There are several reasons that I am sad to see this Spring semester come to an end, and leaving my CIP behind is among the top few. My experience at the 道場, practicing 弓道 hasn’t been the most social or life-changing, but I am extremely grateful for having been given the opportunity to be taught by a proper instructor and train amongst other Japanese 生徒.
Although there have been countless awkward moments for me, whether due to my own lack of communication skills or due to making a mistake and dropping an arrow, my overall experience has been quite pleasant and I normally leave practice feeling somewhat accomplished. My teachers and fellow students have been very kind to me, and as the months flew by, I felt more and more welcome amongst them.
During my first few weeks at the 道場 back in September, a few foreign travelers came and went, practicing only a few days or weeks before leaving again. I remember 先生 talking about how even 4 months was not enough time to truly learn about 弓道, and I can say that after nearly 8, I still feel I have a long way to go until I can be called even “decent”.
Looking back, I believe there has been a very large difference between how teachers and other students treated those who stayed only a short time, and how I have come to be treated after being around for a much longer time. That is not to say that they treated anyone badly at any point in time, but that after 6 or so months there, I definitely began to feel a change. Despite having few conversations with others, I could sense that they had grown used to seeing me around, grown used to expecting me there. The times I did have conversations with people, they were always very nice and asked me about myself, and about how long I would be staying.
If I compare myself with some of the other students who had attended while I was there, I believe that my being there for a much longer time than the others, spoke of how serious I was about learning and practicing 弓道, as opposed to being there just for an experience in Japan. I got the impression that those who were only there a handful of weeks were really only doing it as a “one time” thing. せっかく日本に居るから. I and Jasmine who practiced with me last semester hope to continue 弓道 after returning to the states, and if possible coming back to Japan to practice again with a teacher. I am not too hopeful about finding a place to practice in the States as of now, but I will definitely keep my eyes peeled. I knew before I began here that I preferred 弓道 to Western archery, especially competitive archery. I had tried it for a year and a half and realized that the more spiritual and wholesome experience of 弓道 fit me better. I have found myself to be quite right in that respect. I am not the kind of person that enjoys sport and competition, but to me at least, 弓道 is something more.
I believe that it was my genuine desire to learn 弓道 as what it is and not as a sport, not as I learned Western archery in the past, that eventually helped change the way others looked at me. Even 先生 changed her attitude towards me bit by bit. Now I feel much more like part of the group of people there every Monday and Thursday. Unfortunately that only makes it harder to leave and I’m sure these last weeks will fly much too quickly for my liking.