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Release the Pressure

Like overworked machines we combust all of this hot pressure, condensing the furious fumes inside of our constricting bodies, shaking increases speed and sharp high pitched sounds slowly spike until one giant very unsatisfying explosion occurs. Before you realize it, the pressure has already begun to build again.

We need to release the pressure before all of this happens.

We need to just relax and not care so much, and the magic will just happen.

I used to read and hear stuff like that and consider it bullshit, or something you can do after you’ve acquired the skill that you want. I used to say, “Ha, that’s nice but bullshit, tell me exactly how to acquire the physical technique and I’ll do it.” Perhaps a lot of other people feel the same way. If that’s how you feel though, I’m guessing you haven’t spent much time practicing budo.

I think it’s essentially an issue of power, strength and desire. These are all things that are utilized in budo, but in very specific instances, like little slivers of toothpicks inside of a clay mold. The rest is basically putting our bodies and selves into the right shapes, which doesn’t necessarily require strength and power. We think it does, and in order to find the shape at first we use excessive strength to get there, but more than often it just gets in the way.

We want so badly, so anything less than what we want is considered failure and not tolerated. Effort and concentration is used to isolate problems and overcome them, but in budo we’re dealing with a lot of factors of sensitivity beyond our seeing eye. We’re dealing with our bodies which are far more complicated than understanding through logic in a moment, so we have to intuitively feel out the movements and differences of our bodies instead of just thinking. We’re also dealing with pieces of equipment that are not us and completely foreign to our bodies. We’re working on goals based on the works of masters, that cannot possibly be acquired by beginners. And yet we still strive to be perfect on the very first day.

I remember one of the best days I ever had in kyudo was when I was sufficiently hungover. I went into the dojo, sensei said I stunk like alcohol, I said I went to a farewell party the night before, and then started getting ready. I wasn’t thinking about kyudo at all, because that function of my body was hindered incredibly by the hangover, so I just picked up the equipment and shot. For some reason it felt great and I hit the target twice as much as usual. It was uncanny. It was because I didn’t care, and just subconsciously went through the motions … albeit it was a little sloppy.

Hail drunken kyudo!

It makes me think of the rest of the time I live a sober clean life where I do my best in everything. There are many benefits to that, but I can feel it when I go to kyudo, that I expect it all to be perfect. I appear “relaxed” and tell myself so because it’s what I “should” be, but it’s largely because I want to please myself and everyone around me. There, there is already pressure building. I pull the bow staring so clearly and focused on the problems that they are all I see. I don’t do it perfect so frustration builds, concentration focuses, and then other problems start arising because of my tunnel vision and tension of muscles. Everything is a waste of time, and all you’re doing is hurrying so you can try again and maybe get it right, but that rush already compounds it all, and you’ve already started your next shitty shot in your head.

Why?

I’m doing my best?

I didn’t drink last night and am living healthily?

I’m nice to people and pay all of my bills on time. Kyudo is about having a correct spirit. I’m doing everything else perfect, why can’t I do kyudo right?

This is how I felt today. Remarkably I hit the target 50% of the time, which is ridiculous because I used failing technique the whole time. I was either really lucky, subconsciously adjusting to my faults, or my desire to hit the target overrides my crappy technique. I’m not proud of any of those, and focusing on any of them I think will just breed worse kyudo. Today was a practice. Perhaps it’s not my favorite, but I went, did my best, will go on to reflect, and it is a very important chink in my kyudo chain.

There is an obsession of sobriety that is incredibly dangerous.

We must release the pressure.

We must breath big and consistently. We must not care if we fail. We must accept our imperfections. We must see with our belly.

Who are you pullling the bow for anybody?

There’s nobody else there. There’s no riches to be made. You will die and be forgotten.

Why are you trying so hard?

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