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Posts Tagged ‘Self Improvement’

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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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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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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Thoughts Worth Remembering

Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? Shirdi Sai Baba

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