This is a continuation in a series of posts about my shoulder injury with kyudo. I am not a doctor and so everything must be taken with a grain of salt, but maybe you have experienced an injury in kyudo and can gain some helpful information from my small experience. Please don’t hesitate to write a comment or send an email telling your own stories and experiences.
In total I ended up taking a total of 4 weeks off from the bow, and am slowly returning to practice while still going to a physical trainer for rehab about 2 or 3 times a week. My first practice back was fine and shot about 10 arrows. Next I went to a seminar where I shot 8 arrows and felt pretty tired but no pain. The next day we had our monthly reikai, which is where the members of our dojo get together to do a round of test style shooting and then 3 sets of 4 arrows like a tournament. In total I shot 13 arrows and found my limit. It wasn’t so much the arrow count as much as the pace. Shooting 4 arrows in one standing, with only about 10 minutes between rounds was about all my shoulder could take. Not so much pain, but my body was tired and I could tell I was starting to put a lot more pressure on my muscles with every shot instead of proper relaxed form. Then I shot 3 days last week during the week, about 15 arrows a day which is all I think I should do for now. There is a big tournament in Miyakonojo, Miyazaki at the end of the month I’d like to pull my regular bow at, but if I’m not ready then I’ll stick with the lighter bow I’m using now.
A couple of posts back I mentioned some ways to ease back into practice that I’m now putting to use.
-Shooting a couple arrows with a short full draw at the makiwara (practice hay bail) to warm up
-Stretch for 10 to 15 minutes slowly and gradually before shooting
-Using a weaker bow than usual
-Taking breaks between shooting
-Not pushing myself to shoot harder or more
Throughout this whole time I’ve been going to rehabilitation which has completely changed my body and ideas about kyudo. When I go to rehab the physical trainer puts a warm blanket on my shoulder for 10 to 15 minutes, massages the area around my shoulder area for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then leads me through some exercises to strengthen the area around my shoulder like the inner muscle of the shoulder, and the muscles around my shoulder blades.
I’ve been active my whole life playing sports until high school and martial arts thereafter, and though I’ve considered myself healthy, I think I’m finally coming to understand what good posture is and why it’s important.
There is a lot of talk about posture in kyudo, particularly in the toriyumi shisei (stance holding the bow and arrow when we’re not shooting) and in taihai (all of the extra movements of walking, sitting, bowing, etc). I think for most people there is a great divide between shooting and all the other stuff, but the reality is that they are all connected. Physically, that connection is good posture. Without good posture, you’re shooting is limited. That is a shame because it’s actually not all that hard to fix. Annoying in the beginning perhaps, but by far the easiest way to maximize our shooting.
Let’s try and use some fancy kyudo words for this.
We have our shizentai (natural body) which most every human being is born with. The shizentai is comprised of our body parts like our feet, waists, torso, arms, and head. All of these parts are connected and brought to movement with our tendons and sinews. In our body there are a series of tateyoko jumonji (vertical and horizontal crosses). The first series of important crosses we here about is the sanju juumonji (3 crosses) which is comprised of the cross of our vertical center line and the horizontal line of our feet, our vertical center line and the horizontal line of our waist, and then our vertical center line and our shoulders. The next set of crosses we hear about is the goju juumonji (5 crosses) which is made up of our left hand grip (tenouchi) and the bow, the arrow and the bow, our shoulders and our spine, the arrow and our neck, and the string and the thumbs of our yugake glove. The better we can keep these crosses clean and with 90 degree angles, the better we can shoot. This is called the tateyoko jumonji no kiku, or what I’ll losely call the laws of the horizontal and vertical crosses. By protecting this “kiku” (“law”) we create tsumeai which is the proper posture and connection of our bones, and from there we can successfully expand (nobiai) within the bow releasing a strong and straight arrow.
These laws of the natural body and crosses are important when we’re shooting, but how can we do them under the pressure of the bow if we can’t even do them when we’re just standing, sitting, or walking? That is where the kihontai (fundamental form) comes in with the 4 kihon shisei (basic postures) and 8 kihon dousa (basic movements) which make up taihai (all of the extra movements that don’t include shooting the bow).
By maintaining proper posture we can successfully utilize our bodies to work with the crosses, minimize our use of unnecessary muscles and stress, and shoot a straight arrow.
So, you want to know the secret of shooting?
You want to know the secret of taihai?
This is basically a lot of what the 2nd volume of the kyudo manual is talking about. Without understanding the importance of the crosses, spiritual and technical progress is stunted and irrelevant.