Epic. Heavy. Deep.
These are some great words to describe kyudo. The effect of these words is what separates kyudo from a lot of other sports and physical practices. If we can take our practice seriously, and pursue our improvement with supreme effort in every arrow, then we are getting somewhere close to the essence of kyudo.
But what if it’s too viscid?
We might like a dark thick coffee, like a Turkish coffee, but are you going to drink the thick grind at the bottom? Of course not. Though it may be the great essence of that coffee, it’s not a part for us to drink.
What we’re looking for is a perfect balance. Maybe that balance is darker and thicker than what we find in most other things and people. Maybe people will look at our practice and say, “Man, that’s heavy!” but it’s not going to be the quintessence of heavy.
This is a common pitfall of kyudo, and perhaps many other martial arts, and perhaps many styles of life as well: we find one idea that works, and then focus all of our resources to making it the “golden law”, or elixir, or whatever. We think that the point of kyudo is to be as heavy as possible. We think that the point of kyudo is to be as polite as possible. We think that the point of kyudo is to be as accurate as possible.
Well, I have one answer to this:
We are not robots.
We are not equations.
Not everything is known.
Not everything is decided.
Well, I suppose that was more like four answers, but they all point to the same thing, which is that kyudo, or anything for that matter is not just one thing. Kyudo is a balance of many disparate things. I would go far enough to say that kyudo is a balance of so many disparate things that it is not possible to manage them all consciously at the same time. So we must rally our focus to certain areas of focus.
Heavy kyudo is simple and keeps our focus locked to certain definite things, which is a good thing. However, such a heavy kyudo does not allow us to adapt well. It does not allow us to handle multi-tasking of the mind which can be needed in kyudo. This will hold our physical technique down as well as feel like chains on the mind and spirit. This can be depressing.
For example, we go to our practice determined to change one part of our form that needs work. Knowing what part of our form needs work is great, determined to focus on that task is also great, but maybe it’s a serious problem that can’t be fixed in a day … or a week … or a month … or a year. How do we feel when we bring our most epic heaviness to this task, only to walk away with the same form we started with? We become dissatisfied with our practice, and more seriously, ourselves. So we rally more and more depth to our training, to fall even farther down into our dark pits.
This probably isn’t fun. It’s probably obvious to those around us, which not only impedes on their practice, but probably doesn’t make you fun to practice with either. Think about the other people that you train with or see at tournaments. They probably have a great affect on your own practice. I’ve seen lots of people that make we want to quit kyudo. I’ve seen a few people who make me realize that I want to practice kyudo forever. I won’t go as far to say that we have a responsibility to have a positive affect on other with our practice, but if we take a good look at the actual affects of our practice on others, I think everyone would naturally choose to improve how their practice may affect others.
So let’s take it easy. Relax.
How about having some fun?
Release your burdening mind from the one focus of your obsession, and spread the love around your technique, your dojo, and the whole universe for that matter. Feel the weight come off your bones and muscles as your spine straightens to heaven. Push the bow apart with your right elbow and left thumb and expand expand expand … with your eyes open …
Watch the arrow’s flight into the target.
I bet there will be something of a smile on your face.
Let’s experiment a little with light kyudo.
It might just take you to the clouds.