Sunday, 12 April 2009

Zen in the Art of Archery

I finished reading Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel soon after I started reading it. Not because it's rubbish but because it's a slim book and a brisk read with plenty to chew on. At times Herrigel gets a bit caught up in the whole Zen idea of one's position of self in the world and also it having been translated from German in 1953 meant that in places it was hard going. Such a great read about a trainee Kyudoka in Japan in the early 1920s. Fantastic insight into not only the training regimen but the mental difficulties and obstacles to be encountered along the way. This gives much food for thought about my own journey in the martial arts. For me, I concluded from the story that:

a. I think (and worry) too much,
b. I don't train enough. 

Maybe I should blog less and train more. That's certainly an idea!

Herrigel was a philosophy lecturer and by his own admission was fascinated by Zen and as such peppers the book with ideas of how his kyudo teacher would impart Zen wisdom on him. Trouble is that his teacher, Awa Keno, was not a Zen Buddhist. What he taught was the 'Great Doctrine' or Daishakyôdô (The Way of the Great Doctrine of Shooting) which Herrigel and a Japanese writer on Zen (D. T. Suzuki) maintained was Zen much later and without advice of Awa Sensei!

It's certainly a good (brief) insight into training methods in the martial arts but from what I understand from reading around Herrigel, the aspects of Zen should be taken with a pinch of salt. Check out this article which states:

As we were walking out the front of the building, I asked our host, "Did Awa write anything, anything I could read?"

"No," he said. "There is nothing. And that German fellow, is a bad, very bad influence."

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