I have often been asked by kyunin of schools other than ours why we put the second ya in front of us and lean it against the knot of the hakama. I have seen this only in a very old demonstration movie of Honda Toshizane. How did this develop and why? Which is the japanese expression (term) for this? Are there tales around this custom?
Sensei spoke at length after hearing these questions. What follows is an attempt to capture the essence of what he said.
First he spoke of this as a way to remember the quality of our beginners' hearts. He made reference to the manner in which we call our groups together (by pounding the wooden han with a mallet). This call brings us together and signals the beginning of settling into meditation practice. These qualities he likened to the ya positioned in front of us, as per the question. In other words, he paralleled this with having the effect of settling our hearts into practice and the sense of working as a group, not just following one's own rhythm or idea. Likewise, when the wooden clack signals the end of practice, we stop whatever we are doing and prepare to close.
Sensei also mentioned that the ya in this position mirrors stability, balance and alignment. It exemplifies the fact that the body does not sway to the left, right, back or front. He said however, that the deeper answer as to why this is done cannot be conveyed well through words and who can say what is a lie and what is true? Sensei did not offer history or stories and felt that too much discussion would likely lead to confusion. He indicated that kyudo is not about defeating people or making money or fame. A good practice of the seven coordinations void of excessive striving brings us deeper understanding. He extended an invitation to come to Boulder and share in this type of good shichido practice.