This is a story of a learning experience I had, among many, thanks to a professor and teacher, Yokoyama Naoya (横山直也) sensei, years ago when I was a student in Japan.
I had the opportunity to watch an event for kyudo (弓道) – “the way of the bow” (as in the bow and arrow in archery) for the first time. The participants moved extremely slowly and at times stayed transfixed like statues – composed and calm. The place was filled with silence. Here’s a video on kyudo and a display of the practice:
- “Kyudo – Mariko Satake／Interview – Is Japan Cool? Dou（弓道 – 佐竹 万里子)”, by ANA Global Channel, Aug 22, 2017 (“practice” from 6:03 to 8:39. 8:47 mins in total).
- Notes: 1) the Q&A interview, which explains kyudo, is insightful and seems profound. 2) I’ve listed some quotes from Satake sensei, that touched me, at the end. 3) A thank you to San Diego Kyudo for pointing out this video on their FB page (posted on Aug 29, 2017).
Later, before a kendo practice, I mentioned the event to Yokoyama sensei and expressed my amazement at the slowness and stillness of the participants. Then he asked me: “Do you think that kyudo and kendo are different?”
I thought the answer was fairly obvious and replied that they were completely different. Apart from the distinct physical instruments, I noted the slowness, stillness and silence of those in kyudo in contrast to the speed, action and kiai of those in kendo. He smiled and replied “They’re identical (一緒だよ – isshodayo).”
I was surprised and probably wondered aloud “How can they be identical?” He went on to explain that they may appear different externally. However, internally, that they were the same. That both aim for the development of the mind or heart (心 – kokoro) and, for example, a calm state of mind – no matter what may transpire externally – if I remember the gist of his words correctly. As embodied by the expression heijoushin (平常心) for an “always calm mind” [Yaegaki-kai_Heijoshin] [Kendo-guide_Heijoshin] or “normal mind” [BudoBum_Heijoshin].
Mindset is everything. Like the eye of a storm – find the sunshine and calm within you, even if there is chaos outside of you. – Brittany Burgunder.
I see a similar sense of focus, calmness and character instead of anxiousness or displays of anger, ego or fear in varying degrees in professionals and non-professionals in other areas of life such as sports, the arts and work. One athlete that comes to mind is the quarterback Joe Montana in American football. He seemed to have an unwavering aura of calmness, determination and a we-can-do-this demeanor despite setbacks in high-pressure situations with the game on the line and limited time remaining.
In closing, I believe that I now have a better appreciation of Yokoyama sensei‘s words through good teachers, the practice of mindfulness and life experiences. Moreover, I think that part of the attraction to kendo for me and probably for many is this aspect of developing the kokoro and applying this to areas outside of kendo such as work, study or relationships as well. Easier said than done – at least for me.
Somes Quotes from Satake Sensei
- How we spend our daily lives is clearly reflected in our shooting. If we live with grace and dignity, it shows. (3:23 min mark)
- When you face the target, you can only perform well if you are honest with yourself. (4:15)
- You must cleanse your mind by being honest and true. Otherwise, your performance becomes fake. (4:23)
- Through training, kyudo evokes the inner nature you were born with. (4:39)
- Without skill, the arrow will miss the mark, of course. But once you master the skills, the way your mind works becomes more important. So you also need to firmly train your mind. (4:55)
- What stands in your way is your ego. It hinders you when drawing the arrow. (5:07)
- What I cherish most is doing everything with integrity, which I think I can do by improving myself as a human being. (5:18)
- When I expose my true self, I can perform well without faking it. (5:28)
- Kyudo is a big part of my life. It teaches me what is natural. (5:36)
- Kyudo teaches me about existence, including my own. (5:52)
Keywords: Difference, Similarities, kendo vs. kyudo
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