Kyudo Way Of The Bow

The Kyudo | What is Kyudo | History of Kyudo | Kyudo Description | Development of Kyudo | Techniques and Equipment | Kyudo Way Of The Bow | Yumi Care Guide | The Essence and Practice of Japanese Archery | The Evil Destroying Yumi | The Spirit of Kyudo

Kyudo is written with the two kanji characters for “yumi” (bow) and “michi” (way/path), but it is pronounced “kyudo” when written together (it’s a quirk of the Japanese language), and, therefore, it quite literally means the “way of the bow.” Kyudo is derived from the Japanese military practice of kyujutsu (“art/science of the bow,” that is, combat-style archery), and it is a “moving meditation” like the Japanese cultural arts of shodo (“way of the brush”) and chado (“way of tea”).

Next to iaido (the way of Japanese sword drawing), kyudo as an art of self-defense has no real practical uses. One is not very likely to use it for self-defense like karate-do, aikido (“way of harmony”) or judo (the “gentle way”), nor even use it for hunting. And yet, it is probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing of all Japanese budo (martial ways), and it is one of the most spiritual (Sosnowski, 2000); in this sense as well as visually, Kyudo could be considered to be the Japanese analogue to the Chinese art of T’ai Chi Ch’uan.

Principles & Concepts

A very basic principle in kyudo is “spirit, bow and body as one,” analogous to “ki ken tai ichi” (“spirit, sword and body as one”) in iaido and kendo (Japanese fencing). Instead of the uncoupled actions of separate elements, all elements must act together as one in a coordinated system in order to practice correctly. The ancient Chinese used ceremonial archery to determine the quality of a man’s character (Selby, 2000), and this idea was eventually incorporated into Japanese-style archery. The state of mind is reflected in the attitude, form and the shot itself.

Initially “hitting the target” is relatively unimportant. For those who practice kyudo solely as a meditation, this is always true at face value; otherwise, it is like a koan (an illogical problem in Zen). For all kyudo-ka (kyudo practitioners), it is a lesson in letting go of the idea of “hitting the target;” when the baggage of desire [“I WANT to hit the target”] is abandoned, then through right form, the target can be hit consistently with ease. After all, if the target really were unimportant, then there would be no purpose in having a target at all. The actual emphasis on “hitting the target” is specific to the individual ryuha (styles/schools and their branches), and also depends on the individual kyudo-ka’s developmental stage within the specific ryuha.

Many aspects for good budo practices are also present in kyudo including metsuke (gaze), kokyo (breath), ikiai (harmony of breath), kamae (posture) and hara (“belly” synonymous with centering and groundedness). The aspect of “ma” (distance/timing) is also present; for kyudo, ma is timing (considering that distance to the target is fixed), governing the execution of proper movement. Finally, there are the various balances: tenchi (heaven [and] earth) is the vertical balance along with the complementary characteristics of upper and lower (supple and firm, respectively), and migi-hidare (right-left) is the horizontal balance in line with the mato (target). The vertical balance takes into account gravity in the same way for a tree: the lower part, the roots and trunk, are stable and provide the base; the upper part, the branches, are flexible while maintaining their form and function. Both types of balance, horizontal and vertical, have both static and dynamic manifestations.

Training

In kyudo, as in many other budo, there are three basic types of training: regular, individual (case-by-case), and gasshuku (intensive/seminar). “Regular training” sessions, usually meet once or perhaps twice a week at the same time and place; this is sometimes referred to as “formal” training, and includes instruction and practice (some schools will include a zen session as well). For those who practice outside of regular training, there is “individual training,” and practicing alone fits into this category; small groups may get together occasionally, and an instructor may or may not be present – this is also referred to as“informal” training. Finally, there is the “gasshuku,” a gathering of members from different kyudojo (dojo or “practice place” for kyudo), for concentrated practice and instruction; these events can be from one to ten days long. For groups affiliated with the All Nippon Kyudo Federation (ANKF), this is also a time for the taikai (tournaments) and shinsa (promotion examinations).

Techniques & Training Methods

The kihon (basic techniques) are practiced in a kind of kihon-no-kata (basic form); the ANKF refers to this kata as “hassetsu” (the eight stages of shooting), whereas some lineages of Heki Ryu [refer to STYLES below] retain the older term “shichido” (seven ways or coordinations). These waza (techniques), in order of execution, are:

1. ashi-bumi – stepping out to position the feet and establish a stable base.

2. do-zukuri – repositioning the body and the yumi, and then nocking the ya (arrow).

3. yumi-gamae – engaging the tsuru (bowstring) with the kake (shooting glove).

4. uchi-okoshi – raising the yumi.

5. hiki-wake in hassetsu; hiki-tori in shichido – drawing the yumi.

6. kai (literally “meeting”) – pause at full draw.

7. hanare – release.

8. zanshin – lingering mind and body.

In shichido, the final two waza are counted together (zanshin is considered a continuation of hanare) rather than separately. In essence, hassetsu and shichido refer to the same set of kihon.

Although beginners can be trained individually, it is common to have group training for beginners. Beginners concentrate on the kihon (basics). Initially the beginner is without a kake (also referred to as a yugake), just a yumi and ya, getting the feel of them. The ya is dropped off before the drawing step; you go through the motion of drawing without drawing, and through the motion of release without an actual release [one should NEVER draw and release a real yumi without a ya – the yumi could be damaged].

Surgical tubing attached to a wooden handle (affectionately referred to as “baby yumi” in some circles) is used to simulate the stresses of drawing and releasing on the hands; the wooden handle is held in the left hand, and the right hand pulls the tubing back in a drawing motion. Then one puts on the kake and runs through the basic sequence again, this time integrating the feel of using the kake into the kihon. When the instructor determines that the beginner has got the kihon down well enough, then a full draw and release are allowed at the makiwara (short-distance target); this practice of short-distance shooting is explained below.

Group instruction can be used for experienced students, but only to instruct the overall form of the kata. Individual mentoring of experienced students is required; corrections and fine-tuning are highly individualized for the most part. Another aspect is visual learning or “stealing with the eyes,” which is Japanese custom; Westerners tend to be overly verbal, and, as such, are prone to asking too many questions and demanding answers that they are usually not ready to hear. Given the nature of kyudo, visual learning is not very difficult after a little practice.

To train for form, especially in confined spaces, there is short-distance shooting at the makiwara; traditionally round straw butts are used in Japan, while hay or straw bales (sometimes wrapped in a sheet) are common in the West (other materials such as styrofoam and rolls of corrugated cardboard have been used as satisfactory substitutes). The makiwara is on a stand at head height for standing shots. The kyudo-ka stands one yumi-length away relative to the centerline of the body. The kihon-no-kata, and any forms with a standing shooting position are practiced at the makiwara; kneeling forms can be practiced at a makiwara on an appropriately low stand.

Shooting is general done in a group setting, although the timing of the sequence is individual. For even-numbered groups, there are also various types of group shooting, including synchronized (all together), sequential (singly or in synchronized pairs), and alternating synchronized (people in odd-numbered positions are synchronized, as are the people in the even-numbered positions; the two subgroups shoot sequentially); the lead person in the first position sets the pace for the entire group. Group shooting helps to bring one’s skill level up.

Etiquette & Customs

The one word most often identified with kyudo is “dignified” – every aspect is done with dignity. Another closely associated term is “courtesy.” So it is not too surprising that the two types of rei (bows), tachi-rei (standing bow) and za-rei (seated bow), are part of the initial lessons in kyudo. Similarly, there is special consideration given to the instruction of ashi-sabaki (foot work) in order to maintain dignified movement.

For practical reasons, there is a set of customs for shooting while wearing a kimono because the left sleeve will get in the way of shooting if not taken care of. The method for handling this problem is gender-specific. Men perform hadanaugi-dosa, removing the left arm from the sleeve in order to shoot with a bare left arm and shoulder; when finished, men perform hadaire-dosa, replacing the left arm into the sleeve. Women, on the other hand, perform tasuki-sabaki (cord motion); the kimono sleeves are tied up with a cord or sash (O’Brian and Hartman, 1998).

Apart from the kihon, there is an additional set of kata that is practiced; these are the koryu (classical style) forms. The ANKF has created a series of “standardized” forms based on koryu kata, referring to them collectively as “ceremonial shooting” (O’Brien, 1994). We can classify the koryu kata as standard, formal and special.

There are three types of “standard forms” based on kneeling or standing during the preparation work (getting to the point of having the ya nocked) and on kneeling or standing during the actual shooting (aligning the body, and then raising, drawing and releasing): (1) standing during both the preparation and shooting, (2) kneeling during the preparation and standing during shooting, and (3) kneeling during both the preparation and shooting. The details vary among the various groups. “Formal shooting,” usually referred to as reisha or sharei, is a variation of the type-2 standard form, and has either one or two kaizoe (attendants); again details vary among the various groups. Finally, there are the “special forms,” which vary considerably among the different groups in terms of number and use. For example, some ryuha have one or more funeral forms, which are performed after the death of a headmaster, senior instructor, an influential kyudo-ka (for example, see Sosnowski, 1999a), or a close family member. Heki Ryu Chikurin-ha Kyudo also retains several special forms from its kyujutsu origins, including a kneeling form referred to as “castle shooting” in which the archer shoots up in a near vertical trajectory, which comes from a medieval Japanese siege technique of lobbing arrows over a castle wall, in order to land in a designated circular area on the ground.

Practice Clothing/Uniforms

The level of practice/training determines what is worn. For informal practice and beginner training, regular street clothes, provided that they are clean and comfortable, but neither too loose nor too tight, are worn. For regular practice, one generally wears a keiko-gi (a white, short-sleeved top), an obi (a wide, thin belt, more like an iaido belt rather than a karate belt, which is narrow and thick), a dark blue or black hakama (wide-legged pleated trousers; women traditionally wear a skirt that is an undivided hakama), and white tabi (split-toed socks). Some groups specify that after a certain rank, senior practitioners wear a kimono instead of a keiko-gi; other groups specify wearing kimono (or equivalent) only for embu (formal demonstrations).

For embu, kimono are worn, although men may instead wear montsuki (modified black “kimono,” which extend down only to the mid-thigh level, with the mon or family crest on the front and back of the sleeves and the backs). The hakama can be a solid (but not loud) color; men generally wear formal hakama with a two- or three-tone stripe pattern. Recall that while shooting, women will have their kimono sleeves tied up (tasuki-sabaki), and men will bare their left arm by slipping it out of the sleeve (hadanaugi-dosa).

The most expensive purchase is the yumi, which is a recurved, asymmetric long bow of laminated construction. A yumi is “recurved” because, when unstrung, its shape is the reverse of that when strung. It is “asymmetric” because the nigiri (grip) separates the lower third from the upper two-thirds (see Koppedrayer, 1995), and there is also a slight right-left asymmetry as well. It is a “long bow” because its length exceeds the height of the archer. A traditional yumi has a laminated cross section – the facings are madake (Japanese timber bamboo) while the core and side strips along with the sekiita (end-plates onto which the end loops of the tsuru are attached) are hardwood; functional yumi “replica” are made of synthetic materials like fiberglass and carbon-fiber.

The size and draw strength of the yumi are fit to the individual. The standard length of a yumi is 221 cm (87 in) based on the average Japanese height of 150-165 cm (59-65 in). To accommodate taller practitioners, there are four additional lengths (6 cm [2.4 in] increments in length for each additional 15 cm [5.9 in] in height). The draw strength varies by gender, age, and experience. For beginners, an adult female typically has an 8 to 14 Kg (17.6 to 30.8 lb) draw strength, while a male is between 10 and 15 Kg (22 and 33 lb). Within a year, with regular practice, practitioners will need a stronger yumi – it is a good idea to use class yumi for the first year for this reason.

Females will average between 14 and 16 Kg (30.8 and 35.2 lb), and males between 18 and 20 Kg (39.6 and 44 lb). Depending on the individual, several changes in strength may be needed over the course of many years. Yumi are typically made up to about 30 Kg (66 lb); it is the rare individual who needs one stronger. As one ages, there comes a time when the yumi becomes too strong and one cuts back on the draw strength. The draw strength should be sufficient to be on the edge of a challenge (the “Goldilocks” principle – not too much and not too little, but just right).

The size and draw strength of the yumi are fit to the individual. The standard length of a yumi is 221 cm (87 in) based on the average Japanese height of 150-165 cm (59-65 in). To accommodate taller practitioners, there are four additional lengths (6 cm [2.4 in] increments in length for each additional 15 cm [5.9 in] in height). The draw strength varies by gender, age, and experience. For beginners, an adult female typically has an 8 to 14 Kg (17.6 to 30.8 lb) draw strength, while a male is between 10 and 15 Kg (22 and 33 lb). Within a year, with regular practice, practitioners will need a stronger yumi – it is a good idea to use class yumi for the first year for this reason.

Females will average between 14 and 16 Kg (30.8 and 35.2 lb), and males between 18 and 20 Kg (39.6 and 44 lb). Depending on the individual, several changes in strength may be needed over the course of many years. Yumi are typically made up to about 30 Kg (66 lb); it is the rare individual who needs one stronger. As one ages, there comes a time when the yumi becomes too strong and one cuts back on the draw strength. The draw strength should be sufficient to be on the edge of a challenge (the “Goldilocks” principle – not too much and not too little, but just right).

Along with the yumi, there is the tsuru (bowstring). Just as yumi are made in prescribed lengths, there are associated length tsuru. Traditionally, tsuru are made of hemp; these days there are also Kevlar and hemp-Kevlar tsuru. Hemp tsuru are generally used by experienced kyudo-ka; they require a lot of preparation work, and are not very durable. The hemp-Kevlar tsuru is a welcome compromise between traditional material, and ease of handling along with good durability. One unavoidable fact is that tsuru break, generally while shooting – the yumi should be closely inspected after this to be sure that there is no damage, and generally there is none; one should always carry at least one spare tsuru for this reason.

There are several ways to protect yumi in transit. Simplest is a slipcover, a very long narrow cloth bag that the yumi fits into. There is also a wrapper, a length of cloth in a strip, usually with a design, print, or even calligraphy on it, having a pocket at one end that is placed over the upper sekiita; this strip is lag-wrapped around the yumi and secured at the lower end by tying it with the attached himo. In order to keep yumi dry in inclement weather, there is a rain cover – a plastic slipcover that will hold several yumi. For airline, bus or train travel, there are no carriers that I know of.

Many people use very thin plywood strips to cover the faces of the yumi, add a layer of bubble wrap, and secure it with duct tape. Although it is possible to use PVC pipe or PVC fishing rod carriers, the rise height of unstrung yumi are usually too high for the available carriers, and require the use of wide diameter pipes that are unwieldy to handle. One should not try to force a yumi into a container that is not wide enough to handle it; it is not good for the yumi to be forced out of shape because shape is everything for the yumi to operate properly.

Yumi, being made of organic material under stress, have a finite lifetime. Every yumi has a life cycle, which can be seen in the rise height, the distance between the grip and a line between the two sekiita on an unstrung yumi; this can be readily seen by placing the unstrung yumi on the floor, and then rotating the yumi so that it is perpendicular to the floor with the sekiita still on the floor. New yumi have a rather high rise height of two to three fists. To tame a new yumi, it is generally left strung between four and twelve weeks as necessary to bring the rise height down a bit. In a mature yumi, the rise height is between one and two fists; it is only strung when in use, although for programs of three to ten days they can usually remain strung for the duration if it is used every day.

In modern Kyudo three types of bows (yumi) are used: the standard bamboo yumi, lacquered bamboo yumi, and synthetic yumi (fiberglass or carbon) that are most often used by Kyudo schools or clubs because of their durability. Generally, however, most traditional practitioners prefer the non-synthetic yumi which is esthetically parallels the essence of the practice.

An old yumi becomes “tired” through the loss of elasticity, and has a rise height of no more than one fist. An old yumi should be used seldom, and eventually it should be retired from use. Yumi can also break – excessive dryness is the usual cause; sometimes they can be repaired and other times they cannot.

For short distance shooting at one bow-length away, a makiwara is used as a target. Traditionally, it is a drum of straw on a stand. It is common here to use straw or hay bales wrapped in a white sheet to make handling and transport a little neater. Generally, a kyudojo will have several on stands or holders set at varying heights to accommodate the various statures of different practitioners. It is not uncommon for individuals to set one up at home, either indoors or outdoors as space permits, for their own practice.

For distance shooting, a number of mato are set up; some groups use an odd number (resulting in more than one person per mato) while other groups use one per archer. For standard 28 m (91.9 ft) courses, a 36 cm (14.2 in) diameter mato is used. The mato is a cylindrical wood frame with a paper face, which is the target face; hoshi-mato have a single black center spot, while kasumi-mato have three concentric black rings about a white center (the outer ring goes to the rim of the target). Use varies by school – one for regular practice and the other for special occasions. A few individuals who have the space can set up outdoor, distance shooting ranges.

Equipment:
Unlike many other martial practices, kyudo has a lot of gear associated with it. As such, it makes the practice somewhat costly. Many kyudojo have class equipment to lend to practitioners, especially beginners. Students can acquire equipment piece by piece, rather than having to buy it all at once. It is also possible to obtain used equipment rather than new as a way to keep costs down.

The first piece of personal equipment to acquire is generally the kake (aka yugake). The design of the shooting glove dates back to the last quarter of the 15th century. For standard shooting (makiwara and 28 m [91.9 ft] distance), we use a three-fingered glove (mitsugake) made of deerskin leather with a horn or wood thumb insert. By contrast, the five-fingered glove is favored in yabusame (horseback archery), and the four-finger glove is favored for extra-long distance (60 m [196.9 ft] or greater) and endurance (12- or 24-hour) shooting. There is a ridge in the thumb piece between the thumb and the index finger called the tsuru-makura (the groove is called the tsuru-michi) – the tsuru is drawn with this ridge, which is derived from the thumb ring from Mongolia and China. The kake has a long himo (strap) at the wrist, which is wound around the glove at the wrist to secure the kake; the method of tying the himo depends on the ryuha. A cotton glove liner is worn with the glove. One generally has a kake bag of sorts to carry the kake and liners in.

Optionally, there is an oshide-gake, a glove for the thumb of the left hand. There are two types commonly available: the first is a simple thumb cover with a thin himo to secure it to the wrist, and the second is glove similar to the kake with a long himo wound several times around the glove at the wrist. The latter type is also worn with a glove liner. The purpose of the oshide-gake is to protect the top of the left thumb from being lacerated by the fletching of a released ya.

In general, the next piece of personal equipment acquired are a set of ya (arrows). The length of the arrows for kyudo depends on one’s draw – the metric is from the center of the throat to the tip of the middle finger of the outstretched left arm plus three fingers (wide). The longest standard ya available is about 103 cm (40.6 in) long; they can be cut down to accommodate shorter draws [it is possible to special order longer ya, but this is more expensive]. The shaft is traditionally made of bamboo, although aluminum and carbon fiber have been used in recent times.

Ya come in two basic varieties, boya (unfletched) for makiwara shooting, and kazuya (fletched) for distance shooting. [There are fletched ya for makiwara shooting but the fletching tapers back to the shaft at the nock end.] They also differ in their yanone (tips or points); these tips reflect the strength of the targets to be penetrated (see below). The boya have bullet-shaped or shallow cone-shaped metal points, which are metal caps pressed onto the ends of the shafts; they need to penetrate the makiwara. Kazuya have target-points (a very small cone raised at the tip of a shallow cone); they need to pierce a taut paper target and the damp sand behind it.

Hane (feathers) for the kazuya traditionally came from large raptors (birds of prey), but in these days of endangered species and associated international agreements, turkey and goose feathers are commonly used instead. Kazuya come in pairs, the haya (first arrow) and otoya (second arrow), and are shot in that order. When viewed from behind, haya rotate clockwise, and otoya counterclockwise. The groove of the hazu (nock) is aligned with one of the three fletchings, which is the top or cutting feather. These days the hazu are plastic pieces that are inserted into the end of the shaft; traditionally they are made of horn.

A case for ya, especially kazuya, is a must. Ideally, a case is a bit wider at the upper end to accommodate the fletching. Long canisters with straps for carrying rolled-up blueprints are a common substitute as are appropriate length cardboard mailing tubes. At the practice sites, it is common to have a ya box, a tall wooden box with compartments, which hold the ya vertically without touching the fletching.

At a minimum, one has one boya and a pair of kazuya. For practical reasons, a pair of boya (in order to practice two ya style shooting at the makiwara), and two pair of kazuya (to minimize waiting during distance shooting) are recommended. Serious practitioners also have at least one spare boya and one spare pair of kazuya, in case any of the the ya that they are using are either damaged or lost, that is, a total of at least three boya and three pairs of kazuya.

The most expensive purchase is the yumi, which is a recurved, asymmetric long bow of laminated construction. A yumi is “recurved” because, when unstrung, its shape is the reverse of that when strung. It is “asymmetric” because the nigiri (grip) separates the lower third from the upper two-thirds (see Koppedrayer, 1995), and there is also a slight right-left asymmetry as well. It is a “long bow” because its length exceeds the height of the archer. A traditional yumi has a laminated cross section – the facings are madake (Japanese timber bamboo) while the core and side strips along with the sekiita (end-plates onto which the end loops of the tsuru are attached) are hardwood; functional yumi “replica” are made of synthetic materials like fiberglass and carbon-fiber.

The size and draw strength of the yumi are fit to the individual. The standard length of a yumi is 221 cm (87 in) based on the average Japanese height of 150-165 cm (59-65 in). To accommodate taller practitioners, there are four additional lengths (6 cm [2.4 in] increments in length for each additional 15 cm [5.9 in] in height). The draw strength varies by gender, age, and experience. For beginners, an adult female typically has an 8 to 14 Kg (17.6 to 30.8 lb) draw strength, while a male is between 10 and 15 Kg (22 and 33 lb). Within a year, with regular practice, practitioners will need a stronger yumi – it is a good idea to use class yumi for the first year for this reason. Females will average between 14 and 16 Kg (30.8 and 35.2 lb), and males between 18 and 20 Kg (39.6 and 44 lb). Depending on the individual, several changes in strength may be needed over the course of many years. Yumi are typically made up to about 30 Kg (66 lb); it is the rare individual who needs one stronger. As one ages, there comes a time when the yumi becomes too strong and one cuts back on the draw strength. The draw strength should be sufficient to be on the edge of a challenge (the “Goldilocks” principle – not too much and not too little, but just right).

Along with the yumi, there is the tsuru (bow string). Just as yumi are made in prescribed lengths, there are associated length tsuru. Traditionally, tsuru are made of hemp; these days there are also Kevlar and hemp-Kevlar tsuru. Hemp tsuru are generally used by experienced kyudo-ka; they require a lot of preparation work, and are not very durable. The hemp-Kevlar tsuru is a welcome compromise between traditional material, and ease of handling along with good durability. One unavoidable fact is that tsuru break, generally while shooting – the yumi should be closely inspected after this to be sure that there is no damage, and generally there is none; one should always carry at least one spare tsuru for this reason.

There are several ways to protect yumi in transit. Simplest is a slipcover, a very long narrow cloth bag that the yumi fits into. There is also a wrapper, a length of cloth in a strip, usually with a design, print, or even calligraphy on it, having a pocket at one end that is placed over the upper sekiita; this strip is lag-wrapped around the yumi and secured at the lower end by tying it with the attached himo. In order to keep yumi dry in inclement weather, there is a rain cover – a plastic slipcover that will hold several yumi. For airline, bus or train travel, there are no carriers that I know of. Many people use very thin plywood strips to cover the faces of the yumi, add a layer of bubble wrap, and secure it with duct tape. Although it is possible to use PVC pipe or PVC fishing rod carriers, the rise height of unstrung yumi are usually too high for the available carriers, and require the use of wide diameter pipes that are unwieldy to handle. One should not try to force a yumi into a container that is not wide enough to handle it; it is not good for the yumi to be forced out of shape because shape is everything for the yumi to operate properly.

Yumi, being made of organic material under stress, have a finite lifetime. Every yumi has a life cycle, which can be seen in the rise height, the distance between the grip and a line between the two sekiita on an unstrung yumi; this can be readily seen by placing the unstrung yumi on the floor, and then rotating the yumi so that it is perpendicular to the floor with the sekiita still on the floor. New yumi have a rather high rise height of two to three fists. To tame a new yumi, it is generally left strung between four and twelve weeks as necessary to bring the rise height down a bit. In a mature yumi, the rise height is between one and two fists; it is only strung when in use, although for programs of three to ten days they can usually remain strung for the duration if it is used every day. An old yumi becomes “tired” through the loss of elasticity, and has a rise height of no more than one fist. An old yumi should be used seldom, and eventually it should be retired from use. Yumi can also break – excessive dryness is the usual cause; sometimes they can be repaired and other times they cannot.

For short distance shooting at one bow-length away, a makiwara is used as a target. Traditionally, it is a drum of straw on a stand. It is common here to use straw or hay bales wrapped in a white sheet to make handling and transport a little neater. Generally, a kyudojo will have several on stands or holders set at varying heights to accommodate the various statures of different practitioners. It is not uncommon for individuals to set one up at home, either indoors or outdoors as space permits, for their own practice.

For distance shooting, a number of mato are set up; some groups use an odd number (resulting in more than one person per mato) while other groups use one per archer. For standard 28 m (91.9 ft) courses, a 36 cm (14.2 in) diameter mato is used. The mato is a cylindrical wood frame with a paper face, which is the target face; hoshi-mato have a single black center spot, while kasumi-mato have three concentric black rings about a white center (the outer ring goes to the rim of the target). Use varies by school – one for regular practice and the other for special occasions. A few individuals who have the space can set up outdoor, distance shooting ranges. Many special programs set up temporary shooting areas with a backstop of hay/straw bales [if possible and available, an arrow net is set up just behind the target(s)]; otherwise, one is shooting at a regular kyudojo.

Equipment Care:
Since most of the equipment used is made of organic material, a number of common sense care practices are in order. Ya are stored vertically; yumi are stored either horizontally or vertically. For both, avoid extremes of temperature and humidity. Check them for cracks; check the yumi for shape and alignment when strung. Attend to any minor repairs immediately; seek qualified repair services for any major repair work. Don’t use equipment that needs repair, especially yumi. Dry the kake and liners when they have absorbed perspiration; wash the liners. It is a good idea to have several liners (so there is no problem if one is misplaced, and to provide extras over a long training program).

In order to make minor repairs, one should have a personal equipment repair bag. First, one needs to carries spare tsuru, hazu and both types of yanone (empty, plastic 35 mm film canisters make great containers for the small, loose items). For tools, a small knife, pliers, and a cigarette lighter (to soften glue and to expand the metal tips) are handy. Also include several types of glue including a white wood glue like Elmer’s (R), and Krazy (R) Glue (or equivalent). To build up the nocking area on a new tsuru, a pair of small wood blocks and a length of hemp twine along with white wood glue are necessary. One or two small rags are also handy to have (to wipe the glue from your fingers and the excess glue from your equipment, for example).

Styles:
Archery in Japan has maintained two distinct paths since its genesis. First, there is ceremonial archery, which has roots in shamanic traditions and Shinto coupled with direct importation from China during the first millennium A.D.; Ogasawara Ryu, which includes yabusame, and post-Meiji Honda Ryu belong to this form of archery. These styles are rarely seen outside of Japan.

Second, there are the combat and combat-derived archery practices; all these styles of kyudo are branches of the Heki Ryu. Since World War II, many of the branches of the Heki Ryu have been united under the aegis of the Zen Nippon Kyudo Renmei (All Nippon Kyudo Federation, aka ANKF). Some branches such as the Chikurin-ha have remained independent; other branches, while belonging to the ANKF, also retain the individual practices of their ryuha. A few independent schools of Kyudo, such as the Chozen-ji Kyudo (see Morisawa, 1984, and Kushner, 2000) from Hawaii, have also arisen.

Ranking:
The ANKF style of kyudo is formulated as a gendai (modern) budo, and rank is based on the kyu-dan (beginner grades and advanced degrees) system. The ANKF lists testing requirements for san-kyu (grade level three) through kyu-dan (ninth degree). Challengers for grade perform in front of a test committee, and are judged according to their performance.

In the older styles, “rank” as such follows the koryu model. There are at least three levels after achieving a basic proficiency: “assistant instructor,” [regular] “instructor,” and “senior instructor.” Unlike menjyo (ranking or grading certificates) given in gendai budo, kobudo (classical martial ways) issue menkyo (scrolls with titles) or titles associated with scrolls; in general, these menkyo, except for the initial one, are teaching licenses, and recognize a level of competence, proficiency, character and capability for accurate transmission. The number of menkyo is generally fewer than the number of menjyo with a minimum of four (the actual number depends on the particular ryuha).

The rank structure of Chozen-ji Kyudo is unknown. Since they are not affiliated with any ryuha or the ANKF, and since Chozen-ji is dedicated to making Zen accessible to all, one assumes that kyudo as Zen would not be ranked. However, they do use the instructor titles of renshi (trainer), kyoshi (instructor), and hanshi (master instructor), but how these are conferred is not known.

Training Facilities:
The classical kyudojo is truly a sight to behold; it is composed of three parts: the shajo (shooting hall), the matoba (target house), and the yamichi (literally, “arrow way/path”), which is the open flat ground between the two structures. Within the shajo, there are two basic areas: the makiwara shooting area, and the distance shooting area from the side of the shajo that is open to the yamichi and matoba (the distance shooting area also includes a waiting area). Within the shajo are also yumi racks, ya boxes and equipment storage. There are a few kyudojo with a matoba and yamichi, but no shajo; in place of the shajo is an outdoor shooting platform.

Like the shajo, the matoba is a building with one side open; generally, the open side of the shajo can be closed or secured in some fashion against the elements. Within the matoba is the azuchi (target bank), the target bank of sand, into which the mato are set. The azuchi requires some care – neatness from raking and firmness from watering. A large and well-designed matoba has a viewing area where a ya-retriever can safely sit during a shooting session, and storage for mato and maintenance equipment.

The yamichi can simply be a well-trimmed lawn or a flat area of soil/sand. Ya that come up short end up in the area of the yamichi in front of the matoba. A close-cropped lawn will help protect the ya from damage, and allows for easy retrieval of those ya that do fall short.

In Japan today, there is generally a municipal kyudojo in the more populous urban centers. Outside of Japan, these are few and far between. In urban and suburban areas outside of Japan, limitations on space (as well as land, construction and maintenance costs) tend to relegate regular practice to makiwara kyudojo – rooms with high ceilings where one can shoot short distance at makiwara. It may be a permanent set-up or one that is shared with other activities, which means that the makiwara must be set up and then broken down and stored for each practice session. Some individuals set one up at home for their own practice either indoors or outdoors.

For gatherings at sites with no kyudojo, there are temporary kyudojo. Makiwara can be set up outside, or under a large tent during inclement weather. The yamichi can be designated by markers, with a backstop of hay/straw bales, possibly backed by an arrow net, and the shooting line designated by a pegged-down rope. Great care must be taken to insure that other people are kept away from the shooting area, and that the kyudo-ka are constantly aware of when areas are in use. For many kyudo-ka, distance shooting is a luxury, and generally occurs only during gasshuku at some remote site for a period of several days.