Aren’t you all forgetting one of the most important training aspects to kyudo???
Seriously, it has to do with being able to do our best in tournaments and tests, or anytime really. So in order to you to fully realize your potential, drink beer.
What it really has to do with is heijoushin, which can be roughly translated as “a relaxed and balanced state.” When we go to tests or competitions or shoot in front of everybody else we may get tense and nervous, and this can negatively affect our shooting. In order to not let this tension and nervousness get in the way of our shooting, we cultivate heijoushin so that we can always do our best performance no matter the conditions.
Heijoushin is a state of mind, but it’s not something that you can just read about and say, “OK I’m entering my heijoushin state now and I’m relaxed.”
Heijoushin grows from the body.
It’s funny, when I first went to tournaments I was so out of my head I couldn’t do anything. So I learned to chill my mind, but my shoulders started to get all this nervous tension and got stuck, ruining my technique. So I learned to relax my shoulders and my stomach started going crazy sending me running to the bathroom whenever I started to get near the dojo. I’ve learned to mainly conquer my stomach, and now my knees will shake. Just yesterday at an enteki (60 meter target) tournament I was all ready to go and chilled out but my left knee started shaking, then my right. I tried to make them stop but doing so made me grip the bow and string with my hands putting immense pressure in them, which kept me from shooting my best arrows. It’s like my nervous tension is slowly draining through me from head to toe. I wonder what will happen when it finally gets into my feet?
So, point is, a relaxed state is born from a relaxed and healthy body. And what do bodies listen to a lot more to than just your cerebral thoughts?
The secret to the relaxed state of heijoushin is a routine.
This was huge in preparation for my last test. I wanted to practice as much as possible in the exact same manner as I would when taking the test.
This meant for a week before the test I:
-Practiced only in my kimono
-Did only the zassha sitting form when shooting
-I don’t think I shot more than 12 arrows in a day
-Put giriko on my kake and hand before every round
-Didn’t go to the makiwara before my first shots
-Sat in a chair for about 5 minutes before every round
-Practiced at the same time as when the test would take place
-Did zassha sitting form with others as much as possible
-Drank coffee before sitting
-Drink beer the night before.
Because this is what it will be like during the test.
If my body can get used to this routine like it’s completely natural, then my body will perform naturally, and I can shoot my best arrow.
As proof, I was still nervous at my test, and I’m not sure I shot the best two arrows of my life, but I successfully conquered a lot of my nervous demons, and did better at a test than before.
I used to think that we should do something special before or during these big events like tests and tournaments like, “OK, it’s time to shoot the best arrows of my life, and it’s gonna be way better than when I practice.” Maybe this works for some people, but not me.
Keep it normal. Shoot the way you shoot. And that’s the best you can do.
I feel like I’ve strayed away from talking about beer a little here, but this is all about beer underneath the words.
I used to think, “In order to do my best tomorrow, I won’t drink beer tonight.”
But my body is used to performing when drinking beer the night before. Thinking about not drinking beer to do my best the next day just makes me obsess about the next day with worry. The next day I expect to do better than usual just because I didn’t drink beer the night before. All of these tournaments and tests take place on Sunday, which means the night before is a Saturday night.
I suppose you could say, “Just stop drinking beer and you’ll be better at kyudo.”
But I love beer!
And I think that’s a stupid idea anyway. My little experience says that the “purity” of abstaining from substances is better for everybody every time is not nearly as valid as everyone living according to their own conditions. We find our own balance that fits only for us, and if we can do that, we can shoot our best arrows.
For me, it’s having about 2 beers the night before a big event.
For some, it may mean not drinking at all.
For some, it may mean getting absolutely wasted the night before.
Find your balance, your heijoushin. Make a routine. And don’t be afraid to try something new.
Onward and upward.