Archive for November, 2009

As I sit at the table, I glance down at my hands.
They are twisting, tearing, shredding a straw paper. I realize what I am doing.
I don’t stop. I hide nothing.
I am talking. I am telling a story with my hands.
Are you listening?
“I don’t know you.” “I don’t trust you.” “You make me uncomfortable.” “You are in my space.”
I turn slightly in your direction. Do you hear me? The fact that I remain at the table speaks for itself.
“If I did not want to be here, I would leave. I would not come back.”
“I give you this chance to earn my trust.”
-Unsent Letters, Unsaid Words

The excerpt above is an example of how the hands are a reflection of our mind, of how the body speaks.
Mezukai, ikiai, dozukuri. are reflections of our mind as well.
The hands, the eyes, the co-ordination of breath, our posture, they are all telling a story as we practice the art of kyudo. The Way.. the way of the bow.
Kyudo is a budo, a martial way. The warrior way. Any opening tells a tale of weakness. Leave no opening.

“The human mind is disturbed by delusion, worldly desires, passions and attachments, which are more often than not the result of the pursuit of experience and knowledge. Also the mind succumbs to the temptation of the eye and the ear, which assail and agitate the spirit. To have the correct activity of the physical body and the right fullness of spirit, there must be stability of spirit. This is a fundamental requirement for the shooting.” (Kyudo Kyohon pg. 58)

In Herrigel’s book The Method of Zen, he tells a tale of eating dinner in a restaurant with Japanese colleagues. As one friend is telling a story, an earthquake shakes the entire building. The hotel creaks and sways, sending objects to the floor. While many rush to evacuate the hotel, his friend sits calmly. Herrigel fears for his life but is mesmerized by the calm nature of the friend. He sits back down at the table. As the commotion subsides, the friend continues his story at the exact point he left off from, as if nothing had happened. This story is a good example of heijoshin.

Simply put, heijoshin, can be described as the calm, everyday mind. The Kyohon states that “…at full draw you must wipe away negativity like doubt, anxiety, faintheartedness, fear, and self-depreciation…”. (pg. 70)

“When we are watching someone or something, our mind is concentrated only on what we see, and we neglect the spirit and the body. Therefore, the most important element of setting the gaze (metsuke) is to look into your own heart and take command of that place. The condition of the Mezukai has a great influence on the breathing and posture.” (pg.58)

As we begin to look deeper into the mental aspect of our shooting, we begin to see how everything is tied to the mind and the mind is tied to all else. The concept of sanmi-ittai , unity of the three essentials, Body, Spirit, and Bow as one body, then becomes clearer. (ref pg.24) In summation, as you shoot, show no weakness, take command of your heart, shoot with heijoshin. Focus the mind on the body and the body on the bow. Become One.

“The Way is in the training.”

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New Yumi

It didn’t take much encouragement for a friend to set me in motion. He told me that I should do something for myself, “get out of the house, go out to dinner or something”.

Well, I took the or something path and ordered a yumi.

I got an email the day before yesterday, saying my yumi would be here today. Now, being my first bow, I felt it was somewhat akin to bringing home a new baby. Don Symanski “gave birth” to my new yumi. but she is in my hands now to take care of. A bit of that “new mom panic” is setting in. Elementary education tells us we don’t take a newborn and expect it to walk, talk and eat table food right away. Likewise with the “green” bamboo yumi.

In my relatively short Kyudo career, I have witnessed a few different “parenting” techniques with new yumi. The two listed below could be considered the two extremes.

1. The Neglected Child:
This is the yumi that has arrived, been opened and put in a corner to fend for itself. It may become wild, having a high rise height.

According to Don Symanski, “When you hold an unstrung yumi up off the ground at the upper edge of the leather grip, with the two ends touching the ground, you have an unstrung yumi silhouette shape to observe… a tamed yumi can be left unstrung a week, two weeks, a month, or more without it rising above 8″ unstrung, when used… when a yumi goes above the 8″ measurement unstrung, to 10″-12″‘s or more it becomes unbalanced. Rising above a 14″ to 18″ zone it goes into a danger zone when you want to string it. Here lies the the dangers of leaving your yumi unstrung and unattended for long periods of time… needless to say, when stringing a neglected yumi you need caution and your full attention without distractions, or the help of yumi maker, for the yumi to be tamed and usable again.”

2. Hurry Up and Grow Up:
This is the yumi that is not treated with patience and given the time and training it needs to be shaped into the yumi it was meant to be.

A yumi shot before its time may very well break. The risk is not worth the reward here! Let your yumi mature and settle before putting it to the test.

Just as with children, each yumi is different. Training it requires patience and careful observation. According to Don, again, “There are at least nine types and a dozen styles of yumi.” And each one of these has its own characteristics. In addition, on any given day this may vary, as well. “Sudden or persistent humid or rainy weather can cause a yumi to rise up above the 8″ unstrung. Consider that the wood and bamboo [grass, not wood] of your yumi is alive, and quite sensitive to having its tension strength restored naturally with humidity intake.”

It is best to have supervision when you begin training your new yumi. Hopefully, your sensei can help with this. If this is not possible, be sure to talk with the yumi maker. In addition, there is a link to the right under Kyudo Articles/Documents: Yumi Care written by Don Symanski that has a lot of useful information. If you have other resources you can share, please feel free to list them in the comment section below.

Don has recently announced the launching of his new web page. You may view it at:
He is one of the few, if not only yumi makers in the United States. His yumi come highly recommended. I am as proud as a new parent to finally have one to call my very own! 🙂

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