Saturday, July 11, 2009


I visited my kyudo group for the first time in over a year. They're all gearing up for a seminar in South Carolina; seminars are where the Big Kahunas from Japan give lectures, demonstrations, and workshops, and then the whole thing culminates with a mass test where everyone shoots two arrows and then either does or doesn't get a promotion in rank. Kyudo doesn't have visible "belts," but they use the same terminology as other Japanese martial arts for black-belt levels ("shodan" is first level, "nidan" second, and so on, the teacher/adjudicators are usually "hatchidan" or eighth level). The further along you go, the harder it is to get promoted. The group kinda wigs out a little as they gear up for these things, and they're packing their bows tomorrow to ship ahead to South Carolina, so I came out of "retirement" and brought them fresh-blueberry scones as a good-luck present. I used to bake scones for class every week, I know I miss doing that and from the smiles on their faces, I think they miss them too.

Kyudo is a very gentle, quiet, subtle art. The "Federation" style (so called because it is overseen by the International Kyudo Federation) is very particular about the precise way that every step is executed, it's an "external" style; the style I practice is more "internal," we use the externals as diagnostics to help show us whether we've done the internals correctly.

I really think that kyudo exemplifies the road we have to take to live with MS. It's about listening; it's about getting and staying out of your own way, and out of the way of what you're trying to accomplish; it's about truth. One of the first things I ever heard my teacher say, and what specifically showed me that I needed to study with him, was that "The bow and the arrow always tell you the truth about yourself."

The lesson that I took from tonight's experience was, "You don't have to do it (whatever 'it' is) 'big.' You don't have to be hung up on anything. An hour's worth of practice is an hour's worth of practice. If that's what you can do, that'll do. You wonder where to start? Tell the truth."

I definitely need to let tonight's lessons percolate for a while.

And I need to get back to the bow.

And I don't even need the bow; teacher spent a while talking about the virtues of "air kyudo," which is the way I first started learning the art. And bare-hand zero-equipment kyudo, even in my recent "sort of" states of indeterminate crapulence, I can do.

As always... we'll see.

1 comment:

Denver Refashionista said...

Sounds like you learned a great "lesson." Enjoy the percolating.