As some of you know, I have a profound interest in old warrior ways, especially Japanese. One of the most relaxing and brain boosting activity I do these days is Archery, which is another form of art they practiced in these days called Kyudo.
In kyudo the unique action of expansion that results in a natural release, is sought. When the technique of the shooting is correct the result is that the arrow hits the target. To give oneself completely to the shooting is the spiritual goal, achieved by perfection of both the spirit and shooting technique leading to “no thoughts, no illusions”.
The main goal is to replicate the same technique over and over again, every single shot, which is no easy feat. In kyudo there are three kinds of practice, mitori geiko – receiving the style and technique of an advanced archer, kufū geiko – learning and keeping in mind the details of the technique and spiritual effort to realize it and kazu geiko – technique is personified in one’s own shooting. [i]
I love to look at my son when we go together to practice archery. For him, it is very calming. I see a trait in him, a perfectionist. He just doesn’t give up and is looking to get better at every single shot. He figured out on his own, that every inch matters, he realized how his posture and head has an impact on the effectiveness of his pulls.
Kids nowadays are truly over stimulated with all the free access to technology. Those of you who are fans of those tablets or iphone games know exactly (or will find out) where I am going with this. It has some good points but also some down sides.
A Toronto University study[ii] found that people who play action video games such as Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed seem to learn a new sensorimotor skill more quickly than non-gamers do.
‘’A new sensorimotor skill[iii], such as learning to ride a bike or typing, often requires a new pattern of coordination between vision and motor movement. With such skills, an individual generally moves from novice performance, characterized by a low degree of coordination, to expert performance, marked by a high degree of coordination.
As a result of successful sensorimotor learning, one comes to perform these tasks efficiently and perhaps even without consciously thinking about them’’ the researchers say.
However, addiction is never really far, especially if you don’t put limits. It was proven that Addiction[iv] to computer games might affect the quality and quantity of social skills. In other words, the higher the addiction to computer games, the less the social skills. Since it is so easy for them to get addicted, having time limits is a must.
My wife is a Physical Education teacher in high school and sees it first hand. Kids are lazy as (fill the blank). She clearly sees the lack in physical activity in today’s kids but imagine trying to sit them down and try to teach history or Mathematics to some candy crush addict who is trying to beat level 96 since his ride to school. The over stimulation of these games are just wiring them up without the possibility of showing them how to concentrate and learning a few subjects for up and coming tests. As for grownups, imagine playing an hour on your bright 10 inches screen and then try to go read a book or go to bed after, not an easy task.
For most of us, the need to slow things down and think of something else is a requirement to keep our sanity. Finding something that brings up great memories, acquiring new skills or just a new hobbit can save your brain a few years and delay aging of the brain[v],[vi].
As for myself, I have found the meaning of controlling the elements in Archery, somewhat of a metaphor for life, training and goal achieving. The bow and arrow are the main tools but it must become an extension of you.
The goal will set the pull and your aim. You have to adjust your aim a little higher by the distance, and consider the elements, such as wind, how much you pull (especially with the traditional bow) If the target is moving, you have to guess where it will go, and how fast. Ever single time you pull, repeating what is in your head as ‘’the pull’’, correcting what went wrong the last but always considering the elements.
The ultimate goal is to hit the bullseye twice in a row. Splitting the first arrow not by chance, but by will.
After a few minutes, fatigue may settle in, you may over analyze your pulls and posture or think you may have found a new way. However, after repeating and trying, with different outcome, over analyzing makes you doubt yourself. But then you hold off, empty your mind and regroup. You become the bow, the arrow. It may sound like the old Bruce Lee has taken over me, but he was right. Only when you can achieve and understand that state of mind, you achieve great feats and goals.
Find your metaphor… A metaphor is perhaps one of man’s most fruitful potentialities. Its efficacy verges on magic, and should be a tool for creation. Create a metaphor that changes your reality by considering your world in a different way.
No thoughts, no illusions…
[i] Feliks Hoff, The Way of the Bow, 2001 (engl.ed.) ISBN 1-57062-852-1
[ii] Dye MWG, Green CS, Bavelier D. Increasing Speed of Processing With Action Video Games. Current directions in psychological science. 2009;18(6):321-326. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01660.x.
[iv] Zamani E, Kheradmand A, Cheshmi M, Abedi A, Hedayati N. Comparing the Social Skills of Students Addicted to Computer Games with Normal Students. Addiction & Health. 2010;2(3-4):59-65.
[v] Seidler RD, Bernard JA, Burutolu TB, et al. Motor Control and Aging: Links to Age-Related Brain Structural, Functional, and Biochemical Effects. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews. 2010;34(5):721-733. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.10.005.
[vi] Glisky EL. Changes in Cognitive Function in Human Aging. In: Riddle DR, editor. Brain Aging: Models, Methods, and Mechanisms. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press; 2007. Chapter 1.