighting the bow. So it is settled, I will be using the Bamboo. It is important that I have the leeway to set my form proper and not fight the form, or bow. Since the shot is all ‘within’ me the better my stance is the better the shot! The bow just moves it where I point. The clearer the point the straighter flies the arrow. He gave me a couple of points that helped toward the end of my shooting day. I also told him I felt I was not ready but I will do my best! He understood.
It is not a matter of trying, there is no try says Yoda, I will just do my best!
Work for “Shin Zen Bi “…Truth, Goodness and Beauty.
On the Shinsa, I am getting into the mind set of : Get it over with and enjoy the rest of the day with my mates and support them and take covert pictures for the HP.
So some book study tonight, practice Shakuhachi, then to bed early. I will have an early start tomorrow. It is nice I have off on Monday to re-center.
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday
When I was a youth there was a car drag strip near our house, sort of. There would be commercials for the races on Sunday. They would all start with Sunday sunday sunday, see blah blah, sunday, Blah vs blah blah, sunday… This reminds me of that.. A big event that mean nothing outside of the small circle.
I was up at 5:30am to make ready for the shinsa. I had sort of planned to get a in a few shots on the Makiwara at home, do some Taiji and of course some meditation, after a decent breakfast. Well some of that happen, the morning Zazen, yup, the breakfast yup, otherwise nope. I practiced my shakuhachi instead, beforehe heading out. I did wear my Kimono, no one cared. They usually and this time also find the yumi most interesting and follow the length of it to the train ceiling. At the station I exit there is some kind of festival going on, with the big mobile cart shrines. I was mostly ignored.
I made my way to the Dojo through the park. I was passed by my friend I saw the other day. She was on her bike in her kimono going to the Dojo also…
Ohaiyo…we say…and she waves as going by…Sh eis wear a yello Kimono and a yellow sun hat. I yell “cute”…she waves again and laughs.
I was going to go to the Dojo first, then figured to come back across the street to practice Taiji in the park. Usually I, we end up waiting for the place to open when this early. She was waiting for me to arrive when I got there. I was surprised to see the place already open I was glad I came as early as I did. We went in and got organized. I am glad she was there she helped me get where we were suppose to be. We picked a spot and waited for the rest of our group to arrive. There were four of us from Kishiwada, and three from the Shrine Dojo, that joined us. I was quite surprised to see two of the people from the shrine I had tested with two years ago the last time I went to Shinsa. They were also still trying for Yondan. Wow. Yeah getting Yondan local in Japan is no joke! I was already feeling better about the Shinsa and my shooting, this made me feel even better. Ok so I figuring now I am not doing so bad. They have been doing Kyudo longer than me and we are all still in the same spot. The last time I saw them at the Shinsa, they both hit! However did not pass for some reason and are still at it. Ok, so yeah even with my poor language skills I am not doing as bad as I thought.
From the looks of the amount of groups setup in the waiting area there were about 6 other dojos with people there testing. I was number #64 in the overall line up. I was supposed to be second in the taihai ( or is it taiji?) group of five. However I got bumped to #1 in my group. Omae. I guess someone did not show, Not good. I was hoping for #3, but two was ok. There is some advantage to going first you set the pace for the group, when shooting. However you are the first one the judges see and are right there in their face when shooting. You have to be together from the start, no time to center while someone else is shooting. Sigh, ok, no matter I thought. I did it in front of Watase sensei the other day with no issues ( mostly) I can do it now! Still everyone who heard I and another got shifted to first ( Omae ) in the group had the same reaction as me, look of dismay and ohhhhh! I would go, deshou!! (“I know, right”)
We all sat around a bit, then things got started. The opening ceremonies got under way. The Judges did a Sharai and one head guy did a solo shot. He missed both shots, I felt even better. The judges did something like a Taikai or something, I did not get to see much/any. I came back from the loo after they started and where I was sitting I could not see, nor really cared. I listened for the hits, there were only a couple, I felt even better.
After that was over, the testing started. The Sandans test was first, the Yondan group ( mine) did the paper test. I am going to guess there was about 40 of us testing yon-dan. Usually they go over stuff give the questions and someone will come over to me, if they have not already and give me the questions in English. This time it did not happen and I had to raise my hand for help and was found a set of question in English. I re-worded some of the answers that were given in the book, from what I could remember. Not a difficult test, if you have a good memory.
We finished and went back to the ready room. After a short while we went to find a spot to have lunch. Overall the gym building was busy that day. There was some other event going on as well. We found some seats on the second floor and chowed, chilled and chatted.
After lunch it was the Yondan testers turn. I found out that my group would go up right after the next break. A couple people from my group went just before that. I watch and listen to them come back, some others also. None seemed pleased with their shooting. Only a few hit even one. I did a few warmup makiwara shots with others, then waited. I was not really nervous or anything, not enough to matter. I was just ready to get it done. When I sat down in the line up I was already “in the moment only stage”. I do not know if it comes from regular meditation or spending time playing live. It has gotten easier to make that shift to that space when doing stuff like this.
I stepped on to the floor and bowed. I was off and in the moment to moment mode. I noticed I was off in the line-up on Honza, the start line. Not good, not a big deal, maybe. The rest of the move through the Kimono manuevers went ok, I kimono did not stick as I thought in the heat. I turn and move up to the shooting line. I misjudge my steps again too short at Shai, and I am off on the line up. I noticed one of the judges had checked our line up on Honza and now again, we are off balance. Not good. But it is what it is now. None of it matters without hits.
I focus and make my moves, shoot and miss. Oh well. Thinking back perhaps I was more unsettled by the errors and being first than I thought. I missed something in my check list and missed. I have no idea where I hit. I can not see the black arrow. In a way that is good I can not adjust off the arrow, my next shot has to be pure in order to hit.
It is just practice now. I make my step off the line up so the next shooter gets a turn being seen clearly. I am doing standing form rather than kneel, so I move. After the fifth shooter I am back for the second shot. I have already not passed so it is just for practice, honor, to test myself further, whatever, the second shot. I run through my list of internal checks, trying to note if I miss something before, experimenting a bit with the time of holding Kai and re-scaning my form I release the arrow and it hits. A direct case of shooting for the prize vs shooting for the shot. So far I am the only one who has hit in this group, that it self is a win. I exit the floor with no issues.
I return to my dojo group, part of them are already in the line up, for the next group shooting round. I joke I hit both, they are excited, then I say just joking! For me it is over, I waited around to hear how the others did. It seems that out of our group I am the only one who hit anything, maybe one other. I did not pass, but I did better than I thought. I had wondered if I would be the only one who did not pass, the others all have better averages. I feel vindicated that I have not wasted my time training.
After all was over one of our school Sensei showed us a video of us shooting. My problem and a couple of others was the dropping of the left arm. For me even when I hit it dropped. It did not look elegant. I believe if I had hit I would have still not passed. A interesting bit I thought of, when I tested for San-dan, I hit both arrows, when I test first for Yondan I hit one and just missed the second. The second time for Yon-dan I missed both, this time I missed one, so Improvement…ne! Maybe next time is the charm!
Well this segment of training is over, there where many good lessons, and somewhat fun time, er…pleasant time is a better word. I won in the sense that I learned things. I have to remember and improve on the lessons for next time. I did not do a lot, hardly any photographs it did not seem the time or place other than a few of our group. I also learned from this about the best use of my Yumis. For events the Bamboo is the way to go, I can can hold Kai and run through the Tateyoko-Jumonji without collapsing Draw. For training the Bamglass gives me a workout, it pushes me. When training pushing is good.
Another thing I have learned, experienced from this is a cultural thing. It is hard to explain. I have notice a difference in the support, the group, the “wa” support from the Japanese vs Americans. In America, say Kyudo, a good example in something like this they say “good Luck”, and it is sort of causal. Japanese will say “do your best” and the sense that is conveyed is different especially if you are feeling unsure and they may even give advice. “Stay cool, relax, fight, go fight win!” An afterwards, the remains. Ok we need more training, ganbrarimasho ! For me this is only my third trial. I have more time than money invested.
Now to decide if I want to go again in Nov, push it or wait until Spring…I am grateful to have that choice.