Kyudo is about ups and downs.
It’s not a machine. It doesn’t fit nicely into a day-planner. It cannot be forced.
Kyudo is a natural phenomenon of the universe, its own entity in and of itself, and at the same time an interactive member with everything else it exists along. Kyudo follows certain laws of nature, and while it can be predicted to an extent, it also defies logic at times and shifts in ways we couldn’t expect.
In our modern world of science, not everything is known about the universe, and the same goes for Kyudo. One could even say we know close to nothing about the true nature of the universe, and the same could be said for Kyudo.
One could say the entire universe can be found within ourselves, and perhaps one could say the same about Kyudo.
I have been struggling lately with the bow.
But I am not worried.
I used to worry. But it serves no use. And I don’t like it. So I don’t so it anymore.
I make mistakes and don’t perfectly accomplish what I set out to do,
but I don’t worry.
People I train with have been saying lately, “Zac, you’re not as good as you were when you passed the renshi test.”
Naturally this bothers me. I let it in, and let it pass, because I don’t want to hold on to it.
It makes me want to worry. It makes me want to ask myself, “What’s wrong?” That is a great question, but maybe nothing is “wrong.” Well, maybe something in my technique is “wrong.” But am I, as a person, “wrong”?
My technique is far from perfect, so I guess you can say it’s “wrong.”
I practice Kyudo to cultivate myself, so if I am aiming to become a better self than I am now, then perhaps I could call the present self “wrong”. But I don’t think it’s a very accurate description of the situation, or being that I am.
Right now I’m testing different things with technique, and not always hitting the target.
This has happened many times before. Usually it happens at least a few times between tests. I go through phases were I hit the target a lot and the people around seem to be impressed, and then I stop hitting the target so much, others around start to critique, and I continue the winding journey of the bow.
The first couple times it happened I was worried. “What has happened? I used to hit the target, but now I don’t. How come I’m getting worse even though I’m practicing more?”
After going through this cycle a number of times, I see it’s natural phases and continue on, pursuing the next up, which will most likely be followed by another down.
I used to worry, thinking “I have to return to what I used to do. What was it I used to do?”
But that’s no good. I believe there is no such thing as “a return” in kyudo. Trying to do so is trying to relive the past and simply will not work. We must move forward, adapt, and change. Thus, our “failures” become necessary, and proof of our progress. With this in mind, I’m actually excited about my recent follies.
We must allow ourselves to be reborn.
This process is brought about by insight and effort.
I’ve encountered many teachers who critique my technique. Some speak the obvious and point to what I am focusing on. Others give advice that I have tried by don’t feel work for me. For the most part, I don’t feel like I get much out of the advice of others. That is except for the person I consider my true teacher now.
I am young, dumb, and naive. A lot of what I say is “wrong.” I’d be surprised if I wasn’t. Following this teacher single-minded in the way I am may invite a lot of critique, but it’s what I feel is right, judged by my own eyes, body and heart.
My teacher is strong, smart, and the most experienced of any other I’ve met. He trusts me. He is strict with me. He teaches me about life by shooting the bow, and teaches me about shooting by just talking about life. He truly loves the bow, and so everything works.
He is searching for Truth (Shin), the result is Good (Zen) and Beautiful (Bi).
I follow what he says, and it works, so I continue.
But the other day I thought something funny.
What if he all of a sudden lost faith in me?
What if he simply said one day, “You really suck, and there’s nothing that can be done.”
It would be perhaps the worst thing someone could say to me. It might break my heart.
But you know what?
I wouldn’t worry.
Because it’s another part of the path.
Because it can happen, maybe it should. Maybe it would propel me to a level of Kyudo I didn’t imagine possible.
Kyudo is art.
Kyudo is life.
How can I let this treasure slip away just because of someone else’s opinion? Someone else’s words?
Who are they to tell me about the universe?
How can someone else convince me to lose faith in the world, or myself?
That is mind-control. Slavery. Abuse. It happens all the time. But it doesn’t have to cause us to lose that faith.
That is their heart and mind and technique. I’m not sure I’d want theirs anyway if I could trade. So they can keep their hearts the way they like them, and I’ll do the same with mine.
My heart is not someone else’s to be toddled with.
My heart is my own, and found inside myself.
This my freedom.
Kyudo is my path.
The cosmos is my destination.
But we’re all in this together, so we might as well get along.
Hell, it might even be more fun.
We’ve got a great future ahead.
I’ll see you at the top.