The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Living the Way of the Bow

Below is an excerpt from a great post from Gaijin Explorer. The full post may be read here.

Today I met a 90 year old man who practices kyudo.

When he first came in, I could tell he was pretty old, but was lively and cheerful. He started chatting to me in English, and I was surprised at his ability. He was better than most younger Japanese people and could keep a conversation going. He said he was 90 years old and still doing kyudo ... 90 YEARS OLD AND DOING KYUDO!!! Kyudo is no soft art, and pulling a bow at that age standing up straight and straining your muscles and will is no small feat ... for anybody. That surprised me, and he walked away for a minute, and came back with some small Japanese treats for me. (I think every aged person in Japan is always carrying around sweets to hand out to foreigners, because this happens most everytime! Maybe it's a habit I'll start soon.)

So we chatted more, he left, and then came back again with a postcard with him on it and a printout in Japanese that looked like it was from a newspaper and gave it to me. He said it was from about 20 years ago when he was 70, and he looked super strong and healthy ... at 70! At that time I was in elementary school trying to hide picking my nose from other kids on the school bus. He said he was in the coastguard and liked building radios. At that time I was changing ready to head out for work so I didn't see him shoot unfortunately.

After that I went home for a minute and showed the postcard and printout to Satomi and she was super impressed. Curious as to what she found out I started reading the printout on my own.

He started kyudo when he was in middle school, which means he started kyudo about 75 years ago (though he said he's been practicing for 60 years, which probably means he took time off when he was working, not sure). That's unbelievable to me. I can't possibly imagine doing anything for that long. I suppose if I'm lucky enough, I can say that I've practiced kyudo for 60 years one day.

But then, the part that really impressed me was that he pulled a 37 kilogram bow in his prime.

37 KILOGRAMS!

If you don't practice kyudo then that probably doesn't have much context, but the strongest bow I've pulled is 17, but now I'm using a 15 (I think). A lot of perfectly skilled teachers use 20 kilogram bows. Using a 25 km bow is considered really strong. I've never met someone who could pull a 30kg bow, and now I just met this dude who used to pull a 37 kg bow. That's crazy. Apparently he's been dropping the weight as he's gotten older, but I think he pulls a 20 kg bow now at 90, which is impossible for me now at 28.

The numbers are just too much for me, I'm dumbfounded and impressed. In a way I feel like continuing is pointless because I'll probably never be able to pull a 37 kg bow like him, but then I'm also motivated because the only important thing is continuing with a genuine effort. Without that there is nothing. With that, you can do anything ... including doing kyudo for 60 years and pulling a strong bow.

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