So, it’s pretty easy to understand the first rule of kyudo:
We must expand in the full draw and through the release. We expand equally to the left and the right and this is called the yokosen (横線). This is kyudo, and without it, we’re doing something different altogether.
We are then told to expand upward and downward through our spine. This is called the tatesen (縦線) and is the focus of this blog post today.
We are told about the sanjuu juumonji (三重十文字), the three crosses of the spine and shoulders, the spine and waist, and the spine and the line of the feet on the ground. We align these three crosses along the center and expand ten chi sa yu (天地左右） equally to the left and right, and up and down. Without that taut vertical line, the other crosses crumble.
“Yeah, yeah, I know…”
I “know” because I think, but I can’t do it well because I don’t know what it really means. Often, the biggest problem in my technique is my lack of protecting this vertical line. Though I try, I still find myself hunching over in the full draw, leaning my head into the string, dropping my right hand in the release, and twisting my tenouchi diagonally. The problem is I get stuck thinking only about the yokosen horizontal expansion, which causes these various problems.
But sometimes I have sparks of light, and can see how to protect the tatesen vertical line.
Here I will share these details and hopefully they can help you as well.
I’ll speak first on the greatest help on my vertical line which is focusing on expanding my lats (latissimus dorsi muscles) equally to the left and right throughout the form. Though this seems to be a focus on the horizontal line, it has miraculous effects on the vertical. By focusing on this it takes the pressure out of my arms and shoulders and hands and transfers it to the torso. By utlizing our great trunks we can stabilize our power and allow our arms to relax and simply move the bow effortlessly from place to place as it should.
By focusing on the lats we also allow equal expansion to the left and right, keeping us from leaning too far to one side. This will allow us to lock in to the center line of our spine. If we establish the line of our spine then we are able to expand correctly up and down the vertical line.
Lastly, by focusing on the expansion of my lats, I can feel myself expanding completely and equally to the left and right through hanare, the release. If I am focusing on expanding from my lats, then my expansion (nobiai) is working. If I’m not focusing on my lats, then I’m stopped at the full draw and not expanding. It’s that simple. Focus on the expansion of the lats more and more and more, throughout the release and one will expand equally to the left and right from the tatesen center line.
Next is keeping that vertical line from bending forwards. I have a tendency to lean my head into the string which crumbles the vertical line and often results in my face being lightly slapped by the string. To prevent this, I turn my head completely from the beginning with a correct kaomuke (turning of the head) so my head is square with the target. I make an image of my eyes mirrored by two dots in the top left and right corners of the target, and my chin aligned with one dot at the bottom center of the target. I lock in to the target and don’t move until I return my gaze from the target after the release and the stage of zanshin. By turning my head completely, I feel the vertical standing of the muscle in my neck and connect it to the vertical line of my spine. Throughout the whole form, I maintain the sincereity of that sraight line. I lock my head onto the target and don’t move. In daisan (stage of the two-thirds draw) I see the target just on the outside of my elbow. While drawing the bow I see the target slide along the outside of my arm until it reaches its final aiming spot in the full draw. By doing this I don’t lean my head into the string, and I don’t change my aim throughout the hikiwake (draw), a nasty habit difficult to notice without the eyes of another.
Then, I make sure not to blink at the release. I’ve developed a nasty habit of blinking at the release because I’m subconsciously afraid of being hit by the string at the release. This is because I’m leaning into the string, because I’m not protecting the vertical line. Instead, I tell myself not to blink, because the string won’t hit my face, because I’m not leaning into the string, because I’m protecting the center line, and effectively utilizing my tenouchi which will not yurumu (let up) at the release.
This leads me to my next point, effectively utilizing the tsunomi (twisting door-like action) of the tenouchi (grip on the bow) to enhance the tatesen (center line). We do this by making sure our hand is vertically straight (the tenouchi’s vertial line) by connecting the top and bottom of our hand with the bow. We also do this by preventing yurumi (letting up of the pressure on the bow at the release) by extending our thumb through the release, only pushing forward and not backwards. (See my last post for further explanations on these two specific points of the tenouchi). By effectively utilizing tsunomi in our tenouchi, we can help protect the vertical line.
The last point I’d like to talk about is as simple as peeing on a wall.
Sorry ladies, not sure if this image will help you, but for the guys, you already probably have years of experience with this technique if you’ve ever relieved yourself somewhere other than a designated toilet. We must create our posture from the very beginning in the stage of douzukuri (making of the chest) by pushing our parts forward like we’re peeing on a wall. We squeeze our butt cheeks together turning the front of our pelvis upwards, making our spine straight instead of crumbling forward like and old man. It may seem a little silly, but really give it an exaggerated try and have someone watch you. It may feel strange at first, but it might fix any bad habits of leaning forward and shrinking at the release.
These are my tips for protecting the tatesen, vertical line. Construct them in douzukuri (stage of making the chest), affirm them in yugamae (readying the bow), protect them throughout the following stages and your zanshin (final stance after the release) will be tall and open, reflecting your effective use and balance of the vertical and horizontal lines.
I can’t stress the maintenence of these techniques enough …
Do not crumble throughout the stages of the form, especially during the transition into daisan (two-thirds draw) which is a dangerous pitfall for all of these techniques. We also must be careful to continue focusing on these techniques in kai (the full draw) instead of being hypnotized by the target and thinking only of hitting with our egos.
Protect the structure you made in douzukuri and yugamae with your focus, because there’s no point unless you do it till the end.
Good luck to us all!