Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

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 ~

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Great Sickness in Martial Arts Study

Over at Green Leaves Forest, Zacky Chan discusses the Great Sickness in Kyudo, which is really the great sickness in any budo study, trying to hit the target! It seems counter intuitive, but it makes sense.

When an archer is shooting for fun
He has all his skill.

If he shoots for a brass buckle
He is already nervous.

If he shoots for a prize of gold
He goes blind

Or sees two targets –
He is out of his mind.

His skill has not changed,
But the prize divides him.

He cares
He thinks more of winning
Than of shooting –
And the need to win
Drains him of power.

~Chuang Tzu

An excerpt is below. The full post may be read here.

The Greatest Sickness in Kyudo.

The Greatest Sickness in Kyudo is not a small technical difficulty like putting your elbow here, or your hand here, our your shoulder here, releasing too early (hayake), or not hitting the target.

The Greatest Sickness in Kyudo is “wanting to hit the target.”

If you’re at all familiar with kyudo, this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this. You probably heard it and thought, “Wow. That’s amazing. It’s all about the spirit and actually has nothing to do with the target.” perhaps along with lots of other mystical thoughts.

Then you probably thought, “That is the biggest pile of crap I’ve ever heard. What the hell is the point of shooting a bow and arrow then? All I’m doing is shooting at a target!”

Then maybe you start really trying to figure out how to hit the target and find a whole lot of cool techniques. Eventually you may realize that a lot of those little techniques are dependent on the form and structure of our body, “shizentai” (“natural body”), “kihontai” (“fundamental structure”), and the “tateyoko juumonji” (“horizontal and vertical crosses”) and find that the greatest skill is in found in the basics.

Then maybe you start to look around. You may see those with decades of experience and skills who are struggling to hit the target, and then you may see those with little experience shooting a wonderful arrow. How does this make sense? Aren’t we supposed to be getting “better” at hitting the target? “I’ve put all this time and effort into this tradition, why am I not hitting the target?”

There are lots of pitfalls and sicknesses in kyudo like putting your elbow here, or your hand here, our your shoulder here, releasing too early (hayake), or not hitting the target, but do you know why neither of these is the Greatest Sickness in Kyudo?

That is because “trying to hit the target” lies at the root of all of them.


Zacky Chan said...

Thanks for sharing, Rick! Reading this again brings back memories of when I wrote it in a hotel room in Miyazaki. Being pulled away from your training has a way of inviting lots of frustration and creativity.

Rick Matz said...

I think that you have a terrific blog about budo. Everyone interested in budo should read it.