Kyudo 108 Ya – Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu…2011

1 01 2011

The Zen Clan wishes Everyone a Happier, Joyous, prosperous  New Year!

A Buddhist belief is that human beings are plagued by 108 earthly desires or passions, Buddhist temples in Japan ring 108 bells for the New Year.

108 is a sacred number in many religions and you can enjoy a lot of meanings and coincidences regarding the number 108.
According to Buddhist beliefs, 108 is the number of passions and desires entrapping us in the cycle of suffering and reincarnation. So, the 108 bell chimes symbolize the purification from the 108 delusions and sufferings accumulated in the past year.

Keeping with that thought, and that some Japanese use Kyudo shots as a way to purify, our Dojo RSD did our own version of Joya no Kane ( 除夜の鐘 ) for the second year. The RSD 108 Arrow ceremony on New Years Eve.

The plan was to start @ 10:00 am and finish by 4:00. We started at 11:00 and finished at 4:05 pm. Excellent timing!

After our short Zazen and a spot of tea we had at the task at hand…

My first few shots were not focused, such was my state of mind. I was not thinking about much other than getting through 108 arrows. Also as I shot my left hand got really tired and cramped! I thought it was from not shooting so much as of late. Last year when we did this I was shooting a lot getting ready for Japan. This year I’m working so therefore,I’m not shooting as much.  I figured my hand muscles were out of shape, I would just deal with it…Yosh! Over the course of the morning I wondered how I was going to make it through 108 shots with my hand hurting as it was. However I hung in there, that is the Shaolin way.

Pain is the body’s way saying something is wrong, like the sound of flapping sails in the wind is saying something needs attention.  The Western way would be to take a pill. The Eastern way is to find the cause and treat that.  I continued to shoot I tired different positions of the Tenouchi. I found there was a certain way if I held the Yumi supported by the heel base of my hand which put the support into my arm I was able to push the Yumi with no pain, mostly. I relaxed my hand more and supported the Yumi with my palm, rather than grip with my fingers. However I was not able to get any spin. I decided less pain was better than spin. So I gave up the thought of spinning/turning the Yumi and just used the grip that gave me the most support and the least/no pain. This way felt firm, stable and more powerful.

Afterward my Sempai says, yes it is more stable holding against the heel of your palm. I thought more about that later and recalled Sensei saying about my alignment so the arm is supporting the Yumi balanced against the Tiger’s mouth. Pushing down and forward with the base of my thumb. So I think I understand now that part of it. However I still need to work in the grip of the little fingers so that it does not stop the Yumi from turning. I should start doing my Bass playing exercises to help my hand strength. A side benefit of this is my hand will be in shape to play my Bass more. As I play on re-starting my music career in Japan, I also need to getting some practice time in. Hmmm, with that thought… if I practice my Bass more it would help my Kyudo Tenouchi, by strengthening my hand (Te).  So, Bass playing will help my Kyudo, Tai Chi will help my Kyudo, Zen/Chan will help my Kyudo, Chi Gong will help my Kyudo.  There is a blog post in this line of thought!

I had not planned on learning anything from the day’s shot just to go through the ceremony. However like life when you live with your eyes open you learn something everyday. Doing a sho0t of 108 Arrows is not just a Physical challenge but a mental challenge. Staying focused, staying in the moment, staying in form. Keeping the “Spirit” in involved is also a big part of it. Otherwise one’s shots are empty. They maybe be technically good, but “boring”. To be balance and shoot with Shin Zen Bi is good Kyudo. The Kyohon says “Kyudo is the way of perfect virtue” . This I believe should be with every shot.  If the Spirit is lacking one can not should with virtue. When doing Zazen, the state of mind should be with you all the time, not just when sitting. When doing Kyudo the state of mind in Shin Zen Bi, should be in every shot, as in every step in life. Training is not just in the Dojo.  Doing that, holding all that together, focused for a couple of hours is not that big a deal, but doing if for 6 -8 hours is a different level of training.

Another thing I notice toward the end of my shooting, after I found the comfortable hand position I was able to expand outward more, open my center. Creating more space , as Jyozen-san said on my last visit to the South-land.  A consequence of that was my left hand no longer dropped, when the arrow was released in Hanare, my chest opened and my arms went back as my chest expanded and my left arm ceased to drop.

I recalled last year because of dealing with pain in doing something wrong I had a break-though on something I needed to correct. Again this was a repeat of forced training break through. With the grip and center expansion. These break-through are nice, the trick is to maintain those corrections. Remain mindful of them whenever you shoot. It would also be nice to have them without suffering, however life is suffering right. In Chan we suffer the sitting motionless to have a break-through in our perspective of life and death. In Tai Chi/Kung Fu we suffer through “stance” ( Ashibumi ) standing to have a break-through in inner and outer strength. The nice part of this with Kyudo is, as with Tai Chi the form is slow, you get a chance to be mindful of everything in the moment and make a timely correction. If you skip or miss the chance it will show up later in another part of the form (shot), a section goes off. Even if it is just in the flight of the Arrow in the case of Kyudo, or one’s lack of Chi or Strength/Power in the case of Tai Chi Chaun.

As I shot and my pain rose and focus dropped so did my score of hits. I went from 4 out of 8,  to 0 out of 8. As I progressed and adapted my hand position and was able to be mindful of my targeting, balance, draw, expanding, and less on how many arrows I had to shoot, my score rose again to 50%. I noticed that through-out this my stand was comfortable, so all that Ashibumi practice at work has paid off.

We only took a couple of short breaks doing our shoot. Last year there was just my Senpai and myself, this year, there was and added new comer. She joined us about half way through. We had a break part together, Green tea, nuts, fruit, cookies.

It was a good practice day. I learned without planning to learn. A good theme for the New Year.

After the last shot, we had the traditional cup o sake and kompai!

Onward to 2011…Yosh!!!

Happy New Year…Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu… Ganbarimashou!!



5 responses

2 01 2011

Thanks for sharing . I cherished the humaness and the sanctity.

Happy Happy New Year


4 01 2011

Hmmmm… Well, for an event like this where you need endurance, I figure you should do what you need to do to avoid injury and live to practice more tomorrow. But it might be difficult to continue with that tenouchi. For our part, we just went to a temple and rang the bell. Much easier!

6 01 2011

Hi Zen,

nice to see you are still going.
Happy New Year to you and yours.

So as I haven’t told you off for a while… ; )

The yumi is uniquely complex in shape and in the technique required to shoot it effectively.
Kyudo was developed as a teaching system for imparting that technique and training the mind for battle.
Today’s other recreational and spiritual uses not withstanding the point of kyudo still has to be correct shooting. Else, why even bother with a mato to shoot at?

If you think it is up to you to decide how tenouchi should be you are totally missing the point of the teaching.
In tenouchi the thumb joint is below the joint of the index finger, the thumb points down towards the ring finger and pressure is concentrated in the root of the thumb.
Anything else may feel comfortable but is completely ineffectual.
If the pressure is in the palm of your hand the hand will tilt up when you draw and in hanare the lower limb of the bow kicks forward as it is shorter and faster.
You can see that in the pics.
In zanshin your bow is vertical in your hand, it ought to be leaning forward.
It also dropped through your hand in hanare. For honda-ryu or whatever you are practicing that is ok but it is not ideal. It shows lack of control of the bow. You mentioned wanting a stronger bow… hmmm… I am a great believer in shooting strong bows and learning from the bow. You just need to be careful you don’t use inappropriate methods (like a wrong tenouchi!) to compensate for lack of skill and strength.
A bow, like any tool, can teach you a lot if you listen to it, feel it,…
so be careful…

Pressure must be concentrated in the root of the thumb… why?
You are driving the bow forward like a whip, keeping the lower limb in check, extending the distance the arrow is in contact with the sting.
If you push from a point on the edge of the bow just below the arrow as you should you can impart energy and direction to the arrow very precisely and directly.
If you merely use your palm as a pad for the bow the best you can do is pull on the bow with your fingers to create a false yugaeri with no benefit to the shot.

Anyway, nice to see you are coming along though.
I was interested to read about your discovery of arms going back etc.
Mune-wari is central to most ryu I thought, I was surprised it came as such a revelation…
I pointed that out to you a year ago I seem to remember.
At your stage of shooting the arms should go back and in hanare there should be noticeable “jolt” forward in your torso. That will disappear in time but at this stage it tells you that you are beginning to find the right muscles to draw the bow. It is a sign you are expanding into the bow (not drawing merely with the arms) as a consequence forces in the body are more balanced, bone alignment is better and drawing is less effort. Correct technique not only looks good but makes shooting more effective.
A little clip to illustrate:

Ishii sensei’s (no.2) form is absolute perfection. Look at the tenouchi (as much as you can see). The alignment of the joints in the arm, the wrist,… Note the direction of the bow. Here in hanare the bow is driven forward, yugaeri happens but the bow drops only very slightly in the hand, the angle of the bow is exactly the same in zanshin as it was in kai.

Tenouchi is at the heart of shooting the yumi. Yes, if it hurts you are doing it wrong. But don’t look for “tricks” to compensate, correct technique is all you need.
Without correct tenouchi you can’t control the bow or achieve a true yugaeri.

Finally… I’ll do “my thing” again…
I’m sorry… it is just what I do… : ( …
I have no intention of negating the validity or authenticity of what you do but…

…on the topic of “spirit”, “empty” shots “technically good but boring”…
first you have to be technically good, THEN you worry bout being boring.
Below 7th dan no-one wants to see you be creative with your shooting.
They want to see correct technique.
The spirit should be that of a person wanting to shoot correctly – nothing more.
And frankly, the shooting won’t be empty if you shoot correctly.
It will be filled with energy and purpose.
If it feels empty to you then you are not applying yourself properly or focusing only on the outward appearance. “…my arm dropped…” well why did it drop? Why should it not? Unless you understand what causes the flaw how will you correct it?
You will only do “cosmetic” corrections to the form.
Each hassetsu, each detail, has purpose relating to the shooting. Neglect the shooting and you strip the form of its purpose – its content.
Form without content is hollow – empty.
Use correct technique, apply yourself to that and you won’t need to fill your shooting with “spirit”.
It will already be brimming with energy, vitality and purpose, there will be no room for added artificial “spirit”.

Sorry to be like this…
I just read too much about “spirit” and it usually comes from people who could not shoot for toffee.
There can be no ease, no expression, no”spirit” without an inner rigor – and that comes only through practicing correct technique, day after day after day.

Ok, enough… never mind me…
You know I only play that part to wind you all up… I mean well.
It is never too early to practice form, poise and spirit, I know.
Just don’t do it at the expense of technique.

So, happy shooting and try to focus just on the shooting – you may be surprised ; )

6 01 2011


I was just looking at my post from this time last year and there were the lectures from “The Markster”. I thought, what a guy, I wonder how he is getting along? Then “Bam” your back 🙂

Thanks for the feedback.

6 01 2011

Oops! I just realized after reading Mark’s post, that I mis-spoke on my describing the Tenouchi from the 100 arrows. I was describing my grip as from the heel of the palm. That is wrong it was really the base of the thumb pad that was supporting the Yumi. Not the palm heel , more like the thumb heel.

Thanks for the advise guys !
mata ne!


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