Posts Tagged ‘Kyudo Seminar’

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!


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The stage is set and curtains are ready to open on the 2011 American Kyudo Seminar Monday morning. We at the South Carolina Kyudo Renmei have been bidding our friends farewell, one by one, as they depart for Minnesota. I try to remember that I will be joining them on Monday for another week of camaraderie, learning and testing.

I have never been a great fan of testing. The “reasons for the need for testing” is one of the possible test questions, so I know and understand the logic here. That doesn’t make me like it any better. If nothing else, the exam is a test of our heijoshin, the calm everyday mind.

As the seminar approaches, I feel the tension running through my veins. I wake at night, take a few cleansing breaths and go back to sleep. When I shoot, Sensei tells me I think too much. I have to laugh. If he only knew! (Which he probably does.) I can think my way around a nutshell, through to the inside, around each turn and crevice and back out… over and over again. Not a good thing in shooting.

I have been taught well, no trying, just doing.

Yoshimi Junsei, puts it quite aptly in his preamble to the Shaho Kun (Principles of Shooting), as was translated in Sensei’s personal notes:

The practice of kyudo is to use a bow and arrow which possesses flexible energy in response to pulling and pushing , by means of a mind and body that are perturbed and always changing in order to pierce a target that is unmoving. (With a mind that moves, we try to hit a target that does not move.)

Although doing this seems extremely simple, what it contains extends to the three worlds of mind, action and appearance. These three worlds interrelate, and in a mysterious instant give birth to a myriad of changes, and thus the bullseye is not easily attained.

Getting it in the morning and losing it at night, if you ask this of the target, the target is unmoving and unconfused, if you ask this of the bow and arrow, the bow and arrow are of no mind and without evil.

One must only look for this in oneself. The only path is to work hard in training by rectifying your mind and body, cultivating your vitality with determination, practicing the correct skills and being the utmost in sincerity.

I am struggling with my mental training these last few days. In order to pass this test I know that I have to hit the target. The harder I try, the further I get from my goal.

In my thinking process, it hit me the other day that I don’t have to hit the target. I don’t have to go to the seminar. I don’t have to please anyone. I don’t have to pass this test at all.

What I need to do is remember page 70 of the Kyudo Kyohon, where 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.

As Blackwell sensei tells us, pass or fail, the result is the same. We come home, pick up our yumi and continue to train. And, as my Argentinian friend passed along from one of his sensei, “We learn more from not passing an exam than passing.”

At the time when shooting fails, there should be no resentment towards those who win. On the contrary, this is an occasion to search for oneself. -Raiki Shagi

I hope we can all go and enjoy the seminar experience, have fun being with those of the same spirit and soak up all the knowledge we can. These few days together will pass quickly. Losing the pre-test stress is essential.

(Edited 7/31)

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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!

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While the 2010 IKYF seminar has come and gone and most of us have returned home, our memories remain. Whether progressing to our next rank this year or not, I hope all left with a feeling of accomplishment. We learn from doing and it was definitely a busy time full of doing, non-stop from beginning to end.

As Satake sensei pointed out in her opening remarks, part of the reasoning for having the seminar in Japan periodically is to introduce us to the culture. While many Kyudoka have a Japanese heritage or have been exposed to the culture by other means, this has not been the case for me. It was a cultural shock from day one. My right suddenly became my left. All traffic to the left… on the road, on the sidewalk, on the escalator, lines in the train station. Tokyo is a fast paced town, move over or get run over.

Maybe due to this fast pace and crowed conditions, it is even more important to be aware of courteousness. Everywhere you go you hear onegaishimasu, the magic words if you please. We use this word in Kyudo as well, but I have never given it a lot of thought until hearing how commonplace the usage is in Japan. Kyudo is an art that stresses courtesy from beginning to end. Why would I not expect that the entire Japanese culture reflects this as well? I found that the people I met in Japan were some of the most hospitable people I have come across. Only equaled, maybe, around grandma’s dinner table where anyone that dropped by was family, where it was expected that you pull up a chair, sit a spell and you never went home empty handed… a sack of ‘maters or a mess of greens always accompanied you home.

While each Kyudo seminar we attend is much the same, each seminar is totally different from the last. We all go there and do Kyudo. We learn, we grow, we evolve. And yet… it has much to do with the people we meet along the way. The special moments seem to be the unplanned ones, the people you run into and where the path takes you from there.
Each seminar I’ve been to holds special memories. They are all learning experiences… learning about life as well as Kyudo.

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We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.

I ran across this quote today and immediately thought of how this relates to Kyudo. One of the things brought up at the autumn Kyudo Alliance seminar this past weekend, was the phrase from the Kyohon, “Kyudo is Life“.

On Page 9 of the Kyohon it states:
Kyudo is not simply a way to create well-being and train the body, but a way to bring enhancement and cultivation to your life… 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.

In regard to kai on page 70, the subject is again brought up, stating:
…at the full draw you must wipe away negativity like doubt, anxiety, faint heartedness, 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.

As Blackwell Sensei has said, “Practice as if you are testing…”. I take this to mean with sincerity and determination, doing our very best each time we shoot. The Way is in the training.

Hopefully, if we practice faithfully and strive for excellence in our Kyudo, we will bring excellence into our own lives as well and learn the true meaning of “Kyudo is Life”.

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The 2009 Kyudo Seminar of the Americas is still winding down as we tie up the loose ends of packing away the maku, shipping the yumi home, returning the rental vans and items inadvertently left behind, and nursing our tired, worn and broken bodies. Even with this ending, parts of it will live on in our minds and hearts. It is what we choose to do with this experience that matters now.

The fact that we showed up, we stood our ground and gave our best tells us that we are winners. We left with much more than we came with. We gained knowledge of ourselves as well as the art of Kyudo. We renewed old friendships and created bonds with new ones, as well as with the sensei. We have an idea of the areas in our practice and ourselves that needs attention.

Did we achieve the rank we tested for? Some did, others didn’t, but this is not the core of the matter. Pass or fail, the end result is the same… we live to shoot another day.

Let go of what you need to and nurture the rest.

The Time is Now!
The way is in the training!
Japan 2010!

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