Kyudo Chronicles: MN Seminar 2011- Zanshin

16 08 2011

I was delighted and relieved to be over the testing. Did I say relieved !! Seriously relieved, so much I forgot to pack my arrows to take home. A huge weight was off my shoulders. However soon to replaced with the increased weight of a new challenge…Sandan.

This is the getting Kyudo serious level. I heard it was Yondan, but now they are tightening up now even at Sandan. So Sandan is like a brown belt and Yondan is real black belt. From the preview of this week’s exams I can see reaching Sandan is to be bigger ( an more valued ) challenge. I some say, (I heard through the tsuru), this past test was more like real Japan testing, no giveaways ! So like Zanshin is really the beginning of the next shot, this was the beginning of the next test level training. I really want to nail down things for the test next year. It will be a real challenge, Shugyo Renshu for the year. With less than 360 days to prepare, training starts now…but on what ? Smoothness over all, more spirit, more power, less power, wider stance, narrower stance, Nobei? See where I’m going with this.

No idea who took this!

Here is an unofficial summary of the testing results from Friday:

1 – Nikyu
25 – Ikyu
29 Shodan
12 Nidan  (out of 15)
3 Sandans (out of 13)
2 Yondans (out of 18)
2 Godans ( out of 10)

From looking at these scores at Nidan – Sandan is where the crack down starts. Three out of thirteen passed , wow!

These test are good in that they let one see how their skill stands up to the traditional set standard, international…hmmm, Japanese standard I guess is the best description.

However the bad part of what I see is that, even though if you fail you will push yourself more next time. However there is no feedback system setup to let you know where you are weak in skills. Ok, in Kung Fu there is this saying, thought,  teaching that if you do something 1000 times, kick, punch etc, you will understand the practice item and do it correctly…suppose you do this “practice item” 1,000 times incorrectly because no-one told  you it was wrong. In this training, Kyudo, one can shoot 1000 arrows but do it wrong 1000 times, how do you really learn? From your Sensei, ? He/She said you were ok, before you came to the testing grounds. If pass fine, but if you do not…?

I suppose one could follow the philosophy that if you practice everything , the area you are the weakest will also improve. The shotgun approach. Is it efficient … Hmmmm , I wonder…?

I just had an idea, for feedback. Since there is already a record of who is what number, the Judges make notes beside the number, the local Sensei gets the note after the seminar and discusses it with the student. ii, ne !?

I think the part about only the judges from Japan can do the rank test is good. That way there is no local favorites involved in the process. I was told the way to pass these test is to remember the correction(s) you received when being watched at the seminar and do the correction at testing time. I think that is only part of it. That would be too simple, Kyudo is more complex than that. Also watching the higher levels it seems more complex than that. Perhaps this is true at the mudan, shodan, Nidan  level. With the high ratio of failures starting with Sandan I would think there is another factor involved. I wonder does Nihon have these same number ratios. I know someone said that the higher you look in the kyudo ranks, there are less people testing.

A thing that is similar to Kung Fu with Kyudo is the ranking business. In a way it is a big deal to go up the ranks, but the lack of having belts  or some visible symbol makes it not . We have no belts in Kung Fu because the point of the training is not the belts, it is the skill and knowledge. There are no belts in Renmei Kyudo, there is the ranking thing. I see the ranking as a verification of one’s skills and knowledge by an formal established recognized panel/organization. Like the American Sailing Assoc. saying yes you have the skills and knowledge to sail a boat safely. This in turns opens up access to a deeper knowledge base. In Kung Fu after proving one’s self by years of training and dedication to a school or Shifu (Sensei), you can become a closed door student or disciple…maybe. This gives one access to a deeper knowledge base for increasing skills and knowledge.  In Kyudo there is a formula to reach this knowledge pool, in Kung Fu there is none.  The down side of the ranking system is that many see the reaching of the rank or a rank is the goal and stop training when they reach the rank of their desire. So the lack of rank makes the training more of the goal, than the rank.

Anyway these are just some misc random thoughts that have come to mind. All this just to say, I think it would be good to have some way for those who did not pass to find out where they were lacking. That would be helpful in their training path, rather than just left hanging and bummed.

I had said in an earlier post Northfield was south of the boonies in the middle of no-where. I was right it is, however it is the nicest middle of no-where I have encountered in a while. In many cases I am quite fond  the middle of no-where, it can be peaceful.  The MN Renmei did an outstanding job putting all this together.  In many ways I learned more at this seminar than in Tokyo. I loved the lectures. It gives the learning of Kyudo more depth, than just being able to shoot. It goes well since the Kyohon is already a part of the study matter. Speaking of which the study of the Kyohon this time around was more insightful. That insightfulness awareness should increase as my eyes, mind and body grow in this expression of the Tao.

The biggest fault in the working of the seminar, (just to add some balance to the post for growth), I saw was the group photo at the end. The person taking the picture was not an aware photographer . Too many short people were standing in the middle of the group when the full group photo was taken. There is no way they were in the picture. No balance, but that was just me seeing/bothered by that perhaps having done these type of shot$  However chisai koto ( not a big deal ). It is a small thing compared to the large excellent product.  With the excellent job done by the organizers there was not much else one could have wanted from this event…well other than to pass.

Nor Cal Renmei, Photographer unknown

This was a great experience attending this event. Not just from the point of Kyudo study but also from the people encountered. Someone once posted on FB something like. ” it is the people and friendships we make during the study of Kyudo and at these functions that make the gatherings special ”

I notice there is a big increase of FB friendship hook ups after these seminars. It was interesting for me to meet a few if the people live I had only “seen” on Facebook. It will be interesting to see some of them again in Northern Ca and Japan in the future.

With my brain so on Kyudo these last weeks I noticed the other day there is a space just across from my boat, on marina property that I can ( QUIETLY) use for a 28 meter shooting range .

I can not leave it ip 24/7 but with the right equipment it could be setup and broken down easy. I know this year I need to work on my Tenouchi and my hitting. Last year I had more time to put the range I was more on point with my hits. My form is better this year but my hit rate is down. Next year I’m pretty sure I will need to hit one. Unless… my form looks really sharp…I’m guessing.

My plan is if I can pass Sandan next year. I will take the next two years for practice before testing for Yondan in Japan!
after that… we’ll see. The training will continue, the testing… We’ll see.

Anyway that is getting a head of things. Right now there is Nidan practice. 2o12 is the year of Shugyo Renshu. I need to make myself and the boat ocean ready, tighten up my Kung Fu and Tai Chi, and be Sandan test ready. It will be a busy year of training. It is good that training in one helps the training in another…There is no duality…






One response

18 08 2011

I know what you mean about testing. I suppose it depends on the person, really. I like it, because (a) it puts a lot of pressure on me, but at the same time (b) it’s not competitive. It’s pure shin-zen-bi. Regarding what you’ve done wrong, the judges often do take notes, so you can go up and ask them. Sometimes if there are a lot of people testing they might have just put a circle around your number (or not!) but still they often have remarkably good memories for the details. Sometimes that’s not so good!

But you’re so fortunate to have those seminars with teachers like that, and to be able to shoot for hanshi.

3-dan is more serious and the numbers do tend to drop off there. The monthly Kyudo magazine often lists statistics of the number and percentages that pass each rank at tests around the country, but of course it all depends on the people testing. A while back I found some statistics about the numbers of people promoted in 2009 (here). Of course as you say, as the ranks go up, fewer people continue Kyudo, and within that fewer people test, but if you compare the overall statistics the results are similar to what you had there in MN. Maybe more shodan and fewer kyu ranks in MN, but that’s to be expected. I imagine most of the people in MN were adults, whereas in Japan we have a lot of high school students testing.

Anyway the rule of thumb that I’m sure you’ve heard is that at 3-dan you must hit once, and for 4-dan (and above) both arrows should hit. It’s not a fixed requirement and obviously as you move forward it’s way you shoot that matters most (otherwise what’s the difference between 4-dan and everything above?). But it’s the rumour.

As for what to work on, I’d go with what your teacher recommends. As I’m sure you know from your other disciplines, it’s not a linear path. Everything affects everything, and improving one thing — especially the right thing — often improves the others.

Also I agree that there is no special secret to passing. Even thinking about that may indicate a wrong attitude, because if someone lets passing capture their mind, then even if they pass the test, there’s a real sense in which they’ve failed themselves; failed to get all they could out of the process. As Satake-sensei said, people shouldn’t let a piece of paper (in this case the dan certificate) disturb their spirit.

Oh, but that reminds me… um… after you get home and have celebrated, could post some of the Japanese from Satake-sensei’s talk — even just that quote where she talked about Truth and Good and said we should train until we understand what she had said for ourselves. I want to tell people here about that, but have to make sure I get the words right or it could come back to haunt me. One does not misquote the Queen!

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