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, October 28, 2018

Promotion Test Jitters

Have you ever found yourself nervous about taking a promotional test? Have you ever really thought it through to figure out what you could do about it?

Our friend Zacky Chan at Green Leaves Forest had a very nice post about just that. An excerpt from that post is below. The whole post may be read here.

I’ve been running myself down a dark little tunnel in my training lately.
I’ve got the shinsa shakes.
“Shinsa” are tests in kyudo, and when you’ve got one coming up, it’s going to start messing with your brain sometime. Some people get them on test day. Some a week earlier. Some maybe midway through the test.
I can just imagine someone standing up just before they make their shot, realize all of the judges are sitting right in front of them staring at them, and say, “Holy crap, this is happening right now!”
For me I got the shakes about 5 weeks before the actual test, and I’ve got two weeks left until the day. Which I’d say is pretty long. Perhaps the time gets longer as the stakes get higher. I’m planning to move back home in the near future, and this may be my last chance at 6-dan before heading home. This means I only have two arrows to try my chance at this goal of mine. I’ll probably still be a number which puts me at the very beginning in the first sitting (No. 1, No. 2, or maaaaybe No. 3 or No. 4, I assume), which means if I don’t hit both arrows, then there’s no chance at passing.
I can only imagine the kind of stress that goes with taking tests from abroad. Taking time off work, spending hundreds or thousands of dollars, being jet-lagged, shooting in an environment completely different from one’s own, in a whole different country. Shooting your best under such conditions is really something special.
There may be a lot of different things that come up with the shinsa shakes, but I would bet the number one topic that comes up for everyone is …
hitting the target.
“Don’t worry, you’ll pass if you just hit the target.”
This is one thing you’ll often hear from other training partners. I think it’s meant to help you relax and stop worrying about all the little things you can worry about. Or maybe they really mean it, and that you’re shooting is good enough just the way it is at this level, and all you need to do is do your best shot and hit the target. Surely everyone has the capability of doing this, be you ikkyu or hanshi.
But that’s just another piece of poison that can mess with your brain.
“Maybe they’re right. All I have to do is hit the target and I’ll pass.”
And so you start either trying too hard to hit the target, throwing off your form and making it even harder to hit the target. Or you let up all your energy and don’t put enough effort into your shooting.
So what should we do?!
What is the best way to prepare yourself mentally and physically for a test?
What is the best way to train?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And you know what?
It’s different for everybody.
And what works for you will continue to change with your experience and progress.
Because you’re a living being! And change is the only constant.
But here I’d like to finally start talking about what I set out to talk about, and that is the importance of hitting the target in kyudo, and finding a practice that includes this without focusing only on hitting the target.
So, my reaction to all these shinsa shakes has been extremist. Since 5 weeks before the test, I decided I was only going to practice zassha (ritual test-style shooting that takes a lot longer than normal shooting practice) with the kimono, and shoot at the makiwara (practice hay bail).
My reason for this was to get my body so used to the movements and kimono and shinsa atmosphere, so that when the day came for the test, the only shooting I would know would be that of the shinsa atmosphere and I could shoot my best arrows without any question. I also thought that by doing such a practice would allow me to put my entire focus into each arrow … since each one took so long to shoot, and the mental stakes of a shinsa are so high. With the makiwara, I could make sure that my shooting form was as close to perfect as I could tell with my own eyes.
My very first teacher told me to do only zassha shooting for the week before the test when I first started. At that time I thought it was overkill, but I’ve kept with that tradition since then and I think it’s helped me immensely. This is the first time I’ve extended that time, and perhaps I’ve gone overboard … way overboard.
I’ve been doing this for 3 weeks now, and sure there are lots of benefits, but you know what?
I’m getting farther and farther away from hitting the target.
When missing, I don’t curse myself, and instead move on to the next shot anew. This is also good mental practice. But yesterday I thought,
“I hit the target so infrequently now … and I don’t feel like I’m getting any closer. In fact, I think I’m getting worse!”
I’ve had good intentions, but maybe I’m really sabotaging myself!
What is happening is that I’m just hoping that my hard work pays off and I will naturally hit the target when the time comes. It’s all “hoping” and “praying.” It’s putting me in a position of weakness, when what I really need is one of confidence. I need to go into the test with the confidence that I can hit both arrows in the target.
For a while now I’ve really been thinking a lot about the importance of taihai (all of the movements other than shooting like walking, standing, sitting, etc) and how they must be done to the best of your ability every time in order to help your shooting and art. I’ve thought a lot about the mental strength to not worry about hitting the target and always remaining relaxed, unaffected by the temptations around. I’ve thought about making the best of our shooting, and trying to fix our bad habits instead of just forgetting about it all and caring only about hitting the target.
But what about hitting the target?
Hitting the mark?
Achieving the goal of what you set out to do?


Potatoe Fist said...

Great to see this article. My test is in May and I've already got some nervousness. It's nice to see that other folks have it and talk about it. My gang all seem to be made of Iron.

Rick Matz said...

Ganbatte (Do your best)!