Archive for November, 2011

Kyudo Focus

Through observation and personal experience, I’ve grown even more acutely aware of the importance of one’s state of mind in Kyudo. We are taught that we must be focused, centered, grounded, but words have little meaning unless we can put them to good use.

I began thinking more deeply on this after taking note of certain aspects of my practice and daily life. To fully understand some of my experiences or perceptions myself is one great leap, but to explain them to you is mostly impossible, so I won’t exactly go down that path. In one of Rick Beal sensei’s blogs he writes, “Kosaka Sensei said that he had an experience he wants to share. Once he tells us about this experience, our understanding of it is at least five steps away from the actual experience. He had to think of the words and voice it. We had to hear it and interpret it and try to understand it. So we’re five steps away from his experience…’we have no idea how far away from ours’.” (http://americanzenarchery.blogspot.com/2009/10/kosaka-sensei-has-wonderful-lecture-he.html)

In my effort to get where I’m headed with this, I should say that my modus operandi is often a bit ethereal, much like a butterfly, other days, stressed. So I’ve been asking myself, how do I get down to earth, relaxed, focused?

In my search for answers, I ran across a site pertaining to sports medicine which states:

Sports psychologists recommend centering techniques to reduce anxiety and stress. These techniques allow athletes to pay attention to their body and breathing, redirecting their focus from the negative- or anxiety-causing event to the present task.

Personally, when I encounter problems in shooting (i.e. dropping arrows, premature-releases, the string hitting the body) shooting definitely becomes an anxiety filled event. The anxiety compounds whatever other problem I might be encountering in form. When things have gone so far that I enter this vicious circle of frustration, I find it is best to step back, recenter, then come back to the shooting later. We each have to find what works for ourselves.

The article goes on to tell us, The first aspect of centering involves focusing on the rate of breathing and maintaining a slow, steady pace. Breathe in through the nose, and feel the air fill your lungs. Exhale through your mouth… To do this automatically when you need it (during the stress of competition or training), you must practice it often… Use your training sessions to try various centering techniques and find the best one for you. Refocus and get ‘centered’ at every break, rest period or when there is a pause in the action.

In other words, Ikiai and the way is in the training?

In talking with others, I have heard that some “shift gears” into Kyudo frame of mind when they put on their yugake, others when they pick up their yumi. In any case, when we step through the doorway of the dojo, we should be in-tune, having focus and zanshin… from the time we enter, until after we exit.

While, Blackwell sensei might tell us, “Relax harder!” or “Don’t stop breathing… at least not in my class.”, I see that the two are intertwined. Relax through the breathing. And if that doesn’t work, he might add with a smile, “Drink better beer.”*

The answers are in front of us all the time. Sometimes the harder we look, the harder to see. Relax and breathe… or breathe and relax… trying harder isn’t the answer, but relaxing harder just might be.

*(After shooting.)


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