Happy Safe Kyudo

… is not where you really want to be … trust me.

Alone, hitting the target effortlessly. “Oh, somebody came by … let’s show them how cool we are … oh, we hit the target again.” “Isn’t kyudo just wonderful!”

Our own little happy safe world.

This does not exist.

Well, perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. We are free to make our kyudo however which way we like, and as humans I believe we can do anything … so perhaps it does exist, or should be sought out. But in my experience I have never seen it like that … and have never felt it.

If there’s one thing about kyudo that stands out amongst other arts, it’s the tension.

There is a great amount of tension in good kyudo, and getting good at kyudo means handling that tension in the right ways. A great kyudo practitioner will maximize tension in the areas it should be (backs of the legs and arms, great tension-filled tenouchi, tension-filled electric spirit) and complete empty oneself and relax in the other parts.

Often, at least as beginners, I think most people start naturally making their practice easy and comfortable. This happens physically in their bodies as well as in their minds, but it makes for weak kyudo.

By weak I mean inconsistent. By weak I mean dependent on that happy feeling. We shoot soft arrows based on timing that arc into the target, and shoot with a feeling that can be crashed by the slightest of interruptions. By allowing ourselves to get what we think we want, we weaken our technique.

Screw that.

Let’s get uncomfortable.

Let’s get naked in front of everyone and shoot, because that’s essentially what you’re doing.

If you’ve ever taken a test or participated in a tournament, or just plain shot in front of people you usually don’t, then you’ll know what I mean.

It’s hard to comprehend the tension that comes with such experiences. For me, it comes with the frightening possibility of relieving my bowels in front of anyone and my legs shaking so much they can be seen through the hakama (traditional Japanese pants/skirt).

No excuses.

“I can’t believe I missed the target.” “I’m usually much better.” “I guess I’m just not feeling it today.”

Fuck that.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh. Maybe that’s my style of kyudo. Maybe others won’t like it.

But if we don’t get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and learn to harnass the tension, then our kyudo will be a tiny little flower, crushed by the next storm.

Maybe you don’t really want what you thought you did. Maybe it never even existed. Let’s do kyudo now, here, just the way it is, and aspire for greatness in this chaotic world we live in.


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