Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Budo’

“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.

How?

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!”

Read Full Post »

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.

http://karamatsu.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/kyudo-notebook-%E5%BF%83/#like-1249

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.”

Read Full Post »

The 2011 American Kyudo drew to a close Friday afternoon. We walked in on test day with hopes of reaching our goals, but at the same time striving to keep expectations on an even keel and just shoot. Satake sensei warned us the first day that it was silly to be fearful of a paper target. I’m not so sure it was the target that evoked fear, but more the knowing that we were standing under the scrutiny of three of the top Hanshi Hanchidan of Japan. They not only knew of our present shot, but our past, as well. Satake sensei had seen most of us at previous seminars. While many had not meet Iijima sensei prior, he inspected the yugake while we stood baring all at zanshin. The yugake told our history.

I always find the language barrier an insurmountable wall in the cultural gap. There are things said and unsaid that will never be understood. That is not to say we didn’t have good translators, because that would be untrue. We had the best translations of any seminar I have yet to attend. But, I still suspect there is something lost in translation. Especially difficult are those cases when you find yourself face-to-face with the sensei. The right words don’t come or they speak to you in Japanese and you are standing there clueless. I would like to think they were only making “small talk” and nothing important was said, but I have been unable to convince myself of this.

Each year the sensei tell us that we are being tested on the same standards as those in Japan. Quite possibly, this is the first year they have actually followed through on this. Congratulations are in order to those that achieved rank progression.

As I listened to self-assessments after the seminar, I realized that many knew how they had screwed up in our one brief moment to perform our best. Many others were in awe that they had not passed, feeling as they had done everything as they should.

Tension took its toll. There were those that shot beautifully all week and didn’t hit the target on test day. The pressure of the moment shattered their heijoshin. As for myself, my shooting was erratic all week. In spite of the tension, I came through on the mock test and the exam with a solid hit. While I can’t tell you my one mistake that stole victory from me this year, I gather it was a multitude of little things that tipped the sensei’s scales in favor of giving me another year to master the basic form. In some regards, I am thankful for having at least another year to work towards standing solidly on the rank of yondan.

It occurred to me prior to testing that I had nothing to lose. I have never heard of anyone being demoted and rank being taken away after an exam. By just participating in the seminar and shinsa we took away valuable experience. The analysis we received from the sensei added to our winnings. Rank is merely a title. Putting ego aside, we are the same today as we were yesterday, only hopefully a bit wiser, a bit more experienced.

As Blackwell sensei best put it, “we return home, pass or fail, we pick up our yumi and continue training.”

We continue our journey, a journey of “have to be pursuedness”. I’m not sure where it is we are in such a hurry to go… “life is a journey, not a destination.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Enjoy the jounrney. Sha Soku Jinsei!

Read Full Post »

While the holidays are welcome, it is nice to settle back into the more routine side of life. I think about all of the “Happy New Year” exclamations and remember that it is but another moment in the passing of time. Every moment is a new moment and worth celebrating… but, for the most part, these moments are taken for granted.

It was a busy weekend, with the Journal of the SC Kyudo Renmei going live. For being the holidays, the response has been excellent. I touched briefly on the journal in the previous post, but being in a rush to leave town and visit with family, feel that I did not give it my full attention.

The journal is a quarterly publication. The normal subscription, which is free, will allow a preview. For a small fee to help cover our costs, the premium subscription will allow full membership. While it is not a “how to” publication as such, the premier issue opens with an in depth article by our guest, Don Rabska. Don’s expertise is in Olympic recurve archery, but he has studied many different styles, including Kyudo. With this background, and as a former Olympic archery coach, he brings rare insight to the subject. I believe you will be surprised to find the common bonds we share.

Those of you that know Blackwell sensei, know that he can be a man of few words. So, much like the E.F. Hutton…

…when he talks, we listen.
He has a series of articles lined up for this year on cultural influences in Kyudo, with the premier being Confucianism. This is highly educational and helps bring understanding to the “whys” of many of the Kyudo customs.

While, the 2010 IKYF seminar fades with the rest of 2010, Marceleo Frischknecht ignites a memory in a most poetic sense. Whether you were there in person or not, you will enjoy the journey he paints of this experience. Marceleo was there assisting, translating, competing, training and testing, so he had the full seminar experience in the truest sense.

We hope you agree that with this journal, we have brought an enjoyable forum to learn and grow and that you will join us through sharing your own personal insight into the art, regardless of style. Each person has something to teach, so I hope you will take our hand and join us on this journey.

Let me close by wishing you all a happy new year, celebrating each new moment along the way and finding the positive aspect that is always there to be found.

Happy New Year!
(http://sckrjournal.org)

Read Full Post »

My usage of the word “try” was pointed out to me. Prior to this discussion, the word “try” made sense to me, mainly because I try to be accurate in what I say. I try to be true to my word. By using the word “try” I am covered if I fall short of my goal.

What I had not considered is that I am mentally setting myself up for the likelihood of failure before I ever begin. “Try” is not a very powerful or confident word. Think about the two following scenarios:

(I need to ship a very important package. “It absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” I am checking, making phone calls.)

Shipper #1:
Me: “I must have this package delivered tomorrow morning. Can you do this?”
Shipper: “Yes, we offer overnight service. We will try to deliver your shipment in the morning.”

Shipper #2:
Me: “I must have this package delivered tomorrow morning. Can you do this?”
Shipper: “Yes, we offer overnight service. We will deliver your shipment in the morning!”

Even if both of these shippers put forth the same amount of effort to get the job done, I am going with shipper #2. They exhibit the kind of confidence you can count on. Realistically speaking, there will be instances when we fall short of our goals, but we should not start out limiting ourselves before we ever begin. We have to have confidence in our shooting.

So, listen to yourself as you talk and think. How often do you use the word “try”?

As the wise Jedi Master Yoda said, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »