Zen and the Art of Kyudo & Tai Chi Sword

27 02 2007

bows“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 readyfrom 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. Fuu ReadyIt 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. PushpullThe 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…

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9 responses

1 03 2007
Becky J

Thank you for the very interesting post. Glad you enjoyed the seminar, sounds like it was a good one.

1 03 2007
Zen

Thanks for the feedback. Nice that someone finds these things interesting enough to say something.

3 03 2007
Val

Fascinating and very illuminating post. Although I would call myself a beginner, I can appreciate my good fortune in having a stable base of meditation before I came to t’ai chi. Your comments on the roundness of some of the t’ai chi form is interesting. I had presumed it was because the softness and circular shape meant that any opposing force has no weak points or angles to encounter and snap. Like the old simile of the bamboo. Now you’ve got me wondering whether force is absorbed or dispersed.

My teacher does not go in for in depth discussion or explanation – which is probably a good thing, given the Western mind’s fascination with academic dialogue! But this means any wisdom one comes by is through experience.

I’m rambling, I’d best be quiet!

3 03 2007
frankie

Even if I don’t leave a comment I find your explanations very interesting and I’m learning a lot from reading your posts. Thanks.

4 03 2007
Zen

Frankie
Thanks for coming by. Please do not feel comments are needed all the time. It was just with over 800 views only you and a few others say anything, so it is nice to know when someone is interested. Like playing music in a club an wondering if anyone is listening when they are just talking and drinking an no response to the song.

Merci mon ami

4 03 2007
Zen

Val:

Your thoughts are also true. Some reasons have many levels. Chi, I’ve been told from various teachers/paths. does not travel corners so roundness is needed otherwise it stopped, blocked. However it is also true that it will give you a weak point, in a way because of the same reason the chi can not travel, also you need more physical strength to maintain the angle.

12 03 2007
Romulus Burnett

Fascinating post, man. I just learned the other day that the Chinese created the first repeating crossbow.

It could shoot five bolts per second. It may not sound all that amazing by today’s standards but the crossbow was made thousands of years before contemporary society created the machine gun.

Anyways, I’ve always owned a bow of some type and I just got a compound bow and a few specialized razor heads a few days ago.

30 07 2011
ERIQUE

el kyudo me exita

10 11 2013
Some quick notes on breathing | Year of the gun

[…] From Zen and the Art of Kyudo & Tai Chi Sword […]

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