Welcome to Part II of this short series investigating the importance of taihai. In the last post I talked about what taihai is, and here I would like to talk about the importance of the toriyumi posture on taihai.
Just to review, taihai are basically all the movements we perform in the shooting area before, after and during shooting which includes entering, walking, sitting, standing, bowing, shooting itself, leaving the area, etc.
In English we could take a leap to define taihai as “distributing the body”.
Perhaps we can just call taihai, “taihai”.
Thanks to many wonderful comments on the kyudo facebook page made about taihai regarding this post and the practice of taihai itself, I was able to relearn a few things I would like to share here quickly before moving on:
1.) ” One thing that never seems to be explicitly addressed is that kyudo is at its heart a Shinto ritual. The shooting floor is overwatched by the kamidana, so there are “eyes” upon your every movement, from entry, through the shooting to the exit. How you display respect matters.“
Yes! This is something I’ve thought for a long time and helps me to focus on the movements instead of just hitting the target. Do gods and kami really exist? If so, are they judging our movements? I don’t know. But if they were, then I’d be sure to do things right. Often times when I’m alone I get tunnel vision on the target, and this is a great image that always pulls me back to respected technique based on core principles.
2.) “Arranging the shooting in such a form that shooters from different schools can shoot together.”
Yes! I have read this a few times in different books about the history of kyudo and it makes complete sense. This becomes immediately practical for events such as tests and tournaments, which would be made much more tedious and lengthy without the agreed upon taihai. One doesn’t have to believe in gods or be super-interested in the beauty of movements of taihai to understand the importance of taihai considering this point.
3.) There were also comments about “hollow rituals”. By the comment I wasn’t sure exactly what it was referring to in taihai, be it specific points or taihai as a whole, but this is something important to consider with taihai. As far as I know, there are no “hollow rituals”, or meaningless movements in taihai, otherwise they wouldn’t be done. But perhaps we are practicing lots of movements in our taihai that we don’t understand. If that is the case, then we should ask around, so that we can learn and improve our art. This is largely the purpose of these series of posts on taihai: to elucidate the meanings behind the movements, and taihai as a whole.
AND SO! Moving on …
Hopefully your attention isn’t completely spent by now, so I recommend getting your favorite blog reading beverage and starting anew. I promise I will try not to ramble on with hollow words.
So, on to the importance of the toriyumi posture on taihai. The toriyumi posture is shown in the wonderful picture at the top of this post.
Toriyumi looks like this in Japanese: 執弓
The first character 執 (tori) comes from the word 執る (toru) which means, “do; handle; execute; write; command; defend.”
The second word is 弓 (yumi) which simple means “bow.” (Referring to the bow we shoot with).
So, we can easily put this together to mean “handling the bow”.
Or we can just call it toriyumi, which I will continue to do so in this post.
Toriyumi is THE basic posture of holding the bow. If you aren’t doing proper toriyumi, then your taihai will be weak, and so will your shooting. Toriyumi must be understood before moving on to the movements of taihai, which is why I’m bringing it up before the movements in this series of posts.
I’m pretty sure toriyumi was the first thing I learned in the kyudo class I started with, just after sitting and bowing so we could begin the class properly. Before even touching a bow or arrow, or gomukyu (rubber bow practice apparatus), we put our hands to our hips in toriyumi. In my first written test that came along with shodan, describing the toriyumi posture was the first question that came up.
Just like everything else in kyudo, one should first learn from direct instruction from a teacher. After that, one should check the Kyudo Manual (kyuhon in Japanese) to understand the concepts in words. Because of that I will only quickly go over a few important points of the toriyumi posture here.
So, in the toriyumi posture we should:
-Hold the bow at the grip in the left hand placed at the hip-bone so that the tip of the bow should be held about 10cm above the ground in front of you with the string facing outward.
-Hold the arrows in the right hand at the first joint between the circle of the thumb and index finger. The arrow position will be slightly different depending on the style you practice, having the arrow tips just hidden in your grip or revealed a few cm outside of the grip.
-The bow and arrows are held so that if you drew extending lines from their tips, an invisible triangle would be made pointing in front of you. Doing this the arrows and bow should be at the same angle with the floor.
-Males stand with a 3cm gap between their feet, and females stand with their feet together.
-The back is straightened like we’re being pulled from the top-most point of our heads making our chins pull slightly in and tilt down.
-When standing our eyes are looking down our noses 4 meters ahead at the floor, and 2 meters ahead when sitting in the kiza posture. These are the points we are looking at , but we should be also softly looking at the entire space of where we are.
-Shoulders should be flat and relaxed downwards while the elbows are flared out to the sides.
-The body shouldn’t be too tense, leaning too far forward, back, or to the sides.
-It is often said that one should be “round”, yet that’s a hard image for me to grasp personally. It’s also said one should be “relaxed”, which I agree with, but we also need a certain amount of hariai (張り合い） tautness.
Did I get it all?
I wouldn’t say it’s all that complicated, but very difficult to remember and practice completely.
Since the last post I have been thinking about what to say about toriyumi with all my great and wondrous knowledge on the subject, and it happened to be the big thing I was corrected on yesterday at our local monthly reikai event! It was very humbling to be corrected on the very first thing we’re supposed to learn, but I’m very happy for the chance to relearn this important basic. It’s funny that teachers will often correct mistakes concerning basics like the toriyumi posture and taihai instead of more technical details more seemingly directed to shooting. I believe this is so because the toriyumi posture and taihai teach us the basics necessary for proper shooting.
My basic problem was that my hands were placed too far below where they are supposed to be, which made my back slightly slouch forward, and my elbows flare out behind me instead of to the sides like they are supposed to. This makes my toriyumi posture empty and weak, and that affects every single one of my movements in taihai. With such flawed taihai, future tests will not be passed, and my shooting form will be limited.
So, back to the toriyumi!
1.) Stab your thumbs perpendicular to your hip bones on your pelvis and don’t let them sag down anywhere else.
Looking at this picture, I’m thinking it’s the “anterior superior iliac spine” located on the right. (???)
2.) Stretch your spine and tilt your chin lightly forward.
3.) Flare your elbows out to the side, not behind you.
I followed these three steps according to the words of my teacher and everything changed completely.
Oddly, I kind of felt like the pro-wrestler Goldberg with my traps and lats flared out.
The amazing part though is that it created the necessary tautness in my body and brought my toriyumi posture to life. By doing so, I could perform improved taihai, and thus help me to better shoot a straight arrow.
HERE IT IS! THE IMPORTANCE AND RELEVANCE OF THE TORIYUMI POSTURE AND TAIHAI!
In shooting we must keep our spine straight and taut. We must also have proper tautness and tension in our elbows to use our bones and tendons and structure in shooting instead of our muscles. In the toriyumi posture we are abiding by the laws of sanjujuumonji (three crosses) and kihon-shisei and kihon-dousa (basic posture and basic movements).
It is also imperative to note that the toriyumi posture allows us to create proper douzukuri (making of the torso), which is not only something that should be ever-present in our taihai and shooting, but it is an actual step in the eight stages of shooting. At that stage we check to make sure we have proper structure in our torso and whole body, but really if we have already made a proper toriyumi posture and maintained it throughout our taihai, then we won’t have lots of things to fix in the douzukuri stage.
If we can maintain all these basic points in our toriyumi posture and taihai, then it will help us to maintain these in our shooting and enable us to shoot a straight arrow.
Without the toriyumi posture we have nothing and cannot begin talking about taihai.
And so, before we can actually start talking about the specific movements of taihai we actually have two more basic fundamentals to visit which is the kihon-shisei (basic form) and kihon-dousa (basic movements.)
So stay tuned, and someday we’ll actually start talking about the specific movements of taihai.