Archive for May, 2009


* Nanakorobi yaoki
* Stumbling seven times but recovering eight.


* Saru mo ki kara ochiru.
* Even monkeys fall from trees.


* Deru kui wa utareru.
* The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.


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It is amazing to me how much of life in general parallels the teachings in Kyudo. I have read that “Kyudo is Life” (p.9 Kyohon) Sha Soku Jinsei. I really questioned this when I first started kyudo. It didn’t make a bit of sense how shooting an arrow relates to life! But, the Kyohon goes on to say, “we as practitioners of Kyudo, who are expected to master such virtues as discipline, modesty, gentleness, self-restraint, and reflection through the shooting, can realize these qualities in our own life.”

This ties in with page 70 of the Kyohon. Herein it states:

The full draw (kai) is, psychologically speaking, the continuity of an imperturbable spirit. Removing attachments, desire, and worldly thoughts towards the target, at the full draw you must wipe away negativity like doubt, anxiety, faintheartedness, fear, and self-depreciation and make the effort to fulfill the spirit with self-control, composure, endurance, and determination, founded on the right belief. This disciplining of oneself in this very precious way is connected to Shasoku- Jinsei-Shooting is Life.

I was reminded of this today… no attachment, no doubt, no fear!

I hope you will find meaning in this as well.

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A friend asked me recently, “What do you really know? What do you really know for certain?” In trying to answer this and other questions that have come up, I have found that some of the simplest questions have the most difficult answers and in the process, open up more questions.

Now, I’m still not sure what kind of an answer he wanted me to arrive at, but I came up with an answer that works for me at this juncture in life. I came up with only one thing I know for certain. Hopefully, I can take that one thing and build upon it.

In this life things are constantly changing and remaining the same. It is the nature of things and no matter my displeasure, it is the way life goes.

Life can be a bumpy road filled with hurdles, detours, roadblocks, peaks, valleys, twists, turns and dead ends. It is how we handle these that counts if we want to continue to move forward. As we seek answers, oft times the harder we look at something the more unclear it becomes. Only in the stepping away, does the darkness fade and the light moves in. Sometimes, we are so far in that we can’t even see how to step away. “How can I just step away?”

I originally thought stepping away in order to let go meant I was ignoring the issue at hand. After much deliberation and reconsideration, I have come to terms with this. Stepping away does not mean “turning your back to the problem”. It means “putting it in reverse”, still focused on the issue, and backing up to the point where you took the wrong turn. Back up to a point where things were right. Back up to where you could see clearly.

It is in the backing up, the stepping away, the letting go, that we are enabled to move forward. That is not to say the road ahead will be clear with no obstacles, although one can hope. Even the smoothest of roads can have abrupt twists and turns that leave us off track.

Now, you may be wondering, “How does this relate to kyudo?”

Anyone that has done kyudo for more than a day has discovered that it can be, will be and is frustrating. Just as any path we follow, there are the peaks, valleys, and rough spots along the way. What do you do with this frustration? What do you do when you hit a dead end? Do you get discouraged and quit? I hope not!

You back up, step away. Find the root of the problem. Go back to the basics. Go back to ashibumi. Go back to dozukuri. Go back to the vertical line and the horizontal line and rebuild from there.

The spirit is made stable on the base of the vetrical and horizontal cross (Tateyoko-Jumonji). (p. 70)

Whether kyudo or life, we need a rock solid foundation to build upon. If necessary, tear it all down to rebuild on this solid ground. Tear it down to build it back. Back up to move forward, and hopefully you will find more.

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Rubaiyat verse

I wanted to share this poem. It has a beautiful message. Much too beautiful to be lost down in the bottom of the comment section – JM


Aaron Blackwell
Submitted on 2009/03/12 at 7:16pm

From one of my favorite poets:

Early one morning I heard an angelic chime
Bringing news of a loving and joyous clime
Pursuit of the unimportant is the worst crime
Live in joy & love before the end of your time.

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(Original can be found, along with other’s experiences and 2009 Seminar information @ http://www.sckyudo.com)

August 2008

With the 14th annual American Kyudo Seminar in the recent past and the 15th on the horizon, it seems a good time to reflect on the seminar experience. I look back now and realize that it was this time last year in August that I began my personal preparations for California. I had been a kyudoka for all of one month at that time.

My initial reaction to hearing of this upcoming event was thinking, “But, I thought since we don’t have belt rank, that meant we don’t have to test!” My next reaction was, “What? California? That’s the other side of the world. I’ve heard people are crazy over there. Can’t I just skip a few tests and catch up later, like in fifteen years?”

My reluctance soon wore down to hard work, action and determination, to scheduling time off work, making financial arrangements, ensuring all on the home front would survive, purchasing airline tickets and practice, practice, practice.

The date drew near and the yumi had already been shipped. As I was going down my mental check list making sure I was prepared, a thought popped into my head saying loudly and in no uncertain terms, “I don’t want to go!”

Why should I be surprised? Judging from my initial reaction to the word “test” this wasn’t going to be something I “wanted” to do. I knew that not only would technique with the bow be judged, but it would also be a test of the body and spirit. A test to ensure the purity of kyudo was being maintained. Could I do this?

My daughter intervened at his point, basically telling me “…suck it up …go do what you set out to do …you’ll be fine once you get there!” I vaguely recall giving her this speech as I shoved her through “Gate A” at GSP sending her off to Miami earlier this year. It’s great when you find that your kids have grown up and turned into “you.”

Was I fine when I got there? I’ll have to think on that. I do know that with travel, jet lag, dojo setup, the tournament and getting settled in, we went right up to 24 hours without sleeping, slept three hours, then the birds started making noise the next morning welcoming us to a new day in California. I could have been in any dorm room in the world and not have known where I was.

I can say that I found the seminar experience to be one giant quest: from the quest for that spare tube of toothpaste to pack, the quest for boarding passes, for the shortest route to Bren Center and the dining hall, for ketchup and hot sauce to “enliven” the eggs at breakfast, the quest for the great void where I had determined my hair ties kept getting sucked off to, the quest for cups and ice, and for Kinko’s at 5:30 Saturday evening after testing to learn they close at 6:00 then realizing the yumi weren’t packed. But mostly a quest within.

I learned that seminars and testing remove us from our comfort zone. We are working with different people in a new environment, under different conditions. The sensei made minor changes in things that I had drilled into my head thousands of times in order to do them without thought. My timing was off. In a matter of days, I had to unlearn and relearn. I had to adapt to change. I had to learn to deal with language barriers and different ways of cultures. I learned that when the body starts wearing down from old age and old injuries and the mind starts shutting down from stress, it is a comfort to be in the shadow of the veterans that have walked the path before and look up to see a hand held out to pull you along.

Whether we achieved the rank we set out for or not, we have to ask ourselves, “What did I gain from this experience? Did I gain knowledge? Did I gain new friends? Did I learn about other cultures? Did I learn anything about myself, my attributes, my short-comings? Do I know how to apply this to grow in the direction I seek? Am I willing to do what I need to do now to make my kyudo better?”

As I do an analysis of my seminar experience, one thing stands out above the rest; being in the moment. When I think of this term, I usually think in terms of going through the steps of the hassetsu and each movement being in and of itself, not thinking ahead to the shooting. Now that I am home, one moment comes to mind as one of the more pleasurable from the California experience and I have had to ask myself why.

We had already been to breakfast, returned to the dorm, gotten changed and were ready to head for a day of instruction and shooting. As we waited for our group to gather outside, everyone around me disappeared, going back to the room for items they had forgotten or checking on the status of the rest of the group, I suppose.

I can be an impatient person. But as I stood there this day, I took the time to breathe in the California air and appreciate the ease of the intake, as opposed to the heavy humid air in South Carolina. I looked up at the sky through the green of the tree leaves and wondered what kind of tree this was. I took pleasure in observing the Spanish Moss hanging from the branches and thought of the similarities to the trees in Charleston. I followed the line of the branches to the trunk. I noticed the the texture of the bark and wanted to touch it. As my eyes followed the line of the trunk down, I noticed the exposed roots and how grounded this tree appeared. I was in this moment and enjoyed it.

As I look back, there were many other moments that I could have enjoyed equally or more so, but I was usually in a rush or just had my mind elsewhere instead of being in that moment. Seminars are not only for perfecting our kyudo within the shajo but also without. They are a time to enjoy with old friends and a time to make new friends. I have asked myself many times during the last year “how kyudo is a way of life” and “how you become kyudo”. I am learning more with each new experience.

On Saturday afternoon as I worked my way through the crowd to see if my number was posted on the wall outside Bren Center, somehow I thought I would be much more elated when I saw #9 there. Maybe it was because I had friends that did not see their number up that day. I had looked forward to sharing the joy of this moment with them. Then also, maybe it was just the yin and the yang of it. I was happy, but on the other hand, I knew that if I’d had a better grip on my mind, my shooting would have been better. I was capable of more than I had given that day. I realized that passing was a number on the wall, that win or lose, I was the same person and that upon my return to the security of home in South Carolina, I would pick up my bow, just as I had before I left, and begin where I had left off in my training, taking with me what I had gained in my quest.

So, here we are once more. In class a few weeks ago, Sensei announced that next year’s seminar would be held in South Carolina and that we have 50 weeks to prepare. Somehow, a year sounded so much more comforting. As these weeks go by, I hope we have our personal goals in place and are preparing now for next year’s quest. It’s looking to be a great year with lots of southern hospitality and even grits if you like. I plan to be better prepared, stress less, take more time to enjoy it and I hope to see you there. Remember, the seminar experience is what you make of it.

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More on Kai

I have heard many times that “The essence of modern kyudo is in those few seconds at kai.”

Today Sensei shared a bit more. He said that in his notes from a previous seminar, he found “The life of modern kyudo is in those few seconds at nobiai.

In my mind, this narrows it down to the last 20% of kai where we are expanding.

I hope, with time, this will take on greater meaning in my quest to understand.

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