Yesterday marked my second visit with A-Sensei which was another valuable training session that has overflowed my mind with techniques that revolutionize my shooting. I’ll list them here and go over them briefly mostly just so I don’t forget them. Perhaps you can glean some diamonds of your own from these notes. I’d love to go into further detail, but the current equations of time and energy only allow so much, and perhaps further down the path I can revisit some of these points that continue to impact my training.
You know, there are so many facets to kyudo. Just talking about specific techniques and hitting the target isn’t everything. However, it is all of these specific details that fill the vast library of knowledge which makes art of kyudo so high and deep. We can be spiritually prepared, naturally brave, and be in prime physical condition, but if we don’t have the right tools or know how to use them then our potential is limited. I am a far better archer than I was before I learned all of the techniques I know, but my inability to put these techniques to efficient use, and my ignorance to all of the other techniques in existence keep me back from being the archer I want to be. So, it’s time to get our thinking caps on, train consistent, and get out into the world to learn.
Anyway, here are some of the things we went over last night:
1.) Uchiokoshi (the process of raising the bow in front of us over our heads)
During the last session we talked a lot about hikiwake (the draw), but I found myself unsure of what to do in the steps beforehand. When asking how I should perform uchiokoshi, A-Sensei said that I should do uchiokoshi faaaaar away from myself. By doing so I engage my triceps, connect my arms to my hands and my torso (and the ground and the bow and arrow), allow my shoulders (trapezius muscles) to drop, and my waist to get under the bow which will allow me get “inside of the bow” in the full draw. While doing the “uchiokoshi” far away, I should also have the image of tyring to make my chest touch the arrow while it’s lifted above my head. This allows all of the previous things I listed to happen better.
2.) Daisan (the 2/3 draw)
Again, I should do this with the image of doing it as far away from myself as possible while also having the image of bringing my chest to the arrow. I also have a bad habit of straightening my left arm while moving into daisan, and instead should focus on moving my left elbow towards the target. Also be sure to not move my hand around the bow as it turns in my hand, but instead just let the bow turn into my hand while I keep it straight with my arm.
3.) Koshi Ireru (Inserting our Waist (?))
This is a term I’ve heard before but never really understood until now. What “koshi ireru” means is to line up your waist underneath the bow so that you can use your whole body to pull the bow instead of just your arms. Think about bending over to pick up a heavy box. I you just bend your waist then you’ll be using only your arms strength to pick up the box and put extra stress on your back. However, if you try to pick up the box while bending your legs and keeping your back straight, then you can use your whole body to pick up the box. This is the same in pulling the bow.
4.) Using our Feet
It’s very important to find out where to put your balance on your feet when pulling the bow. One way to find out where to put your weight is to get in your stance (ashibumi) and stand on the balls of your feet. Stand on the balls of your feet, keep your balance, then set your feet down. That is what I’ve often heard, but the mistake I’ve made is that after I put my feet down I naturally shift my weight again, deeming the previous trick worthless. Instead, stand on the balls of your feet and right when you put them down is right where they need to be. It make seem awkward at first, but resist trying to fidget with your weight after that because you’ll naturally look for the easiest way to stand which will cause you to use your muscles instead of your body structure when pulling the bow.
5.) Using the Legs
We often hear about using the backs of our knees, but until now I’ve thought that we’re basically supposed to keep them straight, which makes us end up locking our legs out which isn’t good. We should have a very very very slight bend in our knees which allows us to expand in our form. If our legs are completely locked, then the tension stops there and we are easily put off balance. Think about any other sports, are there any that utilize locking out your knees? Not that I’m aware of. So, we must be sure to not lock out our knees so that we can utilize that very very slight bend to expand in our shooting. Also, focus on your big toes and turning your inner thighs outward. This is another really tricky thing to get used to but gives is enhanced stability and the ability to expand.
6.) Hanare (the release)
Hanare is not about opening our hand and throwing it out to the side. Hanare is not about flinging our arm out in some strange direction. Sure we can find a way to hit the target doing either of those two, but it’s completely different from a hanare that happens from proper tsumeai (structure) and nobiai (expansion) which allows our hand to flop naturally out to the side at the release. The feeling should be like the thumb of your kake (glove) being pulled off. During times I’ve felt like I’ve had my best hanare my whole kake feels like it’s been pulled off of my hand. Doing so allows the string to slide across the thumb in a straight line with minimal disturbance. The effect is beautiful form and a beautiful tsurune (sound of the string at the release).
WHEW! Those were some of the main points, and I hope to use them to guide me in my future training. I will do my best and then meet with A-Sensei again in about a month to see how it’s all going.
Good luck with your training!
Onward and upward.