First of all, Happy New Year!
Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!
Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
What better than the turning of the year to set a new frame of mind.
For me, it’s enjoying shooting the bow and arrow in kyudo.
I thought of this when watching a pair of dancers that were interviewed on TV. They were just about to start a performance and I couldn’t help but think about how nervous they must be. I’m sure they were, but they were also excited to begin their performance. You could see it by the smiles on their faces and the conviction in their steps. During their performance you could see that they enjoyed themselves even under the pressure of the watching eyes around them.
Before coming to Japan I practiced tai chi chuan. Even now I still practice the form once in a while, and you know what, I love it. I love it because it’s so simple. I still practice the tai chi form because it helps me to relax, to wake up, to feel my body, and to enjoy just playing around. I don’t worry about doing it right or what may others would think. Rather, I just do it and enjoy it.
What about when I shoot the bow? I suppose I can feel this same kind of enjoyment when I practice alone, but that’s only about 10% of the time. The rest of the time I’m either practicing with others or shooting at tournaments, seminars, or tests. My shooting at those times is far from simple, and I think it suffers because of that.
Thinking about hitting the target.
Thinking about what other people think.
Thinking about past failures.
Thinking about future desires.
I have enough experience behind me that if I just shoot my normal shooting without worrying about hitting the target, good chances are I’ll hit the target.
Hitting the target is natural. Normal. Missing the target means something was unbalanced. Unnatural.
Excessive worrying about only hitting the target amid shooting will only keep my from executing my normal shooting. Worry compromises my actual ability.
Who cares what other people think about my shooting when I’m shooting? It’s not going to change that shot.
Who cares about past failures? It’s because of those past failures that we are able to improve. In fact, those past failures should increase our confidence at the mark. We should relish in our failure!
Who cares about future desires? They don’t even exist. Illusions!
What if we could just forget about all that other stuff and just enjoy shooting?
What the hell have I been doing until now?
Surely we want to improve. So we set high goals and interact with others that may help us to improve. It’s difficult. It’s often frustrating.
Even soul crushing at times.
And that’s OK.
But if I let those negative aspects take over myself when shooting, it will become a bad habit difficult to overcome, and shooting will lose it’s meaning.
What is the meaning of shooting?
One answer is perhaps to enjoy the experience of life.
So this year I am making a promise to myself:
Enjoy the small amount of time given to me in this life at the mark. Let that joy bubble up from inside of me so much that I may not be able to hold back a smile. Let it surge through my bones straightening my posture and filling my belly. Enjoy this practice because it is an art, and art is fueled by passion.
And of course do so with modesty and integrity.
The nature of kyudo is big. Open. Expanding.
Use the bow to speak to the Gods!
Use the bow to speak to yourself.
Find yourself in your center, a couple inches below your belly button and deep inside. Feel it spread out to through your hands, feet, and head. Feel it from the moment we take our bow and arrow in hand, throughout our shooting until we put the bow and arrow back down. Become good friends with the bow and arrow, with yourself, and how could we go wrong?
Let’s make it a great year full of big challenges, big failures, and a whole lot of fun.
I believe we could call the result success.
Onward and upward.