Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013 Kyudo Seminar, impressions


This year, our group member Chris was able to attend the International Kyudo Federation Seminar, hosted in Spartanburg, South Carolina, by the South Carolina Kyudo Renmei.

Chris has kindly shared his commentary on the experience, for us here.  For our visitors unfamiliar with Kyudo terminology, there is a brief description of the terms used, at the bottom of this entry.



"My sensei, Don Wudarski and I had practiced painstakingly for months before the 2013 Kyudo Seminar in Spartanburg, SC.  We had carefully assessed my taihai, perfected my shitsu correction, made sure that all of my equipment was in perfect condition, studied my kihon, and made plenty of time for me to work on my shooting.  The blisters on my left hand served as a testimony to my hard work.  I was ready to test for Sandan.  Sensei and the rest of my classmates were all excited to see me off, and even more so awaiting my return.

"The night before, I had barely slept;  I was so anxious to get to the seminar.  Spartanburg was where I had initially taken my first Shodan test back in 2006;  I had made Ikkyu that year instead, due to flaws in my form.  Excitement and anxiety flooded my system throughout the journey, which I attempted to stifle by studying my kihon for the written test.  What kind of experience could await me upon my arrival in South Carolina?

"It would be a good experience on the whole.  I immediately made a new friend in a lovely young lady from the Atlanta Kyudo Renmei, who was also my transportation from the airport.  At the dojo, I met my fellow members of the Indiana Kyudo Renmei;  they had been waiting for me after the seminar.  A few of them I did not know, but we immediately became acquainted.  The group treated me as if I was one of their own;  their kindness and acceptance warmed my heart, and I was happy to work with them and spend time with them during practice and mealtimes.  It was also nice to run into a few old friends as well.

"The Hanshi were very helpful and informative throughout the seminar.  All of them worked with my group, and they were very encouraging and respectful.  As they prepared me for my Sandan test, they made a few corrections to my form.  I learned to use all five of my fingers to raise the yumi after yatsugae;  it was a minor change to the form and style that year, according to the Hanshi.  I was instructed to lower the ya on the nigiri by a tiny fraction during yugamae (this was to help lead with the left hand as I brought the yumi down to kai).  The biggest change was going from daisan to kai;  here I was told to pull myself into the center of the yumi.  This would be accomplished by pushing and pulling equally from my back muscles.

"The testing day came, and I worked to the best of my ability.  After hours of suspense, I was informed that I did not make Sandan.  I was disappointed for a brief second, but like in 2006, the last words of the Raiki-Shagi echoed in my mind and heart:


'This is an occasion to search for oneself...'

"After the amazing adventure that had transpired, all of the wonderful new friends I had met and the incredible overall experience of this seminar, how could I be discontented?  One of the Yondans and Godans in my group told me not to worry,  they had not passed their Sandan test on the first try, either.  My disappointment melted away and evaporated that night, as the Indiana Kyudo Renmei took me out to a delicious dinner.  I was actually quite sad to leave.  We all said our goodbyes, asked about if we would see each other at the next seminar, and promised to keep in touch.

"I had a phenomenal time at the seminar.  I may not have made Sandan, but I'm not going to give up.  This experience taught me to keep on pushing, and to hone my Kyudo technique.  I will keep on training, and I will make Sandan someday.  The days to come will be spent on a much-needed search for myself."


Glossary of Kyudo terms:

Taihai:  The overall form and the series of formal movements practiced in the shooting ceremony.

Shitsu:  Denotes a certain type of error in the shooting procedure; ie, a dropped arrow, a broken string, or a dropped bow.  Each of these errors has a specific series of steps to be followed, when they occur.

Kihon:  Refers to the Kihon-tai, or the fundamental steps and movements of the shooting ceremony, as laid out in the Kyudo Manual, Volume 1.

Sandan:  The third Dan rank, awarded in formal testing.  The Dan ranks number one through ten, and are counted in ascending order as follows:  Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan, Godan, Rokudan, Shichidan, Hachidan, Kyuudan, Jyuudan.

Ikkyu:  Prior to the Dan ranks, there are two Kyu ranks that may be awarded in testing.  They are Nikkyu, and then Ikkyu.  If a shooter is ranked Ikkyu, the next rank they would be eligible for is Shodan.

Hanshi:  The highest rank for Kyudo instructors.  Traditionally, the Kyudo seminars held in the U.S. have hosted three Hanshi-ranked Sensei, associated with the Zen Nippon Kyudo Renmei in Japan.  These dedicated instructors volunteer their time and patient attention to seminar students, to ensure that the students receive a high standard of instruction.

Yumi:  The Japanese bow.

Yatsugae:  The procedure of nocking the Ya (arrows) on the Tsuru (bowstring).

Nigiri:  The grip of the bow, traditionally wrapped in a strip of leather.

Yugamae:  Preparing the bow, before lifting and drawing.  Yugamae consists of two parts:  Torikake (taking hold of the string with the right hand), and Tenouchi (setting the left hand grip on the Nigiri).  This is one of the 8 steps of the Hassetsu, the kata of Kyudo.

Kai:  The full draw, the point of greatest expansion of the bow and the string, prior to releasing the arrow.  Also one of the 8 steps of Hassetsu.

Daisan:  A transitional point prior to Kai, when the bow is drawn to two-thirds of the full expansion.

Raiki-Shagi:  One of the important historical texts describing the philosophy of Kyudo practice.  You may read the full text of it at this entry.


A demonstration in Henderson, NV

This year, we were invited to participate in the Henderson Heritage Festival and Parade, where the Nevada Kyudo Kai joined the parade in downtown Henderson, and later performed a demonstration.

Here are some photos of our group members, at the event.







Monday, January 7, 2013

A demonstration in Las Vegas


In October 2011, the Las Vegas Kyudo Kai members were invited to perform a demonstration at the Second Annual Las Vegas Aki Matsuri, in the Chinatown Plaza.

Thanks to the very kind permission of the CraftyChick blog, we are able share a few photos of the demonstration, which she took at the event (visit the link to her blog, to view more images of the Aki Matsuri).

First up, here is Don-Sensei, demonstrating at the makiwara (straw shooting target):






Here is a demonstration of gomuyumi practice.  The term "gomuyumi" may be interpreted as "baby yumi", and is used in place of the full-sized bow, for beginners, and also to work on building strength and practicing the draw.




Finally, we performed a four-shooter demonstration, in Rissha, or standing form:




Once again, many thanks to Liz at CraftyChick, for sharing these photos with us!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Further member comments



"I started my Kyudo training in Honolulu, in 1984.  In 1985 I participated in the 'Kanyaku Inmin Commemoration International Goodwill Tournament'.  I competed against archers that came from different Prefectures throughout Japan.

After relocating to Maui and then to Las Vegas in 1997, I had a difficult time finding a (Kyudo) Dojo.  With luck, a stranger pointed me in the direction of a Henderson Recreation Center....there I met Wudarski Sensei.

I am now a four-year member of Nevada Kyudo Kai, and happy to say that my new Kyudo family has filled that 'void' since my transition from the islands.

Those interested but unfamiliar with Japanese culture will discover that Japanese people go by practicing aesthetic (artistic) principles.  As an observer, you will not see the hidden complexities that Kyudo requires of an archer.  There is more to Kyudo than just going through the formality of movements in this 'Ceremony'.

Yes, 'Ceremony'.  Like Chado (Tea Ceremony), you don't practice Chado just to drink tea....Kyudo is the same, you don't practice Kyudo just to shoot arrows.

I enjoy Kyudo in all its entirety, although I think the most beautiful part of Kyudo is Hanare (the release).  The moment your arrow goes on its 'own will power'--called Kiai (most often compared to the exact moment a dew drop falls off a leaf)--is what I like to describe as 'the moment of truth'.  Mind, spirit, and energy, the result of everything working in unison.

Fujino Sensei of Hawaii Kyudo Kai once said, 'If you think you know everything there is to know about the Art of Kyudo, then it's time for you to move on to something else.'

That was twenty-eight years ago.  I am now sixty years old....and still learning."

--Karen, Ikkyu

Instruction at Yamaji Dojo


Because we cannot possibly learn Kyudo from books or even videos alone, those who practice Kyudo hold a deep and abiding respect for the generosity and dedication of our teachers.

At Yamaji Dojo, we are deeply thankful for the guidance and instruction given to us by Takako Matsui-Swain Sensei, of the Indiana Kyudo Renmei.  And we recognize the teachings she has passed down to us from her instructor, Makoto Matsuoka Sensei.





Thursday, October 25, 2012

More comments on kyudo practice


"For most of my life I've held an interest in in Feudal Japan and the Samurai.  I've been involved in martial arts since high school, specifically Aikido and Iaido.  When I turned twenty-one I got started in Kyudo.

Those first few weeks were pretty frustrating.  As Sensei Wudarski showed me how to use the Japanese bow (Yumi), I discovered muscles I didn't know I had.  Despite my frustrations, I really enjoyed the art and determined to become proficient.

At the end of that first year, I attended my first Seminar and tested.  Due to a mix of excitement, frazzled nerves and an unfocused mind, I only made Ikkyu (first rank) instead of Shodan (first degree).  Though disappointed, I remembered the last line of the Raiki-Shagi:

"...this is an occasion to search for oneself."


At my second Seminar, being nervous and worried, Sensei continued to remind me to concentrate and focus on my form.  Heeding his advice and hearing his voice in the back of my head, I earned my rank of Shodan.

Even though I am now Nidan (second degree), I am still searching for my true self."

--Chris, Nidan


For those who may be interested, here is the full text of the Raiki-Shagi (Record of Etiquette-Truth of Shooting), which is one of the important historical texts describing Kyudo philosophy:

Raiki-Shagi  (Record of Etiquette-Truth of Shooting)


The shooting, with the round of moving forward or backward can never be without courtesy and propriety (Rei).

After having acquired the right inner intention and correctness in the outward appearance, the bow and arrow can be handled resolutely.

To shoot in this way is to perform the shooting with success, and through this shooting virtue will be evident.

Kyudo is the way of perfect virtue.  In the shooting, one must search for rightness in oneself.  With the rightness of self, shooting can be realized.

At the time when shooting fails, there should be no resentment towards those who win.  On the contrary, this is an occasion to search for oneself.

Friday, August 17, 2012

2012 American Kyudo Seminar


We would like to offer congratulations to our member Galen, for passing the rank examination for Shodan, at the 17th American Kyudo Seminar, hosted this year by the Northern California Kyudo Federation, in Davis, California.

Omedetou Gozaimasu!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Some thoughts from our members

We've asked our dojo members to share their thoughts on the practice of Kyudo.  Here are a couple of the comments so far:

1.
Why I joined archery

On a sunny spring morning in March of 2011, my PE class announced that we were going to practice archery for one week.  It has inspired me to join this Japanese archery class.  After almost a year, I still continue to participate in Japanese archery.  I have learned many, many things throughout Japanese archery. I have become a better and stronger archer through the past 13 months.

(--Jackie, Mudan)


2.

When I was first learning Kyudo, my favorite part to practice was yatsugae:  the sequence of nocking the arrows.  It's a precise series of steps, involving specific movements of the bow, the hands, the arrows, the direction of one's eye gaze, and even breathing.

So much of Kyudo is about patient attention to detail;  progressing through small steps in order, each at the proper time, until the whole of it can be seen.  And what I enjoyed so much about the steps of nocking arrows, is that it's so very clear how each movement has a purpose, there are no unnecessary motions.  As with Kyudo in general, yatsugae is both elegant and exact, and while working through that exactitude there was no room for my mind to wander.  It required me to be present and attentive through each detail of every step.

Which as it happens, is enormously calming, and not something I commonly find in everyday life.

There are any number of lessons and benefits one can take away from Kyudo;  it's no accident that the art has flourished this long, or that many practitioners devote their lives to it.  Kyudo always offers more to learn, further refinements, future challenges and progress yet to be made.  But there is also always that fundamental orderliness, it will always reward sincerity and patient attention to detail.  In this way, I find that the practice of Kyudo is very much its own reward.

(--Windy, Nidan)