The Kyudo Road

I was in the kyudojo recently and noticed these words in the entryway.  While I don’t know who to attribute the quote to (hopefully I will be able to edit that in later), I think it is worthy of sharing and reminding oneself of as many times as needed along the path.

“Kyudo is a beautiful road.  However, sometimes we forget to just walk, and kyudo becomes something static, achieves a degree of entity and pretends to have an ending in itself.  Any road, whatever fun the travel can be, leads to something different from the road itself, that should be axiomatic.”

From the Heart

“You can only become accomplished at something you truly love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and do them so well, people can’t take their eyes off of you.” –Maya Angelou

I ran across this quote today and my thoughts immediately turned to Kyudo.  It says so much that I couldn’t not share it with you.

In so many of the other martial arts, the goal is to make money, losing focus on the art itself.  I am thankful that this, so far at least, is not the case with Kyudo.  Sensei has a couple of good quotes pertaining to this subject, but I dare not try to quote him without looking back at my notes to assure accuracy.  This was not the part of the quote that captured my interest anyway. It was the rest of the quote that moved me.

I recall one international Kyudo seminar a few years back.  I watched one of the sensei from Japan.  He was, by all appearances, not highly focused on what the group was doing. Though in actuality, I think these guys don’t miss a thing.  He simply wasn’t enthralled by the action going on.  If I understood the translator correctly, he even told the group that they were boring him.

In the past, we have been taught to make our Kyudo flow, to make Kyudo our own. I’m certain that by making Kyudo our own, they did not mean to deviate from the information taught in the Kyohon. Somehow, I felt they meant to put yourself into your art.


I’m going to say, “By relaxing, breathing from the tanden, and truly loving what you are doing.” In this way, the movements will no longer be static or robotic, but should flow, just as a beautiful piece of music that you “know by heart”.  Even if there is a pause in the piece, the energy of the music flows right up to the last note, and even after that last note has been struck, it still resonates, fading slowly.

Music or Kyudo, either done in this way, is not boring.  I think the idiom “to know by heart” may mean more than the dictionary states, “to know a piece perfectly”.  I believe in the case of Kyudo, the meaning could more aptly be “with mushin and from the heart”.  When your body knows the movements, there is no need for mind and one can truly shoot from the heart.  As we polish the heart, we can shoot without fear. We can be expansive and as large as our heart is.

“The way is in the practice.”

“Shoot from the heart!”

I read an interesting blog this morning. In it, the author broaches the subject of spirit. He makes some interesting points. I especially liked the way he tied-up the article.  I had to smile a bit.


From my viewpoint, spirit is one of those concepts I think may never be explained aptly. Much like love, we can talk endlessly about it. We can describe love, or spirit, in many contexts, but there really is no combination of words that come close to describing the feeling. I think what is of importance here is that we are continually willing to amend, re-shape and mold, our philosophy on any subject. Varied perspective is essential to form a more complete concept of the whole, if this is even totally possible with our mental limitations.

I ran across a few words of wisdom my friend Arun Drummond had shared, wherein he stated, “If you are not open to new ideas or experiences, the knowledge that you already posses will remain incomplete and lose any opportunity to grow. To believe that what you know is final is a fallacy and will be challenged until the end of time.”

Let me try to explain through example the thought I’m trying to convey here.  After dating a short while, the man I was to marry down-the-road told me that he loved me.  In response, I said, “I think I love you too.”  Now, he gave me a hard time about that response for many years.  Obviously, it wasn’t very romantic, but it was an honest response.  Being young, I wasn’t sure of exactly what love was at the time, and I knew that. As it turned out, that spark of love would continue to grow and become stronger through the years. That love grew to be a fluid emotion, expansive. It ebbed and flowed, with twists and turns, with knots.  That love endured, even the toughest battles.  My concept of love at the beginning of our relationship and at the end, when he passed away, were totally different.

I believe the same will be true for most of us as we “search” for “spirit”.  (Much as searching for love, we probably would be better off not “searching” for spirit, but rather relaxing and allowing it to happen.)

We are told that we must posses spirit to grow in Kyudo.  It may be that in the beginning we cling to some pre-conceived concept of what we think spirit is.  We have to open our hearts to the concept and allow it to form, allow that “spark” to take hold, to grow, to become entwined with our being.  I’m quite sure that if we are flexible in our thinking and feeling, what we thought as a mudan will certainly be different than that as a godan and so on. We have to let go of what we once thought and allow new input to let us re-shape our beliefs.

As Karamatsu states in his blog, “I always thought I understood what he (Sensei)  meant, but it turns out I only thought I did because I knew the words. It wasn’t until today that something sort of “clicked” inside and I caught… not a glimpse, but more like the reflection, in the window of a passing car, of the shadow of the tracks left in blown snow by a glimpse that had gone by earlier. So… not very substantial, but everybody has to start somewhere, and I guess for me this is it. I hope I can get a whole glimpse before I die.”

Many writers, of both words and music, have made attempts to describe love, as well as spirit, working all around the edges, but never making it quite to the heart. This seems to be another case of “telling”, versus actually “experiencing” something. Sometimes I think that when we are there we will know it. But where is “there”?  As I read somewhere the other day, legendary cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice with such diligence at age 90.  He stated, “Because I think I am making progress.”

Archery on the Squirrely Side

Okay, granted it’s not Kyudo, but mos def  it is  “The Road Less Traveled”.

While I have been absent in many ways for a while (No, it wasn’t jail.), I hope I will be sharing more of my musings here in the upcoming year.

It is my wish that the related article brings a smile and maybe even a little laugh as you read it.  May we take the positive into the new year and have a great future ahead, in Kyudo and in life, for “Kyudo is Life”!

Happy 2014!

Green-Arrow“Just don’t point that at Squirrel Girl, if you know what’s good for you.”


There’s no gunshots or stripper poles, and sadly no alligators guarding a stash, but this story from Washington nonetheless warms the cockles of Yr Wonkette’s cruel dark heart:

A Bellingham man wrapped a baggie of marijuana around an arrow and fired it at the second-floor recreation area of Whatcom County Jail on Tuesday morning, Aug. 27, according to the sheriff’s office.

David Wayne Jordan, 36, later claimed he had been aiming at a squirrel.

“He had no explanation as to why squirrel hunting requires attaching marijuana to an arrow,” said Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo.

Is there anything about this story that is not perfect? Marijuana arrow, insane explanation – squirrel!! – Whatcom County, a suspect whose middle name is Wayne, and “Sheriff Bill Elfo,” who we suspect may be from The Shire.

Fuck it, we are DONE for the day.

We are informed by our Editrix that we are not actually done for the day.

Mr. Jordan’s attempt to play Green Arrow (sorry Hawkeye fans, no love for you here) was seen by a civilian jail employee who noticed Jordan getting out of his pickup with a hunting bow outside of the jail. We’ll just let the Bellingham Herald’s Caleb Hutton describe the event, because he clearly loves his job as much as we love ours right now:

He fired the marijuana missile upward toward a mesh screen near the top of the second-floor, fresh-air exercise area for inmates, Elfo said. If fired at a perfect angle, the sheriff added, an arrow might squeeze through the screen.

But, apparently, this marksman was no Robin Hood. The arrow — along with a few grams of marijuana and a yet-to-be-identified substance — missed its target and landed on the roof. Jordan fled the scene in his Ford, but the civilian employee wrote down its license plate, Elfo said.

The targeted recreation area was empty at the time, so “deputies aren’t sure if the arrow had an intended recipient.”

Jordan had previously been jailed earlier this month on charges of assault and resisting arrest, and had just gotten out last Friday, August 23. He was arrested and booked Tuesday “on suspicion of introducing contraband to a corrections facility” and other charges. In some of the best local reporting we’ve seen in a long time, Hutton notes that Jordan’s “current cell is on the first floor.”

Well played, Mr. Hutton. Well played.


Read more at http://wonkette.com/527076/washington-man-shooting-pot-arrows-at-jail-was-just-trying-to-get-the-squirrels-hiiiiiiigh#mO1OP3zJtRlWBYJI.99

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Breathe in and let yourself soar to the ends of the universe; breathe out and bring the cosmos back inside. Next, breathe up all the fecundity and vibrancy of the earth. Finally, blend the breath of heaven and the breath of earth with your own, becoming the Breath of Life itself. -Morihei Ueshiba

In our discussions of Kyudo, religion, psychology, philosophy and such, a friend once asked me to define spirit. He said that he would then tell me how he defined it. He never did. We don’t talk anymore. I suppose we are still “friends” in some loose sense of the word. We are cordial in passing at seminars, but little more. If this person did nothing else, he gave me cause to investigate other ways of viewing things. I am thankful for that, though I suspect he had little respect for my viewpoint.

I truly think that things happen for a reason. Our paths intersect with others for the purpose of teaching us that which we need to learn. I believe this friend fulfilled this purpose for me and moved on. I hope I left him with some lesson of goodness.

One of the problems we encounter in life is the assumption and expectation that we can define everything and wrap it up neatly in words.

Spirit is one of those areas. We know it when it touches us, but we reach to touch it and it slips through our fingers. It comes and goes, but somehow is ever present.

I relate the word spirit to the word love in certain senses. I’m sure no sane person would argue the existence of love. Love gives us strength, gives us purpose. We search for it. It can seem forever evasive or flowing like wine. Whether it is the pure and simple love of the sunshine, a mother’s love for her child or as complex as two lovers, it warms our heart and fills us completely.

Spirit? Some would say spirit is connected to religion. Some would say it is related to a state of mind. Some may even say it is related to nature. I cannot say that any of these are wrong. I simply cannot say. You will know it when it finds you.

For the naysayers of the world that don’t believe in much of anything beyond the material, I would suggest they begin with consideration that the English word spirit comes from the Latin word spiritus, meaning breath.

As you shoot, consider the importance of breath in your Kyudo.

Sha Soku Jinsei.

In Other’s Words

“Feel the smooth and comfortable motion of drawing the bow, not by thinking about what you are doing, but only by feeling it… feeling every movement of drawing the bow without effort.”–Don Rabska

“Removing attachments, desire, and worldly thoughts towards the target… This disciplining of oneself in this very precious way is connected to Shasoku-Jinsei (Shooting is Life).” –Kyohon p.70

“Let go of thought and bring it not into your Heart,
for you are naked and thought is an icy wind.”–Rumi