Forgive the brevity and lack of explanations of this post. I’ll just be jotting down really quickly short notes I took during a seminar I visited last week. Hopefully later I can go into them in more depth.
-Raise elbow in daisan to take pressure off our hands in the kake.
-Our hands don’t change from dozukuri all the way to zanshin.
-Our right shoulder can rise up when we go into uchiokoshi and daisan.
-Think of beginners in kyudo, their left shoulder is all bunched up while their right
shoulder sinks down as they pull the string with their wrist.
-“Tenouchi is easy, because you can see it right in front of you all the time. The right hand is difficult though, because we can’t see what’s going on.”
-Upper body is relaxed … we don’t use our upper bodies … we use our ashibumi and dozukuri to shoot.
-DEFINITELY be sure to touch the arrow to your cheek. And not just lightly. Take a look at some archers who practice western archery, they stick the butt of the arrow and string into their cheek so far. That is good.
-Don’t worry or fear. It shows in your shooting and is out for everyone to see.
-Push the bow apart with your bones.
-In daisan, our right arm should be relatively flat. Doing so allows pressure to be taken off of our hand so the string is pulled by the kake and allows us to pull with our elbow and push with our whole body.
-In the draw, imagine the hazu (back end of the arrow we knock onto the string) at a place around your elbow. This will allow us to relax our hands and make a full draw. The opposite of this is pulling with our hands part way, and then just lowering it on our shoulders like an elevator. This is one image that can help beginners, but doing so puts pressure in your hands and keeps you from expanding in nobiai.
-Don’t care so much about the tenouchi.
-In the kake, we push slightly against the string with our first finger. The most accurate glove possible would be a two finger glove where you pull the string with just your thumb and pointer finger, but it’s not possible. There is no difference between the three and four fingered kakes. Four just feels more comfortable to some.
-We can do tenouchi with just our thumbs and pinky fingers. But we should connect our thumbs and middle fingers. We should turn our thumb upwards.
-Don’t shoot with our wrists and fingers.
(A few more at the end of this post)
So these are the points I jotted down as the hanshi sensei explained these to all of us. They require a lot more explanations to be fully understood, but a lot of those explanations I can’t even do because I don’t understand them completely. Perhaps you’ve heard them before and they can support previously learned things. Perhaps you’ve never heard about them and can give us new stepping stones to better technique. Perhaps they don’t make any sense or go against previously learned ideas and we can just throw them away cause who cares anyway.
One thing that really got me was raising the right shoulder. I’ve always just tried to keep my shoulders as low as possible. But now I can see that by raising my right shoulder I can take pressure off my hands. This alone can change my whole technique from shooting with the timing and feeling of my hands to shooting with my bones and body. I’m not sure how it feels. So I’m going to have to test it out on my own for a while and see what happens.
The big theme of this seminar I feel was getting everyone to stop using their hands so much.
First, all of us shot in shinsa style zassha, and the two head teachers watched. Afterwards the hanshi said we all sucked. He said not one single of us was properly using our shoulders, and so everyone was just pulling with their hands and wrists. It was pretty funny, which made everyone laugh and feel embarrassed, and sent us all on the path of trying to figure out how we can shoot better with our bodies and not our hands.
So for me, the most most most important single theme I learned from this seminar is to shoot with our ashibumi and dozukuri.
-Set our stance with our feet and don’t move it.
-Our feet spiral outwards.
-We imagine facing our tanden belly buttons to the sky in front of us. By doing so we lock in our lower bodies by using the backs of our legs. It’s uncomfortable, but should be, because we haven’t used these muscles before, and shows that this is where kyudo is going on … not in our upper bodies.
-“the left hip”. To be honest, I really don’t understand this. So I asked the hanshi sensei and he chuckled and said that this is very important. We should open our left hip towards the target in the full draw. “So we turn our bodies?” No, we are still straight. And we push with our right foot. Half of this made sense, the other have makes no sense at all.
So yeah. What a treasure trove of information this seminar was. What a treasure trove any and all seminars are. Kyudo is a world of a giant treasure trove of techniques and mysteries. To think we know it all is a great folly. To think we can ever know it all is … pretty fricken ambitious. Such ambition is good, but perhaps we can sit in this moment and realize there are some things we know, and a hell of a lot more we don’t. Lets make little consistent steps, and one day we’ll be higher than we are now.
But still just a puny human.