Hanare - Release · Kai - the Full Draw · Kyudo · Nobiai · Shin - Truth

The Life of an Arrow

Why do we rush to die?

We yearn for it all to be over.

We yearn for a success that doesn’t even exist.

It’s taken so long to get here. Think of all the moments and lives and deaths that have built up to this single moment, putting you in this pivotal moment of myriad dynamic forces. As difficult, or boring, or impermanent as it may seem, the worth of this moment is beyond measure, regardless of our cerebral judgements.

The release of an arrow.

This phase in kyudo is called “hanare.” The character for hanare, is “離れ”, which means “to separate.”

The phase just before the release, is commonly referred to as the full draw, “kai”. The character for kai is “会”, which means “to meet.”

All that has a meeting, has a separation. All that has a beginning, has an end. All that live, must die.

This is the nature of life.

Understanding this, should we hurry up the pace to get the “farewell” over with as fast as possible? Should we focus on that “separation” as the climax? Should we just get the “dying” over with since we have to do it anyway? Should we fear that “end”? Should we construct a death that is so attractive all else will watch it for eternity on YouTube?

That’s up to you, I guess.

It’s your life.

What’s so interesting about kyudo is that it can reveal how we view our life, and face our death, in the way that we shoot and release the arrow.

They don’t necessarily meet up perfectly.

But they can.

This is my goal in practicing kyudo. I seek to shoot how I live, and live how I shoot. I choose to live honestly and bravely, and in doing so my shooting and my life can become one.

Right now I am far from shooting the way I like. And so I guess I am far from living the way that I like. But that can change in a second.

I shoot, not longing for death by throwing away my arrows to the desires of my mind.

This moment. This life. This chance.

I reach the stage of the full draw (“kai”, “会”, meeting) and I push myself apart in expansion.

As soon as my arrow fixes on sight with the target, my body wants to release that arrow because it can, but I don’t. This is my animal mind chasing whatever comes before it.

After a few seconds of expansion my body wants to release because it is impatient, but I don’t. This is my child mind, crying for an ice cream.

Since I have held out for this long, my body finds confidence and a balance, and since this is the best moment in my draw thus far my body wants to release, but I don’t. This is my greedy mind, eager to take by force and violence that which I aim at.

Next my mind crumbles. “What do I do now?! My best moment of release has come and gone! What the hell do I do now!?” This is fear. Fear that my time has come and gone, and there is no way I can reach that pinnacle of feeling that was confident that I would hit the target. This is my weakest point. But I don’t release. I don’t stop expanding. I never stopped expanding. From the moment I entered the shooting area there is a flow that has continued, and I don’t release. It doesn’t start or stop or pause or hurry. It continues to expand.

My mind no longer understands what is happening. If I am pulling the bow to shoot at the target, why have I not already released? Why am I here? What am I doing? When will this end? Am I going to hit the target? Am I going to miss? But I continue to expand.

The meat of the body may tear, my bones may break. The body doesn’t exist. But I continue to expand, with my entire body.

Finally, the spirit has been engaged. Breath and energy flow throughout my body from the ground to the sky to the left to the right. No longer am I shooting to impress the others around me. No longer am I shooting just to punch a whole in a piece of paper set 28 meters ahead of me. No longer do I think I understand. I just expand, and never need to stop. Expanding is my nature. I am expansion. I am nature …


The arrow has released as a consequence of the expansion and my body is left open.

Finally I have lived a life worth living.

Finally I have shot a worthy arrow.

This is the life of an arrow.

I seek not death or release.

Live as big and full and honest as you can.

Don’t be afraid.

Our end will come when it may.


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