Archery and chado

I have recently taken up the sport of archery. It is not the Japanese form of archery, Kyudo, but modern target archery with a recurve bow. Now archery is not a sport of athleticism and it doesn’t take a lot strength, although you will see some guys at the range bragging about how many pounds they can pull on their bows. I am not by any means an athletic specimen, and I don’t have a lot of upper body strength. The indoor range where we shoot is a maximum of 20 yards. At that distance, even a bow like mine, of 20 lbs. is more than enough to shoot your arrows to the target.

No, archery is a sport of accuracy, consistency, form and concentration. Feedback is instant in that your arrows end up on target or not. Minor changes in your body stance, grip, hand positions, head positions, anchor, follow through and more can affect where that arrow goes. Even if you are sure that everything is exactly the same as the last shot, a small lapse in concentration when you release your arrows can make it fly wide of the target.

So what have I learned, since I began to practice archery? It is a practice. The more arrows I shoot, the better I get. It is not just about how many arrows I can get off in a session, but how many arrows I can get hitting the target. Sometimes it is how many arrows can I get close to hitting the target.

It is not about the equipment. I complained one time to my instructor about how I cannot hit the target with the equipment I was using. He took the same bow and same arrows and hit 5 out 5 in the middle of the target.

I have also learned to be more aware of my body and all its parts. Like when I first began tea practice, I felt like a cow in the tea room. I felt like I didn’t really have control of my body. In archery, figuring out my stance, where my elbows are pointing, what my bow hand is doing, what position my head is in, makes me consciously think about where my body is in space and what it is doing at any moment. And like when I started tea, it sometimes feels overwhelming with all the things I need to think about.

In archery, breathing is important. Don’t hold your breath, but taking the shot between breaths sometimes makes for a better shot. When I am aiming for the target, breathing helps me settle down and stops my hand from shaking. Yes, just like making tea, the temae helps me settle down, control my breathing and stops my hand from shaking.

I never knew how something like archery and chado could be so much alike.

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Kobukusa Making

Last week we had a workshop on how to make a kobukusa taught by sempai Kate.  The first thing we did is learn how to test fabric to find out the fiber content. Different fabrics react differently to being burned.  Using samples of known content, we tested them by burning and comparing to the handy chart provided by Kate.  For example, when approaching the flame, silk smolders and curls away. In the flame it slowly sputters and goes out when removed from the flame.  It smells like burning hair and the ash produced is round, shiny, black bead that is easily crushed.  So if you can pull a few threads or snip a small sample from a seam or other inconspicuous place, you can find out the fabric content of your material.

Everyone was provided a fabric burn test kit to take home.  You can put one together yourself.  Tweezers to hold burning fabric, mini lighter and burn test chart.  You can download a copy of the chart here. She put it all in an small tin that can be used as your burn platform and is portable to take with you when you are purchasing fabric.

Here are some photos of cutting pattern, marking, pinning, and sewing the kobukusa:

After pressing the seams, we did the kobukusa magic and turned it right side out.

Here are some photos from the previous workshop: As a reward for all of you who have read down to the end, here is a pattern and instructions for sewing your own kobukusa.

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Supporting players

Not everyone gets to be the star every time.  The lead singer or guitarist gets all the accolades and the bass player and drummers get little notice. Quite often it is these supporting players, who make the stars look their best.  We tend to focus on the front men, and ignore the behind the scenes workers.

Every successful business person has said that they didn’t accomplish what they did alone. They all had a team of supporters, mentors, coaches and assistants.  Keith Richards said that his job is to make Mick Jagger look and perform his best.

I had a new student tell me the other day that they thought the teishu was the most important person in the chakai. But in fact everyone has a role to play that is important, too.  For the guests, having an excellent shokyaku really enhances the experience by calling attention to things the host has chosen for the guests.  The shokayku in speaking for the rest of the guests, has a huge responsibility to make sure that she is paying attention to the timing and asking questions at the appropriate time.  The shokyaku also makes sure that things are moving along when the teishu is not in the room, as when the guests are eating the meal.  It is also the responsibility of the shokyaku to make sure all of the guests are included and that they feel comfortable with what is going on and reminding the other guests about small things like RSVP and thank you notes.

The mizuya cho is also an important role that often doesn’t get a lot of attention.  I know that when I have a good cho, that I can relax a little as a teishu, because the cho has everything under control behind the scenes.  I am assured that when I need to bring in the kensui, the cho has already soaked the hishaku so it doesn’t slide off the kensui when I carry it into the room, and that the sweets are ready at the proper time and oriented so that all I have to do is pick them up and take them in to serve to the guests. This and a thousand other things the cho can do to make the job easier for the teishu.

Most of all the hanto has the hardest job.  Even though the hanto is billed as the host’s assistant, he is crucial to making everything go smoothly.  The hanto has to pay attention to what is going on in the tea room, the mizuya and the kitchen.  If there is anything that is going wrong in the tea room, it is the hanto who steps up and takes care of it. Spilled the tea? The hanto is right there to clean it up. Timing going a little long?  It is the hanto who communicates that to the kitchen and mizuya.  Sometimes it is the hanto who is explaining things to guests, or delivering and returning the haiken dogu.  The hanto is the one who stays in the room with the kinin. And all the while the hanto has to make sure that the teishu is taken care of without calling attention to himself.

Recently, I had a compliment from a teacher. She said that all of my students were modest, didn’t put themselves forward, or call attention to themselves, and deferred to other teachers and senior students.  Yet they were always there to help out, clean up, and make sure others felt comfortable.  It is not often that people notice these kinds of behaviors, let alone compliment them. In our society we celebrate the leading scorers, the star players. Everyone knows their names and what they accomplished. But it is the unknowns working hard behind the scenes that really make everything successful.

In the tea room, the supporting players, though little noticed, make everything run smoothly. If they do their job properly, they don’t call attention to themselves, yet the experience for everyone is enhanced.

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Kobukusa making workshop

Saturday, May 13, 11:00 am. Fee $10.

Kobukusa making workshop taught by Kate Comstock. Students will learn about fabrics used for kobukusa, a small cloth used in Chanoyu. Pattern, written instructions, and fabric testing kit will be included.

Techniques for sewing, secrets for perfect corners, and kobukusa magic will be taught. Bring your own silk fabric, or cotton to use as a trial. Some silk fabrics may be available.

To reserve your place, sign up at class or contact Margie. Space is limited to 6.

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Tiny treasures – Inside Tea

A student did some research on the composition of tea, and wrote a little book for me.

It was beautifully put together, with hand lettered pages and illustrations:

I learned some things about tea, and the names of the compounds that make up this magical beverage:

I also learned specifically how tea compounds affect the body:

Specifically matcha:

The end:

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