My first semester in Waseda University finally came to an end. When I draw the bow string for the final time this month, my focus was all on that single shot. In fact, my primary challenge was to treat it as if it was my first shot in life because every single shot/event is distinct to one another, and the differences could be in terms of magnitude, time, and accuracy…etc. infinite possibilities.
(Although we are usually tempted to focus only on hitting the bull’s eyes) The goal of Kyudo isn’t really to do so, but rather to grow ourselves through “the way of the bow” and strive to attain Satori (spiritual enlightenment).
According to the Nippon Kyudo Federation the supreme goal of kyudo is the state of 真善美 shin-zen-bi, translated roughly as “truth-goodness-beauty”…Kyudo is a lifelong pursuit of personal reflection, vow, and dedication that brings you to strive to work harmoniously in relationships with others. (Zen Kyudo)
Speaking so, I will not delve into the general description about Kyudo because these facts and figures can be found on Wikipedia and other online sources. A better alternative is perhaps to share my personal experience in relation to this journey of:
Travelling with the arrow.
My initial interest in Kyudo grew out of my fascination for zen arts and traditional samurais and warriors (they are always associated with the letter c: cool, clean, composed, clever, clans, careful…). I came across tons of articles explaining about the benefits of taking up archery, how it helps one to be stronger and more focused in life…and reasons behind why many Jews in Israel or Mongolians take up archery etc. Research served as an important preliminary preparation for learning and understanding the correct mindset/ efforts required to learn a new skill.
Learning from Scratch
Though I have had some experience in modern archery, traditional archery seems to be much different and complex than contemporary archery. Kyudo emphasized much upon “禮” (etiquette) and character building. Weeks after weeks were spent solely upon pulling the bow strings continuously to strengthen our arms and correct our posture before we finally got to shoot the arrow for the first time- probably after 6 weeks. Before our last seminar, we had an examination and our sensei told us: it doesn’t matter if you hit the target or not, for you will be judged upon your posture (the physical movement pre-and post-releasing the arrow).
Kyudo played an important role for the first 6 months of my life in Japan. In terms of personal relationship, I got to know some really close Japanese and foreign friends whom we hang out for “ban go-han”- dinner every week after class. It certainly served as an important platform for me to practice Japanese with new-found friends.
Growth? Every week as I enter the dojo, I put aside whatever homework or tasks for the day and focus just on learning, shooting and practicing. It’s a good routine to practice standing meditation and clearing whatever stress or dirt accumulated within my mind. It builds patience as we learn not to be too anxious or eager in looking forward to shoot, to be more aware of our physical movements, postures and at the same time not to fidget while aiming.
To (a) sincere practitioner, Kyudo is a way of life. There is no separation between Kyudo training and everyday activities. Each arrow is shot as if it were the only one, just as each moment of one’s life is the ultimate moment…through hitting the target one has to look inside and cut through and go beyond any kind of preoccupation, whether it be worry, hope, doubt or fear… It is standing Zen…The Kyudo practitioner does not look at the target for the result of his/her practice, but inward, for the target is not a target – it is a mirror. And if the heart is right, each shot clears away some more of the obstacles clouding the vision of one’s true nature. (from Kyudo-standing zen, by Christopher Triplett and Katja Triplett Triplett)
Short post today. Good luck!
Best wishes from Penang,