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Seminar Reflection by Sarah Macapagal, Seikyu Kai Toronto

By: Sarah Macapagal 
Seikyu Kai Toronto

The Spirit of Kyudo


Truthfully, when I started this journey many months ago it was with a sense of wanting to do well at the Shinsa, to get Shodan status, and to not let down my Sensei and the others at my dojo who had helped and taught me. I had seen senpai go to previous seminars, pass their grading tests, and come back with a plethora of pictures and experiences that I had yet to experience. I felt like I was missing out on something, like I was being left behind. As I trained and studied the Kyohon more my mindset towards the South Carolina seminar began to change and when I finally arrived I was welcomed with the most amazing and eye-opening experiences.

Even though my senpai had told me stories of going to Shinsa and interacting with people from many different places it was the first time for me to experience the fact that Kyudo, outside of our little dojo in Toronto, was as big as it was. I first realized this when I was asked to hang the flags of the participating countries in the preparation area of the dojo. At the dojo and the dormitory I was able to hear English, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. Even amongst the native English speakers I was able to hear different accents. Despite the fact that we were from different provinces, states, countries, or different walks of life what unified us was that we all enjoyed Kyudo. We all came there with the hopes of leaving with much more than we came with.

I’m sure that my experience with the 3 Hanshi 8-dan Sensei mirrors the experience others had. At first I was in awe of them, these 3 men who could have been my father, uncle, or grandfather, who had devoted a good part of their lives to Kyudo. That they made the flight all the way to Spartanburg to share their experiences and knowledge despite only being able to speak in Japanese was really touching. I can honestly say that I am still in awe of them, at this early stage in my Kyudo life I cannot imagine being able to look as calm as they do when they shoot or to tolerate Kiza for more than a few minutes. As we all started to work with them and learn from them I realized how kind and warm they were. You could really tell that they loved Kyudo and truly wanted to help us improve. Perhaps within each of us they saw a little bit of themselves when they were Mudan or Nidan or even Yondan. They gave us a lot of technical help but what struck me the most were their personal stories and opinions of their relationship with Kyudo. From them I learned that Kyudo takes a lifetime to learn and even as Hanshi 8-dan Sensei they were still discovering new things and mastering skills they had been working on for 50 years. They taught me that Kyudo is very difficult but not to rush learning it for if we do we run the risk of sliding down a slippery slope instead of walking up the hill slowly but surely.

When my name was called as the recipient of the Andrew West Award for the Mudan student who shows the Spirit of Kyudo I was surprised, and humbled in equal measure. I’m not really sure what I did for the 3 Hanshi 8-dan Sensei to see something within me that made them believe that I deserved the award but I was honoured that they did. I was very happy that I was not only met by heartfelt congratulations from the people from my own dojo but with sincere wishes from archers of all ranks from all over the Americas. I felt even though I had received the award, the Spirit of Kyudo was most definitely running through each and every one of the people at the seminar that day. We study about the meaning of Shin-Zen-Bi and how to attain it. That last day of the seminar I could most definitely feel Shin-Zen-Bi radiating throughout the dojo and it felt really nice.

For me, the actual testing day went by in a blur. It’s difficult to remember how my actual test went except that something within me clicked and I was a lot calmer than I thought I would be. The energy, both nervous and positive, was high in the dojo that day but I am hoping that the people participating in the Shinsa could feel the well wishes that their dojo mates and new friends made at the seminar were trying to convey to them. I also believe that although the 3 Hanshi 8-dan Sensei were the ones evaluating our skills I think that they were rooting for all of us as well.

In the end, even though I was able to achieve Shodan status and was very happy that I did I felt that I had gained much more than a rank. The experience taught me a lot about myself and how I handle pressure and how others react to it as well. I am thankful for the Sensei who spent their time and effort teaching us not just about Kyudo but really about living life itself. I am also glad that I had the opportunity to watch and get to know archers from all over North and South America, and Japan.

On the very last day when we started to take apart the dojo that we had helped to set up it was with bittersweet feelings. There was relief that the tests were now over and that we could relax a little and hang out with our fellow archers but also sadness that soon we would all be going our separate ways. The next day was met with hugs and handshakes, “see you next times”, and “let’s keep in touch”. As I sit at home typing this article I long to be with the members of my dojo who made the trip together with me by car all the way from Toronto to Spartanburg. We’ll meet again on the weekend but I will be missing the presence of the Hanshi 8-dan Sensei and the other people who I met during my time at Spartanburg. I look forward to the next seminar where we can all be together again. I hope at that time we can learn a lot to make the Spirit of Kyudo come alive.