Ikiai - Breathing · Image Training · Kai - the Full Draw

Grumbling Bear Breathing

Deep in the belly,

grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr …

grumbling vibrating through the entire body.

Pushing outwards from a deep cave within.

This bear, my bear, I am a bear.

Nobody fucks with this bear. Deep grumbling growling.

This image was brought upon in relation to two things:

1.) Forgetting about breathing and holding unecessary tension in the full draw, kai.

I’ve been focusing on a great many different things in my form, all taking away from what is needed in my core. My chest and stomach have become hollow and small as I focus on my grip, tenouchi, and my right elbow. The overall effect is a weakening of my form, and counterintuitively putting limitations on those things I’m trying to focus on. I try to focus on my breathing, but it’s still hollow.

So I started grumbling.

A deep low grumble that reverberates in my stomach, up to my chest, in my throat, and out through my limbs. By doing this it not only insures my focus on the breath indefinitely, but also seems to bring my belly breathing to life. Somehow, inacting the actual physical movement and sound seems to help immensely. Not only am I focusing on my breathing, it is actually working, and also allows me to push outwards in everything else I am supposed to, like my yokosen (horizontal extension through my shoulders and arms) and tatesen (vertical extension through the spine). Surely there has to be some similar connections in chanting or playing wind instruments.

Next is,

2.) Overcoming a short kai.

Focusing on certain technical specifics like my grip, tenouchi, and right elbow not only take away needed attention in my core, but also speeds up my full draw. When it should usually be about 6 to 8 seconds, it gets to be 2 or 3, maybe 4 … which is definitely not good. The overall form crumbles, there is no substance, I become obsessed only with small technical details and hitting the target, and worst of all get used to timing my shot instead of just expanding and releasing naturally, shooting the arrow straight. I noticed this, like the breathing, and tried to just extend it mentally, but still failed, just like the breathing. So now I count in my head to make it an absolute fact that I will hold my full draw, kai, long enough. But just thinking about it and counting doesn’t seem to work.

We need to give it a little umph, a little agro, a little attitude.

So I grumble growl.

With each second I count I feel the growl growing, expanding within me. I make damn sure I hold that kai long enough so I count big and slow. Also, it’s not just about just making it at 6 seconds, it’s about really making it happen so I don’t let go until I make it to 8.

I just started this today and it felt good. Looking forward to trying it again tomorrow. I wonder how far I can take it. Surely it wouldn’t go well if others hear me growling at the shooting mark … so we’ll see if I can find a good balance.

How do you make sure you’re breathing and holding a steady draw?

Let me know.

Or maybe you can try the bear.


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