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, January 28, 2018

The Five Crosses of Kyudo

Below is an excerpt from a post at Green Leaves Forest. The full post may be read here.

For those that are looking for secret techniques, enjoy some time in the mist, and I bet you’ll find yourself right back to the beginning. But that’s great news, because you’ll find yourself at the greatest source of technique there is,

the basics.

The longer I practice kyudo, the more appreciation I have for those who came together to make the first edition of the Kyudo Manual (Kyohon). Those teachers managed to compile a few fundamental ideas to encompass so much of the art into one modestly sized volume. To do effectively just what is written in that single volume, is well more than enough to consider yourself a master, in my humble opinion. But then again, it is more than just a few fundamental ideas, I suppose. And nature of actually putting those fundamentals to basics to action is so difficult that numerous texts have been printed since to further elaborate, and high level teachers and practitioners alike still debate over what exactly is the proper application.

But anyway, let’s talk about a couple of these basics, and attempt to do so very basically.

What is important when doing kyudo? What are the most important fundamental basics?

Well, what we’re doing when we are shooting are the Hassetsu, eight phases of shooting. We learn to do these in order, and that’s not so hard.

We learn about taihai. Those are all the movements other than actually shooting, like walking, sitting, standing, which are more appropriately called the Kihontai, Fundamental Form, which is comprised of the Kihon-no-Shisei, Basic Postures, and Kihon-no-Dosa, Basic Movements. We first practice them though they may feel separate from shooting, but eventually we learn that doing proper taihai and shooting are the same thing. Or if that’s too difficult to see, then we can say getting better at taihai will help us better hit the target.

We learn about nobiai (expansion), and that in order to have nobiai, we must have tsumeai.

Ah-ha, now we’re getting closer: tsumeai is basically the correct application of tateyoko-jumonji (tateyoko-jumonji no kiku), the Vertical and Horizontal Crosses.

The first set we learn about is the Sanjuu-Jumonji (the Three Crosses) (the red lines shown in the picture above) which are made up of  (1) our center vertical line (imagine our spine extending to the center of the earth and to the highest point in space) and the horizontal line of our feet, (2) our center vertical line and the horizontal line of our hips, and then (3) our center vertical line and the horizontal line of our shoulders. I remember being tested on this for my shodan (1st) or nidan (2nd) test, which means you’re expected to know about it and be putting it into action at this level.

The idea is that if we protect the 90 degree angles of these three crosses throughout the entirety of our shooting, then we can have correct form, and thus be better able to shoot a straight arrow. Recently I thought a lot about this basic idea, and thought that if you just do this, then that should be enough. Well, you’re definitely on the right track if you can protect these three crosses … in fact, I don’t think I see all that many people putting it in action appropriately (I am suspect as well!), but there are still a lot of horrible ways to screw up your form even with good protection of these three crosses.

And that’s were the Gojuu-Jumonji (the Five Crosses) (the five small crosses in the picture above) come in, which are made up of (1) our center vertical line and the line of our shoulders, (2) the horizontal line of the arrow and the vertical line of our neck, (3) the vertical line of the bow and the horizontal line of the arrow, (4) the vertical line of the bow and the horizontal line of our tenouchi (left hand), and (5) the vertical line of the string and the horizontal line of the big thumb on our right hand that’s inside of the kake (glove). I remember being tested on this around yondan (4th) or godan (5th) test. These crosses are supposed to be made in the full draw, and of course used along with nobiai (expansion). This is what makes proper tsumeai.

To be honest, I remembered these 5 crosses because I had to, and have been conscious of them since, but have never realized how important they are until now.

Now I see,

that they are really fricken important.

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