(Cool pic found at http://www.layoutsparks.com/pictures/forest-7)
I wander in the woods inside of myself, where I just move. Maybe I'm teaching myself. It's good because it's where I go.
But in the dojo I'm holding a tool. I'm working together with this foreign object to fly on invisible straight lines. Alone I warp myself into comfortable awkward positions and become acclimatized to my own particular grains.
Then someone comes and puts stints on my limbs, they turn my head, pull my shoulders back and paint a red dot to catch my attention. It is no longer me but the lines and a master. Because of the world as a whole, my arrow can fly straight.
Some say that the bow can teach ou how to shoot properly in kyudo. I've also heard the same with the sword. When I first heard this I thought that you could practice faithufuilly on your own and you'll naturally find the correct principles.
However, in my practice it seems that 95% of the time I just fall into lazy counterproductive habits. (But then that's where all my attention goes. Maybe that 5% is an unseen world of beautiful progress?)
After a while of swinging the sword and shooting the bow on my own, I go to practice to be corrected. A lot of it has to do with kuse. I didn't know what it meant at first, but I've heard so much of it lately I've come to understand it quite thoroughly. A kuse is basically a bad habit.
It's like changing your grip on the sword after everytime you swing it, or bob up and down when you swing the sword. It's like moving your thumb around on your left hand when you do you kyudo.
Perhaps one can learn proper technique on their own, but I'm guessing it would take a looooong time, with a lot of introspection and some natural genius. (but don't we all have these things in our own amount?)
Practicing kyudo and iaido and even aikido without partners or teachers is like falling in darkness alone. Working together with a teacher and other students is like rising to the sun with proper technique.
This makes me think of my solo Tai Chi and Ba Gua practice. I practice alone and believe that by doing it over and over again I can improve in my own way. Yet I don't know for sure because I have no teachers and partners here to check with. I don't know if I'm getting good. I'm not even sure what getting good is. I guess I don't even know really what I'm doing at all.
But I kind of like that. I worry about doing things right in my other arts. Doing Tai Chi and Ba Gua forms is my free time flowing through the movements. It is my own special experience.
I don't know if it's the best because some ideal of "the best" is not where I am. I'm just here, never stopping through the dark forests.
I'm just walking through the forest.