Sometimes just hitting the target isn’t the most important thing we’re doing in kyudo. In fact, something more important than hitting the target is communicating with others in kyudo. Like learning to hit the target, this can be a very frustrating endeavor, and yet it is one we must address. Perhaps because it is so difficult, we can benefit so much. This is one way of thinking, and one I’m trying to put into affect after recent struggles.
About those …
I am blessed to have a skilled teacher that is with me most all the time I practice. I am doubly lucky that he holds no punches in giving me advice. I am the archer I am today because of him and I am thankful. However, perhaps I don’t need as much advice as I have been getting lately.
I am peaceful now, but in the middle of the storm amid machine gun sprays of advice I felt like screaming endless curses and throwing my bow with the aim of destroying something.
Recently I have noticed problems in my tenouchi I wish to fix (noted in a recent post). In order to do so I have devised a plan of images to work at with the makiwara and at the target. I expect to not hit the target at first for a while, and in fact miss like I used to before I even made shodan. That’s OK. I don’t care. I am building something new. This doesn’t frustrate me.
Along with this, my teacher gave his usual amount of advice, and I said, “Ok Ok Ok thank you Ok Ok Ok thank you, sure, I will” to appease him and have him leave me some space. I also said these things because they are the same things I think and am trying to do. I felt small glacial success in the makiwara corner.
The next day I went for a special once a week practice with another person who is going for the godan test in March, where we practice with kimonos along with my teacher who gives us pointers. This other guy hits the target like I eat udon with chopsticks … success 90% percent of the time (no one has a perfect record picking up hot udon noodles with chopsticks!). The guy is amazing, and used to be a kokutai senshu (national competitor). I was doing my practice making me hit the target very irregularly. It made for a strange triangle between us as the other two became really concerned about my hits. I was fine because it’s part of my training now and I believe it will make results. But my teacher seemed to take it upon himself to fix me right away, maybe affected by feelings from the other archer.
Nice thought, but I don’t need it right now.
He told me things about my tenouchi to fix, and they are all things I’m already trying to do.
He told me things about my breathing, which were actually really interesting which I want to post about in the future.
Then he started to tell me things about my right hand at the release (shamisen release for those who may be familiar), old bad habits of mine that seemed fixed but have recently come to appear again. I absolutely fucking hate this particular bad habit, and going over it again is like rubbing old scars. I’ve found focusing solely on this problem doesn’t help it. Long story short, my bad habit with my right hand depends upon yurumu-ing (letting up the tension at the release) which is largely affected my my breathing, tenouchi, and use of my whole body. So, this is what I want to focus on, primarily my breathing and tenouchi. This is my plan I want to practice on.
But, what happens is I’m shooting and he’s standing there right in front of me a meter away staring at my form. It makes me nervous and takes away my attention from what I should be doing, but I understand this is good practice for me to be comfortable in front of others while also concentrating on my form. Just after my release he gives me comments which keeps me from experiencing what I should in zanshin after the release.
He says something about my right hand. So I bite my lip, say OK, and make an earnest try to do so.
I shoot, and then he says I forgot about my tenouchi.
“Obviously I did because I was working on my right hand!” Is what I thought but didn’t say. I said, OK, and then focused on my tenouchi.
“Ah, there goes your right hand again. Also you forgot about your breathing.” He says.
“Are you kidding me!? Obviously!!!! I was focusing on my tenouchi!” Is again what I thought but didn’t say.
“Zac you have to focus on your right hand …” And then goes on long explanations on what I am doing versus what I should be doing…all of which I swear to kami I have heard more than 100 times in the same way from the same person.
THE SAME EXACT THINGS IN THE SAME EXACT WAY. Groundhog Day times infinity.
The explanations are taking a long time and people are waiting for me to shoot so they can pull the arrows. Frustrated, I shoot and everything is lost.
All I want is time to myself. Luckily he leaves me alone for four arrows, but it’s only enough to get my frustration out, and then he’s back again.
This are my recent troubles, and it’s not helping me. Perhaps I’m building magic karma which will pay itself back later with unbelievable results in my shooting. I half believe this is true. Perhaps it is holding me back. I half believe that too. My way of dealing with this is shutting up and expecting my teacher to realize how he is talking too much and it is not having any effect.
My patience is gone, not because I’m frustrated, but because I don’t think he will get it. Maybe he thinks I like this and that this is good for me. Maybe he doesn’t see how much this is pissing me off and keeping me from figuring out on my own, which is of the greatest import in a practice where you are the one holding the bow.
This is not his fault.
My suffering is my own, and just shutting up isn’t going to solve anything.
I must communicate.
This is being an adult. This is being a human. This is making things happen. This is the path.
Humans learn and exchange information through words that get processed by ideas through the brain to make results. I am not telepathic, and not everyone can read my mind, let alone see the grand picture of how things should be done.
I must open my mouth and say something, so that my teacher will be able to adjust to my current situation effectively.
This is my new practice. Next time I go, I will speak, and we will come to some kind of understanding. I will not slave away before the target under barkings from another as I lose myself.
This is what I have gained from my practice. This knowledge, along with great patience and composure. There is no reason to flip out, yell, or blame. We think things through, talk about them and then put them to action.
Students: Have patience and communicate your feelings.
Teachers: Be sensitive to your students, and maybe extra space is better than none. Students will come to you when they’re ready. Preaching to closed ears does nothing.
Kyudo is a lot more than hitting the target, but then all this is just about hitting the target.