Strength, intelligence, and faith, are each very important qualities to have as an archer on the path of kyudo. But which is the most important?
For each way of shooting there is a different way of looking at this.
For each archer there is a different way of shooting.
So what I’m trying to say is,
everyone will inevitably experience this differently.
Here’s what I thought about this the other day contemplating my own experience in kyudo.
I am not the strongest, so trying to win with strength won’t work.
I don’t consider myself super smart either, so trying to win with cunning tricks isn’t going to work either.
But faith? I’ve got an endless amount that never runs dry. Set me up against anyone, anywhere, anytime, and I promise me I’ll dig deep and do the very best I can be it weak or dumb.
This has made me think about a lot of the other archers I encounter in practice, tournaments, tests, etc.
I know a lot of strong archers, that effectively use the strengths of their bodies and hit the target often. Let’s make an imaginary model and call them, Captain Muscle. If you just look at the target, or watch with an untrained eye, Captain Muscle is impressive, but if you look close enough you’ll find the missing scale in his armor. There is of course nothing wrong with Captain Muscle, unless that is he is unwilling to change. This may be the biggest weak point of all. No matter how many times teachers tell him how to change or improve, the change doesn’t take place, largely because I don’t think the motivation to do so exists in the first place, or maybe it’s just the focus to hold on to it for more than two arrows that is lacking. Who really cares as long as you’re hitting the target, right?
I know a lot of intelligent archers, too. Let’s make a model and call them, Professor Brain. Professor Brain has read tons of books, knows all the ins and outs of the gear involved, and can point out what’s wrong with everyone’s technique. When Professor shoots and misses, the brain moves and finds a fault in the shooting technique. This is great, and what should be done by every archer after every shot. But the problem here is that a chase begins trying to catch a perfect shot with the tips of the fingers and brain. Professor ends up getting lost in a maze that helps them cover a lot of ground on the surface, but keeps them from gaining any depth inside.
Now lets take a look at my other imaginary friend, Jesus (pronounced “Hey-Zeus”) Bodhi, aka JB. JB doesn’t hit every arrow. But you know what, JB gets your attention. Do you know why? Maybe not. But for some reason you see something in his shooting beyond questions of technique or race or rank. JB could be a hanshi hachidan (8th level master), or someone who has just shot their first arrow. It’s almost as if you watch JB and start to understand why kyudo is considered an art and a discipline to train the spirit.
Let’s get a little more specific. You know what really sets JB apart?
It’s actually incredibly simple.
When he does sharei (ceremonial shooting which could be anything from your regular sitting zassha practice to a yawatashi embu) he actually sits in the proper kiza position. It hurts and is hard, because he is just a regular human like everyone else with legs and a back. But you know what he does? He always practices sitting kiza properly because it will make him a stronger archer, and even practices sitting in kiza at home so he can do it better when he gets to the dojo.
His taihai (movements other than just shooting, like walking, sitting, standing) is better than everyone else, not because it’s perfect, but because he practices it every time he goes to shoot.
He does well in tests not because he is lucky or magically doesn’t get nervous, but because he always does his best whether it’s in practice or tournaments, so shooting in a test in front of all the judges is no different.
He doesn’t know everything about kyudo, so he reads a lot.
He doesn’t hit the target a lot, so he practices a lot.
He tries as hard as he can, but he doesn’t stress out if it doesn’t go perfectly.
Getting to the point of doing it perfectly will never happen unless you walk the path of trying to do it perfectly.
Simplify that equation for a second and you get:
The path is what’s most important.
Or in more commonly heard words: “It’s not the end, but the journey that matters most.”
What enables one to get on the path, and continuing to make effort towards perfection?
Even when they miss? Even when people don’t believe them? Even when they get injured? Even when they think that they just can’t get over this final wall that will be the end?
I’ll give you a hint,
it’s Jesus’ super power …
I’d love to be as strong as Captain Muscle, or as smart as Professor Brain, but until I get there, I’m going to do my best to imitate JB, ’cause he’s got the magic that gives meaning to it all.
Perhaps this is something special about kyudo.
Or maybe everything in life is like this.
I don’t know,
so I explore.
Onward and upward.