Budo/Martial Arts · Kyudo

Aso Part II: Other Worlds

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This is the second day of our trip to Aso.

It’s now two months in the past, and the threads of memory are freying with time, but at least I can share some of the pictures here and talk about the “Other World.”

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The first day we went to Southern Aso and climbed Mt. Eboshi. We stayed in Southern Aso and the next day drove up along the cliffs with the main volcano of Aso as our destination. Driving up we eventually reached the same level as the outer rim of the Aso area and could see the semi-circle of Aso Town below and heavy pre-rainy season clouds pushing in.

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Lots of rolling green hills and wandering cows .

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After a while we got to our ultimate goal of the crater of Aso.

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This sights were surreal and I understood why everyone kept saying it feels like you’re on the moon. Today the crater was billowing steam, but on some days you can look down to the pool at the bottom.

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So other worldly places, why do we find them so interesting?

That’s kind of a stupid question I guess though, because ithey’re different.

But maybe it’s a more basic question than we imagine, one which we might all benefit from trying to answer a little more.

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Are you captivated by the other side?

Do you want what one doesn’t normally feel?

How do you find your other side?

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Before I can remember warriors appeared around me. The stood around gazing at me calmly, I looked back and said, “Me too.” In various guises I have been led by epic images and stories so that I may mirror the brave characters who defined the most noble human existence to me.

One starts with imitation, and then assumes training which will begin to forge that sought after “other world” inside of them.

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I have sought my “other world” through physical activity and have been forging its greater manifestation through what we call martial arts. Today, that art is kyudo, traditional Japanese archery.

It’s starts with imitation, so I copied the movements of my teachers, put on the dress, and followed the rules. Like painting the outside of a shell, markings have been made by brushes and paints with these initial movements, but eventually beneath the surface, signs are drawn by unseen instruments spiraling inside.

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The “other world” is no longer just an image, plain mimickry, but the thick existence of something crawling real.

Thick mist and volcano craters. There in silence it begins …

Stand erect with the bow and arrows at our hips, elbows flared to the sides. Gaze extending down the nose eyes half closed. A deep breath before the plunge.

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Enter the dojo. Bow to the gods. Slide slowly with each step to the mark. Every movement ushered by the breathing, in … out … in … out …

The silence makes the movement slow, falling down like wet concrete. The river flows slowly and forward and all at once. Standing, sitting, bowing, standing, stepping, sitting, turning.

Arrows nock to the string. Offered to the gods we present the bow and stand. Legs taut with nervous muscle along the hamstrings, elbows flared out, shoulders sink down as the neck rises up into the clouds. Like rain, insides melt down through a place inside of you below the belly, down your legs, and into the generator of the Earth.

Eyes half closed, your head turns slowly following the line of your arrow finally upon the target. At the center of everything likes the black and white spirals of that you wish to penetrate. Arms rise like smoke above while all else compounds deeper and deeper down. One breath to flush down, eyes and elbows and legs still taut with purpose. The draw splits open your chest inside of the bow and there at the great quiet chaos of full tension, your arms are torn to the sides and your spine stretched between heaven and hell. Eyes calmly burning, smiling, not smiling … anything … anytime … anywhere …

CRACK!

Beyond the bow, beyond the arrow, we are released.

As if there was nothing, the bow lowered, gaze returned, and finally new breath is taken.

A slow procession flows from the mark, to the gate. One last bow to the gods, and the dojo is empty again.

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Welcome to my “other world”. Kyudo is my own sacred forging and admittance to the other world inside and without me.

This is why I started, and why I continue. Coming back to the normal world of traffic and chit chat, I wonder if I bring scents from that special place. I wonder if I can use the treasures found beyond. I want you to know this place exists, I hope you can see it for yourself.

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As for our trip, we followed past sights we couldn’t find in the mist, and ended up at Aso Ranch.

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There were some shops with amazing cheese and meat,

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There were beautiful May flowers,

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More views we couldn’t see,

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And lots of animals.

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We exist here, but seek the other side.

The details are the whos, and whens, and whats, and wheres.

But “Why?” …

I don’t know.

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