“Are you sure I’ll be ready for my shodan test?”
“Yes. You practiced through the winter. You will pass.”
This is one exchange with my first teacher that I will never forget.
That spring I did pass my shodan test. Who knows if it was due to practicing through the winter, or if it was just plain practice, but it changed something inside of me concerning my relation to winter.
Depending on where you live, winter can change a lot of things in your practice. Often these changes will make your practice more difficult. When I lived in Toyama where I first started the bow, it was usually white from December to February, with some snows coming in November and March, and even April. Here in Nakatsu it only snows a couple times a year. Apparently just two weeks ago we got the most snow in decades, which is where these pictures came from. I woke up feeling like I was back in Toyama, but it all melted after two days.
Anyway, winter brings challenges to your training. First you have to muster the energy to leave your warm abode. Then there’s getting to the dojo, which for me involves a 25 minute bike ride. In the sun it’s not so bad, but bring snow or wind or rain and this can be a different game. You’ve got to get started in your dojo or gym, which is most likely colder than it is outside. So you’re finally warmed up and ready to go, but maybe you’re the only one there because others won’t come to practice.
Lonely, cold, and strenuous.
It’s not easy, but then who does kyudo because it’s easy?
For those that do, you’re in for a very long road that probably won’t bear fruit.
And for those that love kyudo because it’s not easy, then you probably enjoy the lonely, cold, and strenuous to some extent.
Inside of that winter strain, there is unparalleled beauty.
The quiet white.
For me there’s nothing quite as visually pleasing as snow, and for some reason it goes so well with Japan. Maybe it’s the simplicity. Maybe it’s the straight lines. Maybe it’s the placing of what is precisely appropriate. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I spent my first 20 minutes of training setting up and staring at the dojo in the snow.
How can this place look so different than before? In no other season can you really see your training in such a different light. And that is precisely what can improve your training. You’ll get to benefit from a load of new feelings inside your body and mind that will inspire your shooting, as well as feel other pains and blockades you haven’t felt before.
And the snow is really bright. This is the first thing I noticed when shooting in the snow.
So now the snow has melted, and it’s just really cold and windy here instead. In that way I’m jealous of all others out there who have to trudge through the snow and glare at the white banks at which you shoot. Enjoy your winter training for how hard it is!
Cheers to winter training, and the sweaty summer that will follow.
Stay warm and dry.