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Posts Tagged ‘Zen’

“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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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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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)

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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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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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