Archive for August, 2010

You know how in those dull moments, we sometimes just start playing with that latest technology to see what we can discover, googling odd words and searching for what we haven’t found yet. In one of these moments, I came across an application for the Droid phone called “Archery Buddy”. God knows how I love my archer buddies, so this must be good too.

Well, it’s not going to be my new best friend, but it might come in handy one day. It seems that the phone application may be fairly new and they are working on some developments, but in general, it is a great idea. It is a portable means of recording your target hits. The targets are FITA, Imperial, Field and Hunter targets, but I never let minor details hold me back.

Look for “Archery Buddy” (free download) and see what you think.

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What started out as a SCKR event seemed to spread like wildfire as word got around. Once it hit Facebook, the challenge was on!

We were challenged publicly on Facebook, by Mauricio in Mexico, to come out and shoot for the “Iron Man” competition on August 7th. A personal competition. Some competed with the heat, others the freezing cold. Some were forced to cancel due to rain, but were still with us in the spirit of oneness. Some competed with time limitations on facility usage, others competed for daylight hours. We shot before work, after work, in the night by car light and by flashlight. Family time had to be put on standby, unless your family was out there shooting with you. There were those of all levels of rank taking part, from mudan to the sensei and even those from styles having no ranking system. Kyudoka were shooting gomiyumi, makiwara, and 28 meters. There was participation from as far as 50 degrees below the equator to 40 degrees above. From Maine to Florida in the East, to California in the West and from Canada to Mexico to Argentina, we came together to make it happen.

The Iron Man goal for many was 100 arrows. We were advised that men over 60 may shoot 70 arrows. Men over 70 may shoot 50. Women may shoot 50 arrows. Women over 60 may shoot 40 arrows. It also was strongly suggested that we keep a record of our hits and misses and where the arrows landed to look for patterns in our shooting. We were to work on our trouble areas, rather than just going out and trying to get off 100 arrows.

There were a million reasons that popped into our heads of why not to do it… too busy, too tired, too hot, too cold. There was only one reason to do it… we would be better for it.

I leave you with some of my favorite comments I collected from Facebook:

“Insanely wonderful idea!”
“Did he really do 100 arrows and not break a sweat in that heat and humidity?”
“What an amazing event! I love the North American Kyudo familia…we Rock :)”
“Yes, I felt my ki flowing like crazy once I shot past my expectations and know now that we have much more strength than we believe.”
“The ironic thing is that today I’m not so much hurting from the 100 arrows but from the after-party.”

On the idea of doing this again next year:
“I vote yessssss!”

I vote yes, as well! “Shooting is life!” I hope that if you missed out this year, you will take up the challenge next time and we can grow together in Kyudo.

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Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. -Confucius

An apropos quote, for if you do Kyudo long enough, you are going to eventually fall. Be it literately, having your feet slide out from under you or stepping on your hakama, to any number of other mistakes that all of us have made or will make. Some mistakes are apparent in pronounced ways, like dropping your arrow. Others are more obscure. As the Japanese say, “Even the monkey falls from the tree.”

It is quite a revelation when we finally see our mistakes. Sometimes awareness just clicks in our mind. Sometimes it takes an actual photograph or mirror to see ourselves. Blackwell Sensei had been telling me from the beginning, “too much tension in the right hand”, “relax harder”. A common mistake for beginners, but there comes a time when you have to let it go and move on to move up.

At the IKYF seminar this past April in Japan, I had three of Japan’s top sensei surrounding me all at one time, making numerous corrections to my form. No English, just moving my body into different positions. Due to the language barriers, I wasn’t sure why they were making all of these changes. After describing the scene to Sensei, it became evident they were correcting the faults he had been pointing out all along. I logically knew they were all right. I logically knew what I needed to do to fix it. Sensei taught me that. Still, I just couldn’t get it. I couldn’t see my way through it. I couldn’t make it happen.

Politicians are always campaigning on the “change” platform. Sometimes they even make claims as to what they are going to change. After being shown a picture of my right hand versus Sensei’s right hand at kai, I could not deny that change was needed. No politics involved, just fact. Along with a change in form, I had to replace my worn yugake as well. Everything was turned upside down, nothing familiar anymore.

I forced myself to come to practice most days, even if I only shot minimally. I didn’t want to shoot. There were many days where the arrow never left the bow by reaching kai and hanare, or anywhere near it. Somewhere between daisan and kai, it went! I whacked myself with the string every time. Often my spring-loaded eyeglass frames went flying farther than the arrow. I became conditioned to the likelihood, that I was going to fail. This only created more tension, causing more failure. I could bear the physical pain, it was the inner pain of failure that was eating me up. Shooting was no longer a joy. Fear crept in.

The Kyohon clearly states on page 70:
The full draw (Kai) is, psychologically speaking, the continuity of an imperturbable spirit. Removing attachments, desire, and worldly thoughts towards the target, at 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.

Symanski Sensei summed it up nicely at our seminar when he told us that we must have confidence in our shooting at kai. His only advise for my particular situation was, “You have to just keep shooting and work through it.”

I would like to say that I am on the other side of this mountain. I may be and I may not be. Shooting is much better. I still take a good beating at my own hand with the string attacking me from time to time. I work hard to keep my mind from giving in to the fear.

While I may never understand the all of the “whys” in this life, I have learned to accept that things happen for a reason. Sometimes it takes failure to force change.

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