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Posts Tagged ‘Rambling’

My kyudo notebook is an eclectic mix of diagrams and arrows, quotes and passages from books that I have read, study questions and answers for testing, seminar notes, project outlines, letters, doodles, reminders, page numbers to refer back to the Kyohon on, various words that few would understand unless you were there when they were said… such as squirrel’s butt, and profound, partial sentences trailing off into nothingness resulting from a night around the table with a bottle of Eagle Rare. It tells a story as I look at it. I read between the lines and it tells a tale of travel.

You might see how when I got home one evening to discover that my notebook was not with me, I was a bit unsettled. Luckily, I knew exactly where it was. I had left it on the right-hand side of the table behind the sofa at Sensei’s house. There were no better hands it could have been in, but never-the-less, not the sort of thing one wants to do. I could never re-write this book and only parts of it do I share. On my return to his house later on, he put the notebook in my hands without a word. None were needed.

Sensei recently brought out his notebook and read an excerpt to us while we were shooting. He has read from his notebook previously… a rare treat, one of those special moments you don’t want to miss. As Sesnei left the dojo on this day, he picked up his notebook and causally walked by. He informed us that he was taking the notebook, that it might blow up our minds if he left it there for us. I enjoy my days in the dojo with Sensei, with his wisdom and his humor. Some days I understand and some days I don’t. This day, I understood.

As I thumb through my notebook this morning, I see everything from the words from Confucius, the Tao Te Ching, Tich Nhat Hanh, Rumi, Kosaka sensei, Miyauchi sensei, Blackwell sensei and many more, including all of the Sensei that collaborated to make up the Kyohon, down to my own words. As I look at this, and think with great respect to all that gave their time and wisdom so that others could find the Way, I find it a bit “mind blowing”.

While I don’t know which great mind the following words came from, I would like to share them from my notebook. I hope they will help you in finding the Way.

“Everything happens for a reason.”
“You are always where you are meant to be.”
“The Way teaches.”
“Quiet the mind to be open to where you should be next.”

With that, I leave you to go shoot!

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As I sit at the table, I glance down at my hands.
They are twisting, tearing, shredding a straw paper. I realize what I am doing.
I don’t stop. I hide nothing.
I am talking. I am telling a story with my hands.
Are you listening?
“I don’t know you.” “I don’t trust you.” “You make me uncomfortable.” “You are in my space.”
I turn slightly in your direction. Do you hear me? The fact that I remain at the table speaks for itself.
“If I did not want to be here, I would leave. I would not come back.”
“I give you this chance to earn my trust.”
-Unsent Letters, Unsaid Words

The excerpt above is an example of how the hands are a reflection of our mind, of how the body speaks.
Mezukai, ikiai, dozukuri. are reflections of our mind as well.
The hands, the eyes, the co-ordination of breath, our posture, they are all telling a story as we practice the art of kyudo. The Way.. the way of the bow.
Kyudo is a budo, a martial way. The warrior way. Any opening tells a tale of weakness. Leave no opening.

“The human mind is disturbed by delusion, worldly desires, passions and attachments, which are more often than not the result of the pursuit of experience and knowledge. Also the mind succumbs to the temptation of the eye and the ear, which assail and agitate the spirit. To have the correct activity of the physical body and the right fullness of spirit, there must be stability of spirit. This is a fundamental requirement for the shooting.” (Kyudo Kyohon pg. 58)

In Herrigel’s book The Method of Zen, he tells a tale of eating dinner in a restaurant with Japanese colleagues. As one friend is telling a story, an earthquake shakes the entire building. The hotel creaks and sways, sending objects to the floor. While many rush to evacuate the hotel, his friend sits calmly. Herrigel fears for his life but is mesmerized by the calm nature of the friend. He sits back down at the table. As the commotion subsides, the friend continues his story at the exact point he left off from, as if nothing had happened. This story is a good example of heijoshin.

Simply put, heijoshin, can be described as the calm, everyday mind. The Kyohon states that “…at full draw you must wipe away negativity like doubt, anxiety, faintheartedness, fear, and self-depreciation…”. (pg. 70)

“When we are watching someone or something, our mind is concentrated only on what we see, and we neglect the spirit and the body. Therefore, the most important element of setting the gaze (metsuke) is to look into your own heart and take command of that place. The condition of the Mezukai has a great influence on the breathing and posture.” (pg.58)

As we begin to look deeper into the mental aspect of our shooting, we begin to see how everything is tied to the mind and the mind is tied to all else. The concept of sanmi-ittai , unity of the three essentials, Body, Spirit, and Bow as one body, then becomes clearer. (ref pg.24) In summation, as you shoot, show no weakness, take command of your heart, shoot with heijoshin. Focus the mind on the body and the body on the bow. Become One.

“The Way is in the training.”

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The more you practice, the more the”spirit of the thing itself” will reveal itself to you. You must understand your responsibility to the art and to yourself. They are one and the same.-The Book of Five Rings- (Book of Water) Miyamoto Musashi

It occurred to me just the other day, that it is roughly three weeks until the start of the 2009 ANKF Kyudo Seminar of the Americas. In 2008, it was great to have attendees from Argentina join us. They will be returning in full force. Their numbers have quadrupled from last year. The Canadians will also be returning. In addition, this year for the first time, we will have kyudoka from Mexico participating. It is an exciting time in the world of Kyudo!

While preparations are in full swing on the logistical end for making this seminar happen, we need to be mindful of each doing our individual part to make this seminar one of the best ever.

Individual part? What is my part?

It is our responsibility to practice and be ready. This sounds simple enough. Or is it? How much are you practicing? Are you going to the seminar with a goal of only passing a test, or are you going with the intent to be the best you can be?

With three weeks left, if you are only practicing during class time and only going to class on Sunday, for example, you have three chances to shoot before the seminar. If you go to class three nights a week, that ups your shooting opportunities to nine. Better yet, if you shoot every day, as you should be, then you still have twenty-one practice sessions. Now, if you want to give it that extra push and shoot twice a day you have a nice little window of opportunity to work out those trouble areas and fine tune the others.

As I have heard Sensei say, “the way is in the training”. I also recall hearing, “train as if you are testing”. So, however you put it, “the way is in the training”, “the way is in the practice”, “the way is in the doing” or any other way, the time is NOW if you aren’t already practicing as you should!

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Master Yozaburo Uno is credited with stating the following points regarding the main objectives of modern kyudo:

* to study the principles of shooting (Shaho) and the art of shooting (Shagi)
* to apply the formalized movements (Taihai) based on etiquette (Rei)
* to improve the level of shooting (Shakaku) and shooting dignity (Shahin)
* the necessity to strive for perfection as a human being

This one sentence on page 8 in the Kyohon sums up the first three objectives:
By combining the formalized movement, principles of shooting and art of shooting into a unified whole, this will produce shooting of dignity and refinement.

In a mathematical sense we could say:
Rei(Taihai+Shaho+Shagi) (Sanmi-Ittai)=Shahin
( I may need to work on this formula some, but for now, it’s working for me.)

With the first three objectives covered, that leaves the final objective… Nin Gen Kei Sei, the necessity to strive for perfection as a human being. (sigh) They had to go and complicate things.

As you learn through studying the Kyohon, there are no wasted words, diagrams or pictures therein. It all has meaning, right down to the footnotes. Most of page 9 is devoted to this final listed objective… improvement of self. Think about the scope this covers!

The Kyohon briefly states:

The key to Kyudo is both sincerity and courteousness. It is of more value to be sincere than to win against others…

I note from this that sincerity and courteousness go hand-in-hand here. We can be sincere, but if not done with courtesy in mind, we have lost in the long run.

It goes on to say:

…(It)is our hope that your Kyudo practice will have meaning in your daily life both spiritually and physically. 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 should consider the relevance to our training of such sayings of the past, as “Kyudo is Life” (Sha Soku Jinsei) or “Kyudo is Living” (Sha Soku Seikatsu). In this way, 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.

Wow!

Thank goodness for me, the “Stipulations for Examinations”, found on pages 125 and 126, for Dan and Kyu grades deal with form, shooting technique, and accuracy. But as you progress in rank and look at “Titular Grades” (Shogo), relating to Renshi, Kyoshi, and Hanshi, they start bringing into play that last and most important objective relating to self improvement… firmness of character, judgment, scholarship, cultivation, high conduct, dignity, and highest quality of discernment.

These qualities need to be worked on each and every day by every one of us! Chances are we will be put to the test each and every day. This was brought to the forefront of my mind recently when I read something that incited an internal rage within that I haven’t felt for a good long while. My mind went straight to war mode.

Gladly I have wonderful friends that have been in the art much longer than I and an excellent sensei that has never let me down. After talking with them and having time to ruminate, I realize that I can thank the author(s) of that article for sharing their comments. Although I can’t agree with them, through seeing their flaws, they have enabled me to see those of my own. In turn, I can love a part of them for doing this. We can always find good in our fellow man if we look deep enough. And, when it comes down to it, isn’t that what the baseline is.. love and compassion for ourselves and our fellow man?

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In re-reading parts of Ki in Daily Life by Koichi Tohei. last night, I ran across a section that pertained to something that has been popping into my mind from time to time. It deals with what can be called open mind. Tohei talks about being candid and begins with:

Not just in ki training, but when you are learning anything, frankness is essential. Some people, ruined by their previous experience or knowledge, are unable to learn things openly. These people have what we call bad habits. They judge things solely on the basis of their own narrow experience and think that what suits them is correct and what does not suit them is wrong. Progress does not lie this way.

Say we have a glass full of water. If we try to pour more water into it, the water will flow out, and only a little will remain in the glass. Once empty the glass, and it will hold plenty of new water. If your head is crammed with this and that, whatever new things you try to learn, they will not go in… Ki training is the discipline that lets you make great progress in moving from a world that emphasizes the body to one that centers on the spirit, from one that thinks in dualities, to one that thinks in absolutes, and from a world of fighting to a world of peace… Some people decide once and for all in their heart that they are not going to believe what anyone says.

We all come from varied backgrounds, different martial arts, religions, social backgrounds… that’s what makes us unique. But with the same vain of thought as Tohei’s glass of water, old water can become stagnant. And even if you add some fresh to it, I wouldn’t want to drink it. Best to empty your glass and refill with fresh water. I have also heard that as long as the ki flows pure, the water remains clean. I think the key here is that you have a continuous flow.

So, I suppose, we should try letting go… and have a glass of fresh water!

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