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Thread: The Myth of Zen in the Art of Archery

  1. #46
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    Earl --

    Are we feeling curmudgeonly today?

    By the way, have you read Prof. Bodiford's opinion on the topic?

    Says he, in "Religion and Spiritual Development: Japan," in _Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia_, ed. by Thomas A. Green (ABC-CLIO, 2001):

    "Significantly, though, this first account [by Herrigel} did not equate archery with Zen. Herrigel's views changed once he read Suzuki's 1938 account of Zen and bushido. In 1948 Herrigel wrote a new book (translated into English as _Zen in the Art of Archery_) in which, in addition to extensive quotations from Suzuki, Herrigel described Awa's teachings as a Zen practice that has remained the same for centuries. Nothing could be further from the truth. In 1920 Awa had founded a new religion called Daishakyodo (literally, 'way of the great doctrine of shooting'). In his book Herrigel refers to Awa's religion as the 'Great Doctrine' and identifies it with Zen. Awa did not. Awa had no training in Zen and did not approve of Zen practice..."

  2. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Earl Hartman
    Tracy:



    Do you actually practice any martial (or any other kind of) art? Or do you just read, talk, and think (oh, sorry, "meditate") about it? Would you ask a violinist "What does it all mean?" and then get all huffy if the violinist just said "I really like music"? Do you want this violinist to say instead "I don't care about technique or what the music sounds like; through the austere discipline of the Way of the Violin I am searching for Truth, the Void and Enlightenment. The music has nothing to do with it"? Pretty stupid, right?

    Yet if an archer says "I want to become skillful at archery" all you can do is smirk.

    You Zen people give me a pain. You clearly have no understanding of what it takes to become really good at anything, and, even worse, you seem to think that the attempt to excel in an art is worthy of nothing but derision.

    If you're not really interested in finding out what kyudo is, do us all a favor and just shut up about it.

    Dear Mr. Hartman,

    People like you are exactly the reason I rarely post. In fact, the only reason to respond is for the benefit of others reading this board. Yes I study martial arts. I am a sandan in aikido if you would like to know. My dojo home page is www.hawaiikiaikido.org click the Maui link as I am from the shunshinkan dojo. You can see my name under other instructors.

    Now I asked you what it meant because you are pretty pompous about kyudo not being a path to any higher realization but merely something to get good at.

    Looking back I first responded to this thread 5 years ago and I will be the first to admit that my original posts although I stand by them are not as clear as they could be. But you on the other hand seem to be dealing out the same old ____.

    I did read the link that you provided written by Saito Chobo which was actually very good. But it read more like something Herrigal would write rather then you? This actually was quite shocking as I did not think you felt that way at all about Kyudo.

    Now I take it that you did not like my comparing Kyudo to Bowling. Which seems to be how you are describing it. I on the other hand don't think of it that way of any -do martial art.

    One of my teachers here on Maui, Shinichi Suzuki Sensei, 8th dan has always emphasized the inner discipline training, breathing, meditation and misogi. Suzuki Sensei has always told us that this is the quickest way to develop oneself. Any good Martial Artist can learn the basics on how to throw and subdue someone. But a great martial artist will be able to inspire and become a better human being not from the techniques but from the inner discipline training. Although he is big on basics and all the locks these are merely the arts ones learns to demonstrate your development and kokyu. Being a dojo expert or kyudo expert has no real benefit in daily life. But learning to relax, connect and move in this oneness is what will make you a better human being. Which isn't this purpose of most -do arts? To be a better human being? From the sounds of it not the kyudo that you practice.

    Thank you for the opportunity to express myself.

    aloha,

    Tracy Reasoner

  3. #48
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    Tracy:

    Didn't you really read what Urakami Sensei said? You have got things backwards.

    And the real meaning of what Saito Sensei said is so far from what Herrigel said I find it odd that you could confuse the two. Saito Sensei was obviously someone who really knew what kyudo was. Just from reading what he wrote, I felt that he was a really enlightened man. That is why I translated it. I wanted everyone to read it, no matter what art they practice. It is brilliant, honest and deep, yet ridiculously simple. Yet I never tire of reading it. If you think that is not how I feel about kyudo just because I dislike Herrigel, you have not been reading what I have been saying.

    And what did Saito Sensei say? That the target was the only goal one should ever have. Why? Because it is a pure goal. One who aims only at the target will never become corrupted by becoming greedy for what he thinks kyudo can get him. He will only want to become skillful at kyudo. If he sticks to this, he cannot become corrupted. This process will show him who he really is, and how things really work. Is this not what some people call "enlightenment"?

    And you say it sounded like what Herrigel wrote? All Herrigel wrote was that the target didn't matter, that where the arrow went was not in the least important. But Saito Sensei said this:

    "Among those who practice kyudo, there are those who say that in yumi it is not necessary to hit the target, or that all that is necessary is that your form is good; indeed, there are even those who go so far as to say that form doesn't matter, that spirit is the most important thing. Of course, those who have a twisted spirit are a pain in the neck no matter what they do; and practicing yumi with bad form is not good. However, to have good form (shooting technique) and to not hit the target is against nature. Do not be misled by nonsense. If your shooting form is good, accuracy will surely follow. I want you to not forget that missing the target means that something is wrong.

    If you practice yumi diligently, you will gain some kind of spiritual benefit. However, kyujutsu is by its nature a physical activity, so if you want to engage in spiritual training, you will get faster results if you do something like zazen rather than archery."


    If you read this closely, you will see that it is nothing if not a withering attack on the "spiritual" kyudo of Awa and Herrigel.There is not just a gap between what Saito Sensei said and what Herrigel said, there is a chasm so deep and vast that it is unbridgeable. They lived in completely different worlds.

    I do not practice kyudo to become a better human being. That is arrogant and foolish. The practice of kyudo, however, done correctly with the right spirit, will make one a better human being. That is the difference I have been arguing all along, and it is a very crucial one.

    There are a lot of people I have met in martial arts who pride themselves on practicing "the Way", thinking that the very fact that they practice a "Way" makes them superior to people who only practice something as mundane and common as a "sport". It seems to me that people like this understand neither "the Way" nor sports.

    The whole point I have been trying to make all along is that the "deeper realization" of kyudo, or what Herrigel would call "enlightenment" or whatever, is needed precisely so that one can achieve skill in kyudo. Without the deeper realization that comes from all of the things you mention (breathing, relaxation, "centerdness", etc.) one simply cannot achieve real skill in kyudo. It is not possible.

    Therefore, if one cannot shoot very well, the only explanation is that one has not achieved this state (yet), and that one must keep trying and never give up. Once this state is acheived, however, this realization can benefit one in all areas of one's life. But it can only be achieved in one practices the art for its own sake and not for any ulterior motive like Herrigel did. This is, of course, difficult in the extreme. That is why kyudo is called a Way, after all.

    The problem I have with Herrigel and people like him is that they disparage the actual art of kyudo and turn it into something to be used just for their own ends, whatever they may be. Kyudo becomes nothing but a tool to get something they feel is more valuable. They feel that the actual attempt to become really proficient is somehow beneath them, that it is utilitarian and nothing more than "target shooting".

    In the very first sentence of his book, Herrigel disparages the art of archery and kicks it to the curb by saying that "at first sight it must seem intolerably degrading for Zen - however the reader may understand this word - to be associated with something so mundane as archery". What was a man who despised the art of archery doing studying it? Such a person disgraces the art of archery simply by picking up a bow.

    Again, Urakami Sensei said exactly what was needed to achieve the ultimate in kyudo:

    "The essential thing is to just dispel all doubt and ego and awaken to the as-it-isness of Nature, to not lapse into thinking and discrimination, to leave the realm of intention and thought behind, and, like an object reflected in a bright mirror or the moon reflected on the surface of the water, to calm the eyes of the mind in the realm of munen muso (no intention, no thought) and to strive to shoot the arrow according to the Law."

    Is this not what you are talking about? Of course kyudo can be a path to a higher realization. But only if you practice it for its own sake.
    Earl Hartman

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    Earl,

    Your posts (especially this last one) resonate with me on many levels. It's hard for me to imagine your words not applying to any "do" art. Thank you for taking the time to write that.

    Best,
    Ron

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    Conversely, we may say of Mr. Herrigel that his clearly expressed willingness to dispense with means and move directly to ends may tell us more about his character than it does about either the art of the bow or the practice of zen, particularly in light of the choices he made after his brief sojourn in Japan.

  6. #51
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    Actually, back before WWII, the Japanese considered archery to be more like golf than bowling. More upper crust, not so plebian, you know. See, for example, http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsart_JapanTimesandMail_1299.htm .

    Still, E.J. Harrison wrote in The Fighting Spirit of Japan (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1982), 25-26, "there is a right way and a wrong way of holding it [the bow], fitting the arrow, drawing and releasing it. And in this context I can still remember the real distress experienced by the burly proprietor [of the archery range in Yokohama's entertainment district] on those occasions, not infrequent, when some of my foreign companions and I fitted the arrow on the wrong side of the bow and held the bow in the incorrect position. One of these companions, a fellow-journalist on a local foreign paper, now, alas, now no more, was an incorrigible offender in this respect. What added to the enormity of his offences was that in spite of these -- so to speak -- arch heresies, he always got nearer to the bull's-eye than the Japanese habitués who never drew a bow without having conscientiously indulged in a number of preliminary flourishes such as baring their good right arms by throwing back their ample sleeves over their shoulders, raising the bow with a spasmodic gesture, and so forth. It was really heartrending to note the persistency with which they missed after all this elaborate ceremonial; but I think I am right in saying that they themselves would far rather have missed, and the proprietor would far rather have had them miss in proper form than score by such irregular practices as those indulged in by my friend who, with a cigar between his teeth, the bow held horizontally instead of perpendicularly, and the arrow on the wrong side, would wing his shafts into the very centre of the target with a monotonous frequency which afforded him unalloyed satisfaction and the unhappy and orthodox proprietor ineffable disgust."

    But again, this is no different from golf, a game Babe Didriksen famously described as the easiest game she ever played -- nobody tried to hit you, nobody threw things at you, and nobody called you names. Instead, all you did was loosen your girdle, and let fly.

  7. #52
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    Good story, Joe. Such a thing must have been quite vexing to the proprietor of the range. Although I would like to know what he meant by "raising the bow with a spasmodic gesture".

    It is, however, quite interesting to see how the average Japanese approaches kyudo or any other art. For most of them, absolutely the most important thing is to be seen by others to be doing kyudo properly. As a result, they are concerned with appearances rather than results, and the worst thing is not to miss the target but to be seen to have broken the rules or made a fool of oneself. However, this is only because most of them do not see the underlying truth of the shooting method; they only see it as a set of rules that must be obeyed, because that's just how things are done and since the rules were created by people more exalted and experienced than we are, who are we to question anything? So they do things without understanding why.

    Of course, to an Amercian rules are like a red flag to a bull. Any American worth his salt, confronted with a set of rules, will just sneer and say "Oh yeah? Sez who?" This is just as bad in its own way. But that's another discussion.

    However, the really good archers, and there are many of them, of course, have gone through that phase and come to a realization that the seemingly arbitrary rules are actually simply the right way to shoot the bow. The fact that most people, being limited in how they see things, do not understand the real nature of the method is not the fault of the method, but the fault of the person.

    To wrap this discussion up, I want to go on record as saying that Herrigel's failure lies mainly in his inability to really explain the significance of what he was taught. After many years of practicing kyudo I went back and read ZITAOA again. Much of what he had Awa saying was quite familiar to me. And yet it was maddening to see how thoroughly Herrigel misunderstood what it really meant and the weird meaning he gave it. This is really why I have such a problem with ZITAOA: not because it is totally wrongheaded but because it just close enough to what must really have happened that even though it is wrong it cannot be completely discounted. That is why it has such power to mislead people.

    I think Herrigel's failure was mainly for the reasons that I mentioned earlier: his preoccupation with mysticism and his preconceived notion that since everything in Japan was Zen and therefore mystical that kyudo, too, must be a kind of mysticism; the fact that he didn't spend enough time in the trenches to really understand what he was doing; and, finally, his lack of language ability which didn't allow him to really talk with his teacher. Thus, I believe that, as idiosyncratic as Awa may have been, Herrigel's portrait of him is completely inaccurate.

    To give one example: my teachers also always told me not to worry about the target. It is one of the most common instructions one can get: "Mato ni torawareru na" ("Do not let the target lead you around by the nose"). So the fact that Awa said this is not at all uncommon or mystical, although it appears to be so because it seems counterintuitive. However, the fact that you should not worry about hitting the target doesn't mean that hitting it is unimportant.

    Think about it for a second: What prevents one from hitting the target? Excessive worry about it. Anyone who has ever done anything will understand the truth of this. It's nothing but performance anxiety, which is the main cause of failure in anything. So you are taught to stop worrying about the target not because it doesn't matter if you hit it or not, but precisely so you will be able to hit it. This is only possible on a consistent basis if you stop worrying about it.

    There are a lot of other examples in ZITAOA where I can see what Awa really taught Herrigel struggling to fight its way out from under all of the nonsense that Herrigel dumped on top of it. That's why it's so frustrating.

    I know. I'll write a book.
    Earl Hartman

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    Mr. Hartman,

    After you finished your first book could you write one on Nagao-ryu?
    I always enjoyed your posts on that subject very much. Maybe a short compilation with historical photo's and some techniques.

    Best,

    Johan Smits

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    Quote Originally Posted by Earl Hartman
    ...I know. I'll write a book.
    I'd like to place my reservation for the 2nd copy now, please. (I assume you'll want the 1st yourself.)
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Quick question to those looking at this thread;

    I am not a Zen type person.
    (although I'm sure I have had my "moments of zen" lol)

    I think of myself as more of a Taoist philosophy wise, but in no religious sense.

    Are there any others here who would consider there philosophy more Taoist, or is it...

    only you Mike, only you...
    Michael Philippus

    Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand.

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    This thread has evolved in to all sorts of discussion around Zen, Martial arts and even Buddhism. Two resources which bring much of this together are:

    1. The Zen Way to the Martial Arts by Taisen Deshimaru (ISBN 014 0193448): Which is a interview with a zen master on the integration of Zen into martial arts.

    2. a video on "Zen and Martial Arts" which can be downloaded on the internet at www.DownloadKarate.com. It talks about how mind set, stability, and zen approaches are linked to Budo.

    Regards...

  12. #57
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    Ummm.....Clyde?

    This thread has basically been about how kyudo is NOT Zen.

    Just sayin'.

    Other martial arts, I don't know. Specifically, I dont know anything about karate, so maybe it's there. But kyudo isn't Zen.
    Earl Hartman

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    Oh no.

    You are talking about that stuff already 5 years.


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    ClydeM and sheepeck,

    Please sign your posts with your full name. You agreed to do this when you became members of this forum.

    Best wishes,
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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    Petr Juza

    Sorry for forgetting.

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