This post is written by Vivi Spicer. Photograph offered by Jim Boorstein.
This was the last demonstration I offered at Karme Chöling in June 2004 together with Jim Boorstein. It was an Intermediate/Advanced Kyudo program with Sendai (Kanjuro Shibata XX), sometimes using the Pavilion as in the case of this demonstration of the kneeling form (sukobai).
During intensive programs like this one, everyone was challenged each morning to arrive before Sendai, with equipment ready and in clean clothes for practice (hakama and gi). Sendai would call for a demonstration to open practice and it was a toss up who would make the demonstration. It was always Sendai's decision, and this morning he asked for Jim Boorstein (Toko Kyudo in Manhattan) and me (Miyako Kyudo in Washington, DC). For whatever reason, Sendai assigned me the number one position for this dual demonstration.
The demonstration would be straightforward for Jim and me, since we had practiced together well enough to know each other's form and timing. But early on, something was not right. In the number one position, I rely on sound to tell me what the number two position is doing. Ready or not? On to the next movement? I never had that confirmation from Jim in this demonstration. I never heard him nock the arrow (ya) on to the string (tsuru), or not cleanly. Something sounded wishy-washy. Even after I heard him drop his second arrow for release (otoya) to prepare to release his first arrow (hiya), there were sounds of something not quite right. I paused longer than would be necessary in the form. I didn't want to get ahead of Jim since we were in this demonstration together. [In hindsight, the longer I paused, the greater the difficulty for Jim to hold the arrows in a nocked position. And I thought I was being kind!]
We did release both ya and approached Sendai after closing the form to bow from our kneeling position. As the number two position, Jim moved into a position between me and the target (makiwara) as we both faced Sendai. I felt a jolt of, what's that (?) but kept my seat. Jim had no sooner settled into his seat when Sendai roared that he should move. Where? What's wrong? Sendai roared that Jim should not place himself between me and the makiwara. I was the number one position with the makiwara to my left, so Jim should take his place next to me on my right.
That was not Sendai giving favor to me, so much as teaching both Jim and me that it was not good manners to place yourself between the number one position and the makiwara when facing Sendai to bow. It was a lesson in manners.
As for Jim, you cannot underestimate the intensity of a ten day long intermediate/advanced program with Sendai. This was not the beginning of the program, but toward the end and we were all rode hard and put up wet. Hard to believe, but Jim (of all people!) put his bowstring (tsuru) on his bow (yumi) upside down, so the wrapping that keeps the arrow in place (nakajikake) was NOT where it should be when nocking the arrow. Jim would add to this storyline that we should all be able to release without a nakajikake. I would add that we all hope that we cultivate manners, which is another way of inviting kindness among ourselves. I entered the demonstration thinking it would be straightforward, but it was anything but that and more. I found a way to accommodate Jim and he accommodated us in his own challenging situation. Together, I think Jim and I manifested kindness toward each other, and ultimately good manners. That, after all, is the whole point from Sendai's point of view.
The photograph of our demonstration is worth a thousand words.
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Banner photo, Sensei in full draw ©Marvin Ross.