“Different flowers of the same tree”
This is what I said to Lucy, the head instructor of the Gold Tiger Kyudo school. When we spoke of the arts of Kyudo, Tai Chi and the like.
I have had a few days to digest the lessons of the Kyudo seminar and compare it to Kung Fu. I will use Tai Chi Sword as my base since both are called moving meditations and both deal with weapons. Though different arts from different countries and culture, the essence of them are the same. clearing the mind, centering, flowing the Chi/Ki, expanding the Chi/Ki. Ki is the Japanese word for Life force/blood, Chi is the same idea in Chinese. As Zen is Japanese for Chan in Chinese.
In Kyudo it is started with meditation, calming & clearing the mind. Shedding the everyday troubles and preparing and reconnecting with lets say, the Higher self, or the non-self/formless self that is Universal Chi/Ki.
In Tai Chi this formal going into that state is not there. However, one generally starts Tai Chi, by going into a state of Wu Wei (stillness), centering and calming the mind though not from a Zazen position, some call it standing Zen or standing meditation. One also, more so in more advance levels of training, does Chi Gong before hand. These are Chi building drills, which not only build the internal power (life force) but also serve to clear and calm the mind. Shedding the everyday trouble and preparing and reconnecting with lets say, the Higher self, or the non-self /formless self that is Universal Chi/Ki. ( sounds the same, because it is) So although not still as Zazen it serves the same end. I think both arts could benefit from a cross sharing, Tai Chi done with Heart Zen Chakara Meditation (zazen with breath focus), and Kyudo with Chi Gong Drills
Tai Chi walk and Kyudo walking. Although completly different, they are in the same in that they make you have mindfullness of your steps and balance whilst making steps. Light steps, control of the balance, even flow, not up and down.
Next stance; the foundation of connection to the earth, ground chi/ki. The roots of the Bamboo, that bends in the storm yet, remains firm in the ground. Both are developed from having a firm grounding stance, lowering the center, Hara in Japanese, Tanten in Chinese. In Kyudo it is not spoken of like in Tai Chi, where we are told to sink the chi, lower the center. The stance and the walk in Kyudo almost forces one into that state. Perhaps because in Tai Chi the whole body is in motion , so the lowering and maintaining that low center is of utmost importance and more difficult to do, because of the constant moving state. Since it takes years of study to do it, more thought, focus is placed in instruction of it.
“Sung”; as there is importance in motion there is also importance in stillness, Wuwei. Don, one of the senior students of Shibata Sensei, spoke of the moments of pause in the forming/development of the Kyudo shot, taking in your space, mindfulness of what has been done, where you are. This is called “sung” in Tai Chi. It is the completion of one move, then there is a moment of relaxing, pause to be in that moment completly before continuing to the next place.
The form of Kyudo in the area of the arms which are in motion like in Tai Chi are round. In Tai Chi we maintain a roundness, as does the Kyudo. This roundness is explained in Tai Chi as needed for the smooth flow of Chi. It is not said in Kyudo but it is stressed to maintain it. So to me, I understand it as needing to be there for the Chi flow, to the areas that themselves are in movement, yet need to have power. Loading, drawing, pushing, pulling, holding. All things done in Tai Chi, by sending the Chi and torque of the body through the arms and the breath.
When we use Tai Chi sword, the mind and the breath become more important. We want the sword to be an extension of of body, another unit of body space for the Chi/Ki to travel. When we move the sword, the mind and Chi move the sword. When we lift the Bow and cock the arrow , the breath/mind and Ki raise and pull the bow. The body expanding with chi, pulls the bow string, the body expanding with chi makes the strike or makes the sword cut. It is not done by body strength, but more with mind /Chi/spirit. The arrow flys, the sword cuts, the extended Chi gives them life and they know when it is their time to interact with an object. To travel to a target because it is following it’s Tao in a state of harmony, with you, the Universal force and itself..state of Zen
To be con’t…