FC Archery News
How are we ever going to Teach Kids Attention and Focus?September 14, 2018
Hey FC Parents and Archers,
With our kids’ faces buried deep into their smartphones and most of their interactions being none personal how are we ever going to teach them attention and focus? Nothing incorporates attention and focus like archery! Don’t get me wrong I love shooting my bow and arrow and I’m sure your kids will too, but this is secondary to building attention and focus. Lots of programs talk about it but very few actually make it a big part of there curriculum – I do!
I found this article that might explain my perspective and what I want the kids to get out of my archery classes. Look forward to seeing you back on the range and going to the next level with your archery skills.
Yours in Learning,
Learning the Art of Attention and Focus
From a Legendary Samurai Archer
In the 1920s, a German man named Eugen Herrigel moved to Japan and began training in Kyudo, the Japanese martial art of archery.
Herrigel was taught by a legendary archer named Awa Kenzo. Kenzo’s teaching philosophy centered on the idea that beginners must master the fundamentals of archery before attempting to shoot at a real target and he took this method to the extreme. For the first four years, Herrigel was only allowed to shoot at a roll of straw just seven feet away.
When he was finally allowed to shoot at targets on the far end of the practice hall, Herrigel’s performance was dismal. His arrows flew off course and he became more discouraged with each wayward shot.
Herrigel was convinced his problem was poor aim, but Kenzo replied that it was not whether one aimed, but how one approached the goal that determined the outcome. Frustrated with this response, Herrigel blurted out, “Then you ought to be able to hit it blindfolded.” Kenzo paused for a moment and then said, “Come to see me this evening.”
Archery in the Dark
After night had fallen, the two men returned to the courtyard where the practice hall was located. Kenzo walked over to his normal shooting location with the target hidden somewhere out in the night. The archery master settled into his firing stance, drew the bow string tight, and released the first arrow into the darkness of the courtyard. Herrigel would later write, “I knew from the sound that it had hit the target.”
Immediately, Kenzo drew a second arrow and again fired into the night. Herrigel jumped up and ran across the courtyard to inspect the target. In his book, Zen in the Art of Archery, Herrigel wrote,
“When I switched on the light over the target stand, I discovered to my amazement that the first arrow was lodged full in the middle of the black, while the second arrow had splintered the butt of the first and ploughed through the shaft before embedding itself beside it.”
Before we talk about how to get started, I wanted to let you know I researched and compiled science-backed ways to stick to good habits and stop procrastinating. Want to check out my insights?
Everything Is Aiming
Great archery masters often teach that “everything is aiming.” Where you place your feet, how you hold the bow, the way you breathe during the release of the arrow—it all determines the end result.
In the case of Awa Kenzo, the master archer was so mindful of the process that led to an accurate shot that he was able to replicate the exact series of internal movements even without seeing the external target. This complete awareness of the body and mind in relation to the goal is known as zanshin.
Zanshin is a word used commonly throughout Japanese martial arts to refer to a state of relaxed alertness. Literally translated, zanshin means “the mind with no remainder.” In other words, the mind completely focused on action and fixated on the task at hand. Zanshin is being constantly aware of your body, mind, and surroundings without stressing yourself. It is an effortless vigilance.
In practice, though, zanshin has an even deeper meaning. Zanshin is choosing to live your life intentionally and acting with purpose rather than mindlessly falling victim to whatever comes your way.
The Art of Zanshin in Everday Life
“One should approach all activities and situations with the same sincerity, the same intensity, and the same awareness that one has with bow and arrow in hand.”—Kenneth Kushner
We live in a world obsessed with results. Like Herrigel, we have a tendency to put so much emphasis on whether or not the arrow hits the target. If, however, we put that intensity and focus and sincerity into the process—where we place our feet, how we hold the bow, how we breathe during the release of the arrow—then hitting the bullseye is simply a side effect.
The point is not to worry about hitting the target. The point is to fall in love with the boredom of doing the work and embrace each piece of the process. The point is to take that moment of zanshin, that moment of complete awareness and focus, and carry it with you everywhere in life.
It is not the target that matters. It is not the finish line that matters. It is the way we approach the goal that matters. Everything is aiming.