This is Part IV, the last of a series of posts called, “Hanshi Teachings” about things I’ve learned from the hanshi level teacher in my dojo.
I didn’t really understand it at the time. The hanshi sensei had just been telling me about keeping my thumb straight through the form. I had spent about a half an hour at the makiwara, practice hay bail, and just got to the target to test it all out. My mind was full and I was focused, and then he said, “Just open.”
I shot and the arrow flew very very far away from the target. He laughed and said, “That’s good.”
I think I was too busy at the time to realize the importance of “opening” in the form, but until now I’ve had lots of images about “just opening” coming into my mind and body naturally, and now I see it just as he said it before, open.
This open phenomenon happens mainly at the hanare, release. We want our release to be big and uninhibited. We extend and extend and extend in the full draw and then naturally unknowingly the release just happens, swinging our energy outwards.
It’s supposed to be like dew falling from a leaf of grass. The drop of water the arrow, and the leaf ourself.
If we make this kind of “natural” release successfully, our chest and shoulders will get the feeling of opening. If our technique is warped, bent, or if we are putting tension in unnatural places, then we will contract in our hanare, the opposite of what we want which is opening.
So it’s really not just in our hanare, where the opening will happen, it begins much earlier when we make the base of our torso in the early stage of douzukuri, the making of the chest. From here we already open our chest. In the proceeding stages, we protect our douzukuri, and don’t let it crumble throughout the transitions we make in uchiokoshi (raising of the bow), daisan (two thirds draw), and hikiwake (draw).
Then, upon the great base we have created since douzukuri we come to the full draw (kai). Here we wait and expand.
I asked the hanshi, “What should we do in kai, (the full draw)”
“Nothing. Don’t think about anything. Just streeeeeeeeettttccchhh … then open.”
And I guess that’s it. I think about a lot more in my full draw than nothing, but maybe that’s necessary for now. Maybe one day soon I’ll understand that part about “nothing”. But for now, it’s just “open”.
I have to say this is probably the greatest physical feeling in kyudo, actually being able to open in the release. In fact it’s completely addicting.
Build a proper douzukuri, maintain it through the transitions of your form, expand in kai, and then open.
Give it a try.
To finish I’ll leave with an image I’ve been using for this “opening” lately.
In the last post I mentioned imagining the backs of my shoulders as steel unmovable plates I use to push the bow apart. This alone will help to create a good douzukuri and allow one to open in their hanare, but there’s something missing inside. Something burning, something in the center …
Remember your heart, right there in the center of your torso. That great red beating machine. Let those steel plates of the backs of your shoulders protect and expand from you heart in the center. Then at your release show your heart to the world with pride. Expand from the heart, and at the release you’ll be a lion.
This is all for my series of “Hanshi Teachings”. I don’t meet with him all that much regularly, and when I do I don’t always get to talk with him, but being around him and taking the few pieces of advice I have has changed my kyudo considerably. Hanshi are like treasures of the kyudo world. We’d do best to learn as much as we can from them so that we too can someday teach the next generation as well as they did.
But don’t bugger or worship them … that will probably just piss them off and then they won’t show you anything cool.
Just watch and open.