In the last post I introduced the book, “Michi no Yumi” (“道の弓”) written by Iwao Matsui Sensei about the “Raiki-Shagi” and “Shaho-Kun”, two very important texts in the kyudo world.
Here I’d like to go over the general format of the book, “Michi no Yumi”, which alone may reveal ideas and hints that may help us find deeper meanings within these two highly revered texts.
NOTE: I HAVE ONLY FOUND JAPANESE VERSIONS OF THIS BOOK SO ANY ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS ARE FROM MY PERSONAL INTERPRETATION AND UNOFFICIAL.
The main section of “Michi-no-Yumi” spans 128 pages and is separated into 3 different sections of “spring”, “summer”, and “fall”, and is followed up by a 43 page section about the effects of Japanese culture on kyudo called, ““Ideologies of the Way: Background of Japanese Culture in Kyudo” (“道の思想：弓道の背景にある日本文化”).
Matsui Sensei states that the “spring” section is written for beginners up until 3-dan (third level) offering introductions to some of the key themes of kyudo while introducing some of the basic ideas of Raiki-Shagi and Shaho-Kun.
(While it is said that the different sections are meant for different levels, it doesn’t mean that practitioners are limited only to that section in which they are designated and should read only that section. Rather, the topics discussed in the separate chapters are deemed those most relevant to those of certain levels.)
Some of the section titles are:
・”What is kyudo?”
・The difference between “kyu-jutsu” (the practice of learning to shoot the bow focusing solely on technique) and “kyu-do” (what is generally known as “kyudo”, “the way of the bow”)
・Matsui Sensei’s experience in Europe
・Characteristics of kyudo
・Training your “kokoro” (“kokoro” can be translated as “heart” in Japanese, and can also mean “spirit”. The physical organ of the “heart” is translated as “shinzo” in Japanese, so “heart” doesn’t refer to the physical organ, but rather emotional or spiritual feelings/ideas. I think “spirit” is most often used to translate “kokoro”, but it doesn’t necessarily refer to spirit as something otherworldly or religious, or even separate from the body, but rather the parts of us that utilize feelings and imagination in concert with the body)
・Relationship between Shagi (shooting technique) and Taihai (movements in kyudo other than actual shooting like walking, standing, sitting, bowing, etc.)
・The difference between sports and kyudo
・What does it mean to “search for truth/correctness” in kyudo? (弓道で正しさを求めるとは？)
・The importance of “Wa” (和) “Harmony” in kyudo
・Relationship between Confucianism and Bushido
・Introduction to the Raiki-Shagi
・Confucianism in Japanese culture
・Questions from overseas kyudo-ka
・Introduction to the Shaho-Kun
Matsui Sensei states that the “summer” section is written for the intermediate levels of 4-dan and 5-dan (4th and 5th levels). Matsui Sensei says that this is a very important time in kyudo because it’s when you have “mastered the basics” (This is a phrase often used in the kyudo world, but one I don’t like because it assumes that we have “mastered” the basics, when really “mastering the basics” is kind of like an ultimate goal of kyudo. I don’t think you’ll find many “master” level hanshi teachers who can say they have “mastered” the basics. This term rather means that we “have a solid base of the basics”) and are beginning to experience some of the deeper meanings of kyudo. In a sense, it’s a giant crossroads where we really begin to define our own practice of kyudo. Some of the section titles are:
・What is the Raiki-Shagi trying to teach us?
・Who wrote the Raiki-Shagi?
・What is the meaning of Rei (礼), often translated as “etiquette”/”manners”/”courtesy”
・Rei is not just something we do with our body, but followed with our heart
・Connection between Rei and people
・The role of shooting the bow and arrow in the Raiki (I hope to talk about this later, but basically, the “Raiki Shagi” is only one chapter actually just called “Shagi” that is part of a bigger work made up of 49 chapters called the “Raiki” which are believed to be written by Confucius. (Is the “Raiki” the “Analects”?)
・The Five Relationships in Confucianism
・What is the Shaho-Kun trying to teach us?
・Who wrote the Shaho-Kun?
・Ideas in the first half of the Shaho-Kun
・The 5 Levels of Hanare (Release) (source of the part about “iron and stone colliding to make a spark”)
・The 5 Levels of form Cloth Analogy
・About the last section of the Shaho-Kun referring to “the golden body and half moon”
・The different kinds of Buddhism and that which is referenced in the Shaho-Kun
Matsui Sensei states that the “autumn” section is written for shogo-sha (renshi, kyoshi, hanshi) and references complex texts and philosophies from which the Raiki-Shagi and Shaho-Kun are based.
Many of the section titles are the same as the spring and summer sections, but explore the ideas in further depth. The big difference is that a lot of ancient texts from the Raiki and Buddhism are inserted and referenced, which is where things start getting really tricky and difficult to understand. Reading these texts is kind of like reading latin and Shakespearean English. Fully understanding the content requires one to have a strong background in Buddhist and Confucian studies. Matsui Sensei admits he is no expert, but does a fantastic job researching and referencing these ancient texts and applying them to modern kyudo.
Some new themes that are addressed in this final autumn section are those including the effect of ancient Indian thought on Buddhism (or in a sense, fundamental ideas of Buddhism evolved from and Indian religion and philosophy), and the 5 Element Theory (wind, water, earth, fire, air) that is the source for the section referring to the “golden body and half moon” section of the Shaho-Kun.
Soon I hope to talk about a couple of sections that I found particularly interesting in the following posts to come.