Huge progress at practice today. I may have found the single cause to a lot of problems I’ve had with my shooting lately. Basically …
I’ve been pulling to hard.
In the full draw I’m maxed out at 100%, so when it comes time for the release I have nowhere to go but yurumu, make my form slacken at the moment of the release, which is really really really bad. In order to fix this I’ve been trying to pull even harder, and so it makes all the problems with my form even more exaggerated and sick. When looking at my form through videos and pictures, it doesn’t look all that bad through the phases until the full draw, but then my release is horrible and so my arrows go everywhere but into the target.
Specifically, my grip flares upward in the release, and my right hand flies out low. In order to fix this I’ve tried to focus on the yasuji, the line of the arrow, so that my arms shoot out horizontal and straight, but no matter what the result is the same. In order to keep my grip straight instead of flaring up I’ve been focusing on my thumb only moving straight towards the target, but it hasn’t worked, and instead has made me put more strength and tension into my grip, which makes it worse. For my right arm I’ve focused on pulling my elbow as far as I can to the side, but without focusing on relaxing the tension in my hand, I’ve been gripping the string too tightly. So basically I’ve been pulling the bow with my hands, putting extreme and unnecessary tension into them, stretching my back and shoulders as much as possible, and at this point I stop extending in the draw, my energy becomes static, and my release is random sending the arrows everywhich way.
Focus more! Pull harder! Try harder!
Nope, that’s not it.
Gotta cool down. Chill out. Relax. Slamming my head against this mountain isn’t gonna make it move. Finally I’m waking up.
As a whole, I’m pulling way too hard, and need to reserve my energy so that it slowly builds and builds and builds in the full draw until the release where it may max out at 100%. So now I’m trying something new. After the two-thirds draw (daisan) when I move into the draw, I’m pulling carefully and get into the full draw at about 90%. From there it builds slowly,
91 … 92 … 93 … 94 … 95 … 96 … 97 … 98 … 99 …
I follow through the release with the peak of my form somewhere between the release itself and the final stance of zanshin.
With this, the release is smooth and extending.
The feeling is cool.
The color is blue.
The result feels good.
And I usually hit the center of the target.
That’s the big picture.
Next are the small details of the hands. How can I fix all the extra unnecessary tension I’ve been putting into them?
As for my right hand that pulls the string, I remember the advice I was given when I bought my last kake, glove. A teacher saw my form and noticed I was bending my wrist while I pulled the string, putting extra tension into my form, and making for very inaccurate shots. In order to fix this he told me to focus on the outside bone of my wrist when I draw the string. By doing this, my wrist remains straight, my fingers can relax, and I can effectively feel the thumb being pulled, almost like it’s going to pull the glove right off of my hand. I use a yotsugake, four finger glove, and this is easy to feel in the haya (first arrow) because you’re holding the otoya (second arrow) in your pinky. By doing this, it’s easy to focus on this image and your wrist naturally doesn’t bend because it’s holding the arrow. It’s in the otoya that I have to be extra careful, because I have no arrow held in my pinky to keep me in check.
So I pull with the outside of my wrist.
I focus on the arrow behind pulled across my check in the full draw to make sure that I am actually expanding.
At the release I keep the image of zanshin in my mind like I’m already seeing the future, and my hand will magically follow that line straight out.
Then there’s my tenouchi, grip on the bow. Holy Kamisama this is by far the most difficult part of kyudo technique for me, but I’ve kind of found something that seems to work.
Just leave it sono mama, just the way it is.
Basically we make the form of our tenouchi in the stage of yugamae, preparing the bow. After that, it shouldn’t change all that much to the very end. We raise the bow in front of us in uchiokoshi, and at the point we must bend forward at the wrist, and that can’t be helped. We move into the two-thirds draw of daisan, and THERE, our tenouchi is decided. It doesn’t move, it doesn’t change, it doesn’t do anything crazy. We decide our tenouchi at daisan, and that’s the way it is. So when we draw the bow and move into the full draw, I draw the bow focusing on keeping my tenouchi just the way it is, protecting it’s shape under the increasing pressure of the bow. At the full draw I keep it just the way it is, and add the tiniest flavor of my thumb reaching towards the target like it’s going to punch a whole in it.
Just the way it is!
I keep the form of my tenouchi just the way it is, and through the release, I focus on my thumb piercing the target.
By doing this, my tenouchi doesn’t move in any funky directions, and allows the bow to turn without tension inside of my hand.
Our hands and our outside form is based on images.
When I do well it’s like I’m seeing myself from the outside.
It’s like I can see the next step before it happens.
Basically, through the whole form I’m already in the final stage of zanshin.
It’s time to relax. Don’t go at 100% the whole time. Let your form build and build and build with the right delicate little parts, and at the end they all come together as you spread apart from your center.
Oh yeah, I forgot about that … all the while we expand from the center line perfectly to the left and right and up and down.
Lots of stuff to think about, but it’s all within our means.
Nobody becomes a hanshi master in a day, or even 20 years, but little by little, our greatness can be realized.
Talking about all of this and looking at the archers around me it becomes really clear that everyone shoots very differently. While we all seem to have basically the same style that follows the hassetsu, eight stages of shooting, we all have our own personal style and way of pulling the bow. We all utilize different little techniques. These things I’m focusing now are what I believe will help me improve my technique. They may not be the best, and maybe I’ll change to something else. Maybe some people utilize these techniques I’m focusing on, maybe some others focus on others. It’s really hard to tell. All we can do is analyze our form with the help of teachers, do our best to improve, and put one foot in front of the other, adapting to the changing scenery.
There is still so much mystery.
Good luck to us all.
Onward and upward.