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Seminar Reflection by Michael Rich, South Carolina Kyudo Renmei

by: Michael Rich, Sandan, SCKR

Reflections on the 2013 American Kyudo Seminar in South Carolina 

I vastly enjoyed the opportunity to spend several days not only with THREE! Hachidan hanshi instructors from Japan, but also to meet kyudo practitioners from all latitudes of the western hemisphere. From the eclectic and sophisticated beer menu to the grueling hours on the hardwood floor, this seminar packed a lot of pleasure and pain into one short week. I was extremely impressed with South Carolina’s organizational skills, perseverance and endurance in managing the event. I was also amazed by the level of shooting demonstrated by the 111! kyudo practitioners. As Hayashi Sensei said, it was indeed a passionate and dedicated group.

The Sensei was incredibly generous with their time and teaching. I noticed them consulting their meticulously hand written notes whenever giving pointers to shooters. Each Sensei demonstrated very different teaching styles and points of emphasis.

Hayashi Sensei spoke at length about relaxing and breathing. His comments on performing kaizoe in particular emphasized the importance of the performers’ synchronizing their breathing. He also explained the importance of the arrow being level with the floor during all stages of the draw, and taught us how to adjust our nocking point so that the arrow would be level at kai and still be at the proper elevation to hit the target. Hayashi Sensei’s performance of yawatashi was also fascinating, as he not only revealed enormous deltoids, but also incredible tenacity during hikiwake. It almost felt as if he had the audience rooting for him during the seemingly agonizing progress to kai.

Sakuma Sensei spoke in great detail about the tenouchi of yunde and mete, and showed us detailed drawings that he had produced to explain his “ideal” yunde tenouchi from uchiokoshi to kai and hanare. Sakuma Sensei then described how he is currently working on how to use the fingers of the mete to hook the string, and trying to avoid using the thumb as much as possible. To demonstrate, he shot two arrows after taking his thumb out of the kake, and then explained further while shooting two arrows without a kake at all. Needless to say, all those watching were enthralled with his skill and willingness to share his personal kyudo discoveries.

Sawada Sensei gave a very helpful explanation of the use of the shoulder blades, and explained how proper uchiokoshi is necessary to prepare the shoulders to function properly in hikiwake. His visual demonstration showed two heart-shaped movements of the shoulders in vertical and horizontal axes. We were also allowed to touch him at kai and we gained a good sense of how he maintained such massive stability while remaining very relaxed in the upper body. As with the other
Sensei, Sawada Sensei spoke about his “ideal” kyudo and was careful to say that he didn’t feel that he himself had yet achieved his own “ideal” kyudo, and thought that perhaps he never would.

Saying goodbye to the Sensei I realized how much they had cared about us and given to us. I am awestruck by their dedication to kyudo and service to others. Hayashi, Sakuma and Sawada Sensei demonstrated how integrity and sacrifice continue to transmit Japan’s valuable cultural legacies throughout the world. I am deeply grateful for their teaching and dedication.