When starting out Kyudo I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I’ve done several types of martial arts in the past and know that each of them is entirely different from the other and I knew right away that Kyudo was going to be a unique experience. What I did not realize was how unique of an experience Kyudo practice and the atmosphere of the dojo itself was going to be in comparison to the rest of Japan.
Immediately upon contacting my sensei I realized that she was a very confident, laid back, and friendly individual. She was very welcoming and accommodating, and as long as her students showed a general interest in learning Kyudo she was more than willing to go above and beyond to help them. I believe it is primarily from her that the atmosphere of the rest of the dojo flowed from. More than any group of Japanese people that I have encountered, I can say that the Kyudo Dojo felt like my ｳﾁ. These were people that, even before they got to know me, would notice whether or not I was there and would be glad to see me. They would respond well when I reached out to them and reach out to me in kind, often offering a lot of useful advice for Kyudo. Once I started wearing a uniform I especially felt like I was considered part of the dojo, no different from any other student there.
The practice itself is also extremely rewarding and the more I get into Kyudo the more I sense the spirituality associated with it. Kyudo is very much a sport with intentions of meditation and stillness in mind. It’s less about hitting the target and more about the process, with the goal being to put every bit of your soul into each shot. It’s a very intriguing art form that with each additional practice, becomes more and more mysterious and awe inspiring. I was fortunate enough during a practice two weeks ago to have an experience which left me dumbstruck for a while after my arrow had already hit the target. I was standing in position, taking aim, trying to synchronize my breaths with my shot. When I finally started exhaling for the last time, it was as if the bow took over. I don’t even remember releasing the bowstring, but there the arrow was, flying towards the target. The bow then spun itself in my hand, a sign of a good release, and my ears were filled with the striking ring of the bowstring that never fails to be satisfying. I felt as if my own body had just stood aside while the bow took over. It was mystifying and I can’t wait for more.
I’m glad that you were able to have such a rewarding CIP experience! Have you felt a similar sense of spirituality when you practiced other types of martial arts?
It’s interesting, I have and I haven’t. It’s not really the same sort of sensation. I’d have to say the closest equivalent that I’ve had with Kendo would be this intense welling up of just, well, “kiai” (fighting spirit). Kendo is more like a rush, whereas Kyudo is a stillness and serenity. Both are awesome =)
In the case of Karate, I haven’t so much of a spiritual experience as I have just enjoyment and some adrenaline rushes in sparring (you really learn how fast you can react in times like these). I think maybe the cause for the differences here might be in the style of teaching and how that differs between a more Japanese style versus an American style.