I’ve noticed lately that one of the major patterns I go through in my form involves periods of time where I create great hariai (tension) in my form, and then periods of time where my form feels lax. Perhaps when my form is lax I’m utilizing some positive aspects in my mind and technique, but generally my form is much better when I create proper tautness, hariai. A lot of the time I don’t notice my lack of hariai until I’m in kai (the full draw), but trying to effectively create hariai from nothing in the full draw is near impossible. So we need to go back to one the earlier steps to where we make our initial tension:
Yugamae, readying the bow.
Yugamae is third of the eight stages of shooting, and the first where we finally hold the bow and string with both hands. So this is where we must apply our hariai to the bow and arrow which must be maintained until the final stage of zanshin after we have released the arrow.
So how do we create hariai at the stage of yugamae?
With two steps.
First, is after we have both hands on the bow and string just before we turn our heads to the target. At this stage we can’t just simply hold the bow, but must create hariai but opening the space in our armpits by stretching our arms forward while slightly flaring our elbows out to the sides creating a oval-shaped ring from your chest, around the inside of your arms, and between the space of the bow and string. But it’s not just the arms, it’s our back and shoulder blades spreading apart (the source of hariai we create in our arms). But if we just focus on all that upper body torso stuff we may tend to lean forward, so we must stretch our spine down into the earth and up into the clouds. We penetrate the sky with the crown of our head with our chin slightly pulled forward. Our pelvis is tilted forward so we don’t stick out our asses creating a bend in the straight line of our backs to the ground. The core of all of this lies in the backs of our legs which are held taut, linking to the ground.
All of this is required for proper hariai, so this is the first check. It may seem like a lot to focus on and remember, but for me I just try to remember the backs of my legs, stretching my spine, and remembering the tension in my triceps and backs of my shoulders, and that is step one of “locking in”. Take a look at your form, or others. I bet you’ll be able to see a huge difference between the archers who make great hariai before they raise the bow in uchiokoshi, and those who just stand there empty holding the bow.
The second step lies in our kao muke, which is the turning of our head to the left towards the target. We must do this completely so that we are looking straight at the target, with our chin slightly tucked in. We look at the center of the target from this point until the final stage of zanshin. One proof of our success with kaomuke is seeing the muscle in our neck standing straight up and down facing the front of our chest. If our kaomuke is too soft, then this muscle will probably be slanted. The kaomuke is important for the same reason preparing the rest of our body in yugamae is important, for creating the right hariai, tension. Why should our necks be left out of all of this? If our kaomuke is soft, it will affect the rest of our form, and therefore affect our ability to shoot a straight arrow.
So these are my two checks.
Like a hawk, I set my mark from perch.
Arms stretched taut. Check.
Face turned completely. Check.
Locked in I raise the bow above me … move into daisan … lower the bow into kai … streeeeeeeeeeeeeetttttttcccchhhhhhh … burning into the center of the target, splitting apart equally to the right and left from the center of my spine … strrrreeeeeeeeeettttcccccchhhh …
The hawk plunges through it’s prey, leaving zero doubt.
These are the checks of yugamae.
You do anything different?
Thanks for reading.