On March 2nd and 3rd, the Luxembourg Kyudo federation hosted ist annual seminar in the facilities of the Cecile Ries school in Mersch. Under the supervision of Vlasselaer Jean-Pierre Sensei, Renshi 6th Dan, around 30 kyudoka members of the Belgium and Luxembourg Kyudo federation came together to deepene their study of the way of the Japanese bow.
The seminar started with a Ya Watashi exercise performed by 3 members of Mitsugawa Kyudojo Mersch. It was an exercise in the sense that it allowed those 3 archers to realize the difficulties of this ceremony. While the archer has to shoot 2 arrows according to a very precise set of rules, 2 assistants have to support the archer in the best possible way while not drawing the audience’s attention away from the archer.
During his comments after the exercise, the sensei insisted on the importance of performing all movements in the correct way. Especially the movements of the assistants were reviewed in detail. Still, the beauty of the Ya Watashi ceremony can only appear when the technical aspects of it are transcended and the personalities of the archer and his assistants appear and give life to the ceremony.
Later, Hitote Gyosha was the opportunity for every participant to the seminar to shoot 2 arrows while being observed by the sensei. This way, the sensei could adapt his teaching to the shooting level of the participants.
At the beginning of the second day of the seminar, another Ya Watashi was performed, by Vlasselaer Sensi as Ite. After the opening ceremony, the morning session was dedicated to the shooting technique. In particular, attention was paid to Tenouchi, the grip of the left hand on the bow. The Japanese bow indeed needs a special technique to avoid that all arrows would fly to the right instead of straight to the target. This is the role of Tenouchi. It is particularly difficult to perform as the most important things happen on the contact between hand and bow, inside the left hand and thus invisible to the eye during shooting. Tenouchi technique has to be repeated for years before being acceptable.
During the last session of the seminar, the sensei insisted on how important it is that the archer puts his force in the region of the body called the tanden rather than in the upper part of the body, especially the arms. Indeed, the correct opening of the bow is made not so much with the power of the muscles as with the correct using of the bones.
In the end, as happens often times in Kyudo, teaching went far beyond what one can hope to implement in one seminar and so everyone left the Mersch with his bag full of things to implement during daily practice.