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Posts Tagged ‘Martial Art’

“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!”

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Breathe in and let yourself soar to the ends of the universe; breathe out and bring the cosmos back inside. Next, breathe up all the fecundity and vibrancy of the earth. Finally, blend the breath of heaven and the breath of earth with your own, becoming the Breath of Life itself. -Morihei Ueshiba

In our discussions of Kyudo, religion, psychology, philosophy and such, a friend once asked me to define spirit. He said that he would then tell me how he defined it. He never did. We don’t talk anymore. I suppose we are still “friends” in some loose sense of the word. We are cordial in passing at seminars, but little more. If this person did nothing else, he gave me cause to investigate other ways of viewing things. I am thankful for that, though I suspect he had little respect for my viewpoint.

I truly think that things happen for a reason. Our paths intersect with others for the purpose of teaching us that which we need to learn. I believe this friend fulfilled this purpose for me and moved on. I hope I left him with some lesson of goodness.

One of the problems we encounter in life is the assumption and expectation that we can define everything and wrap it up neatly in words.

Spirit is one of those areas. We know it when it touches us, but we reach to touch it and it slips through our fingers. It comes and goes, but somehow is ever present.

I relate the word spirit to the word love in certain senses. I’m sure no sane person would argue the existence of love. Love gives us strength, gives us purpose. We search for it. It can seem forever evasive or flowing like wine. Whether it is the pure and simple love of the sunshine, a mother’s love for her child or as complex as two lovers, it warms our heart and fills us completely.

Spirit? Some would say spirit is connected to religion. Some would say it is related to a state of mind. Some may even say it is related to nature. I cannot say that any of these are wrong. I simply cannot say. You will know it when it finds you.

For the naysayers of the world that don’t believe in much of anything beyond the material, I would suggest they begin with consideration that the English word spirit comes from the Latin word spiritus, meaning breath.

As you shoot, consider the importance of breath in your Kyudo.

Sha Soku Jinsei.

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The way is not with the bow, but with the bone, which is of the greatest importance in shooting.-Junsei Yoshimi (Shaho-Kun)

I ran across the following in an email notification from one of Rick Beal’s blogs:

The very marrow of our bone carries electricity & Chemistry throughout our bodies. Kido is the artistry of painting the flow of these energies in a natural way.

It brought to mind something a ran across several years ago and still find intriguing:

In The Bodhisattva Warriors by Terrance Duke, on page 465, he states:

“Long before Western medicine had arisen, the Ksatreya Vaidya (healers) taught that the elements of Fire and Air combined in the marrow to create, or revitalize, the blood. The marrow was therefore considered to be an important source of life energy.

If the marrow became imbalanced, the balance of the body’s elements (dhatu) would be thrown out of order and, in turn, all the bodily functions suffered. In addition to the blood, the physical vital energies also were held to “mature” within the marrow, and thus the marrow was a point of contact between the different energy systems of this, and other, worlds.

So, here, we draw on the Five Element Theory that Miyamoto Musashi writes of in his Book of Five Rings. If we think of the aforementioned energies in terms of Kyudo, we might refer to this as ki.

In the 2011 Second Quarter issue of the Journal of the South Carolina Kyudo Renmei, Blackwell sensei discusses the Five Element Theory. (http://sckrjournal.org/issue/2011-second-quarter/article/japanese-culture-in-kyudo-the-oriental-paradigm)

And… as I have been told… “the essence is in the marrow.”

Something worth thinking about.

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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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I recently received an article for the second issue of the Journal of the SCKR (http://sckrjournal.org), in which the word “shugyo” is brought up in reference to the Ironman-100 Arrow Shoot, which we do twice a year. By coincidence, if you want to call it that, the book that I ordered online last week is talking about that very thing, but more in-depth. The second paragraph into chapter one, Yuasa Yasuo’s book, The Body, Self-Cultivation, and Ki-Energy (State University of New York Press, Albany, 1993) brings up the word “shugyo“.

The author gives us a loose translation as being “self-cultivation”. He tells us that in Eastern culture there are many means to self-cultivation, with Zen being one that gained notoriety worldwide. He points out the huge influence the Buddhist methods have had on the development of artistry and martial arts as a whole and correlates the Indian term “tapas” to “shugyo” (as in having to do with fire and heat, more in the sense of an internal or mental fire, rather than a literal translation, or the creation of something new within oneself.) Related, also, are the terms “kinyoku” and “kugyo“, meaning something akin to “austerity” and “asceticism”.

Yuasa points out that this type of philosophy, the training of the body and mind (spirit) as one, is the way of thinking in Eastern cultures and has been for generations. Since the shift in modern philosophy with Renee Descartes (1596-1650), “I think, therefore I am” and mind-body dualism, most Westerners have had a hard time with this concept of bringing the mind and body together. (In relation to Kyudo, I note here that the yumi is considered part of the body and we are to bring the mind, body and bow together as one, Sanmi-Ittai.)

The translators (Shigenori Nagatomo/Monte S. Hill) include a paragraph of notation in regard to the term “shugyo” stating:
“The term “shugyo” is translated throughout this book as “self-cultivation”, or simply “cultivation”. It consists of two Chinese characters, “to master” and a “practice”. Literally then, it means “to master a practice”. As is clear in this literal rendition, the term “self” does not appear in the original phrase. The rendition of “self-cultivation” is adopted because of the individualistic orientation of Western society. Philosophically this rendition is felicitous for initial stages of “self-cultivation”, but since its ultimate goal is to achieve the state of “no-mind” or “no-self”, it does not do justice to the full meaning of the original phrase. As long as the reader is aware of the fact that a psychological, existential transformation occurs in the course of “self-cultivation”, where the self of everyday experience is discarded and transformed, the rendition of “shugyo” as “self-cultivation” should not pose any difficulty. Yuasa seems to think that the concept of “no-self” or “no mind” parallels Jung’s concept of “Selbst“, although they may not be identical.”

With that said, this puts me about three pages into the book. This book has already proven to be very educational. I hope to do a more in-depth review later, but in the meantime, you might want to go ahead and check it out for yourself. Interesting stuff!
(Edited 4/2/11)

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As we close the door on this year and a new one opens for 2011, I am happy to share with you the word that the SCKR has published our first online issue of the Journal of the South Carolina Kyudo Renmei. More about it can be found at http://sckrjournal.org/

We hope that you will find it beneficial.

Happy New Year to ALL!

EDIT: Corrected URL to http://sckrjournal.org/

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