Kyudo: A Bridge to Inner Peace and Calm

Besides experiencing the physical benefits of practicing Kyudo, Jessica Gerrity also discovers inner peace and calm every time she steps into the dojo, enabling her to momentarily set aside the challenges of her busy daily life.

Finding peace in Kyudo

Nick: So let's maybe touch on this idea, it's spiritual concentration. It seems like, in short, there's a lot of technique, a lot of preparation goes into releasing a single arrow. I think some of our listeners who are familiar with Japanese martial arts will understand that it's perhaps to help you prepare and calm the mind.

So you don't have these crazy thoughts or uncontrollable thoughts, which there's a Japanese word for: Zatsunen. So yeah, is that what you've discovered that through this practice, you lose the monkey mind where you're bouncing from floor to floor, and you are able to concentrate?

Jessica: Yes, it’s my first time to read that word, so I have to look it up. Yeah, I've never heard it before. But things like mushin which is empty mind, empty heart. Mushin is used a lot in martial arts, so that's just an empty mind.

However, still a beginner, I say this, even after six years, I'm still a beginner, obviously shoshin, which is the beginner's mind, we're all beginners up until we pass away. We learn something new every day, no matter if we are 90 or zero years old. However, having the beginner's mind you're always thinking about something new.

To give a bit of an example, I'm constantly trying to improve my technique. So I'm thinking about something consciously, every practice that I go to, what I'm thinking about in the dojo, and as I'm shooting are things related to what I'm doing at that moment in time.

And so if you imagine if I step back into my everyday life, and the things that I have on work, children, wife, all these other kind of stuff, I can step away from it when I step into the dojo. So in this sense, I really leave that busy, hectic, tiring, challenging — don't need to be too negative— but you know, the realities of everyday life.

It's a wonderful life, however, stepping out of that world, that sphere, and stepping into the sphere of the dojo that is hugely quiet and the smell and there's grass in front of me, it's peaceful, what I see with my eyes, the visual picture never changes.

So in that sense, it provides a lot of stability visually, and also for me mentally. The people that are there are always the same. The actions that I perform are largely the same those hassetsu, those eight different kata, those eight different movements.

And having that repetition, and that similarity, that familiarity —the smell, the people, everything is the same—having this very calm, quiet environment for self-reflection, communication with other people, in my own little world, if I can say, in my own community, that really provides a sort of always a mental oasis and a physical oasis for me to really refresh and step out of my everyday life.

So I used to be a runner, like I used to run several times a week going marathons and stuff. However, once I started Kyudo, I started running less and less and I realized that Kyudo was taking on that role of stress relief and really providing a refreshing sort of time in the day for me, time to do introspection and forget about the outside stresses.

And I found myself running less and less to the point where I've given up. Obviously, my body has changed a lot. I've gotten really strong arms, thanks to Kyudo. And you know, running is a great cardio, I love it. So yeah, I really tell myself I should get back into running actually.

But for the body and the mind, part of it and your heart and your soul, it's really like my cup is so full because of studying Kyudo and it's really difficult as everybody has different feelings about Kyudo and how it affects them positively.

But for me, yeah, it's really the wonderful thing for my concentration and my health, both mentally and physically. It really allowed me then, after I finished my practice, and I step back into that hectic world, it really allowed me and given me the tools to calmly, really just be a calm and a nicer person.

And obviously, getting different Japanese skills, getting skills of etiquette, and how to bow to people and how to interact with Japanese people in my everyday life. So many good points that I've learned and can bring with me and to my everyday life, too. So it's like really, how can I say, it really overlaps and feeds into each other.

So it's just getting better and better kind of thing. As I'm continuing on with Kyudo. It's really providing me with new skills and things that will help me in my everyday life, too.