The Kyudo

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 the martial art of Japanese archery, literally meaning “the way of the bow”. The bow had been used in Japanese warfare for many centuries. It also served as a hunting tool. Kyudo is a relatively popular recreational activity, practiced in kyudojo, special kyudo facilities found in schools, culture centers and the like.

The bow used for kyudo is about two meters long, and stationary targets are located in a distance of either 28 or 60 meters. An important part of kyudo is the ritual preparation of each shot. As in all the Japanese martial arts, the training of one’s mind is essential in kyudo.

Kyudo(弓道, KyÅ«dō), literally meaning “way of the bow”, is the Japanese art of archery. It is a modern Japanese martial art (gendai budo).

It is estimated that there are approximately half a million practitioners of Kyudo today. Kyudo is a rare sport in the sense that it is not dependent on age or sex. If the practitioner is dedicated, male or female, they can learn at any age.  It’s never too early or too late to learn Kyudo. Although one could learn Kyudoat any point in their life, it can take a lifetime to perfect.

Kyudo is considered by many to be the purest of all the martial ways. In the past, the Japanese bow was used for hunting, war, court ceremonies, games, and contests of skill. The original word for Japanese archery was kyujutsu (bow technique) which encompassed the skills and techniques of the warrior archer.

Some of the ancient schools, known as ryu, survive today, along with the ancient ceremonies and games, but the days where the Japanese bow was used as a weapon are long past. Modern kyudo is practiced primarily as a method of physical, moral, and spiritual development.

No one knows exactly when the term kyudo came into being but it was not until the late nineteenth century when practice centered almost exclusively around individual practice that the term gained general acceptance. The essence of modern kyudo is said to be synonymous with the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty.

kyudo In its most pure form, kyudo is practiced as an art and as a means of moral and spiritual development. Many archers practice kyudo as a sport, with marksmanship being paramount. However, the goal most devotees of kyudo seek is seisha seichu, “correct shooting is correct hitting”. In kyudo the unique action of expansion (nobiai) that results in a natural release, is strived for. When the spirit and balance of the shooting is correct the result will be for the arrow to arrive in the target.

To give oneself completely to the shooting is the spiritual goal. In this respect, many kyudo practitioners believe that competition, examination, and any opportunity that places the archer in this uncompromising situation is important, while other practitioners will avoid competitions or examinations of any kind.

“One is not polishing one’s shooting style or technique, but the mind. The dignity of shooting is the important point. This is how Kyudo differs from the common approach to archery. In Kyudo there is no hope. Hope is not the point. The point is that through long and genuine practice your natural dignity as a human being comes out. This natural dignity is already in you, but it is covered up by a lot of obstacles. When they are cleared away, your natural dignity is allowed to shine forth” – Shibata Sensei.

Truth in kyudo is manifested in shooting that is pure and right-minded, where the three elements of attitude, movement, and technique unite in a state of perfect harmony. A true shot in kyudo is not just one that hits the center of the target, but one where the arrow can be said to exist in the target before its release.

Goodness encompasses such qualities as courtesy, compassion, morality, and non-aggression. In kyudo, goodness is shown by displaying proper attitude and behavior in all situations. A good kyudo archer is a person who maintains his or her composure and grace even in times of great stress or conflict.

Beauty both enhances life and stimulates the spirit. In kyudo, truth and goodness, themselves, are considered beautiful. Beauty can also be found in the exquisite grace and artistry of the Japanese bow and the elegance of the traditional archer’s attire. It is also present in the refined etiquette that surrounds the kyudo ceremony. Etiquette, which is simply common courtesy and respect for others, is an essential element of kyudo practice.

Kyudo, the way of the bow, is a living tradition of meditative archery, rooted in the old warrior traditions of Japan. The perfect mastery of the bow was considered an art by the Samurai, an art that knew no other goal than the highest experience of the here and now, of the moment as it is, beyond any strategies of thought and concept. Christopher and Katja Triplett on the history of the bow and the way of the bow.

Today Kyudo is being practised by thousands of people all over the world for their mental schooling as well as for their spiritual development. The simple elegance of the movements, the beauty of the bow and the arrows and the atmosphere of quietness and dignity predominant in the practice place, have a great fascination for those of us who wish to walk upon the path of self-knowledge. Because to set out on the path of archery means to set out on a journey of understanding where you learn to see with a new set of eyes and to listen with new ears.

If you look at it from the outside, Kyudo seems to be archery. Drawing the bow and shooting at the target resembles a test of skill, but Kyudo is no sport. To discover the true nature of Kyudo, through hitting the target one has to look inside and cut through and go beyond any kind of preoccupation, whether it be worry, hope, doubt or fear. Although the actual form of Kyudo has changed over and again and become more sophisticated over the past centuries, and has been subdivided into various teaching schools (Ryu) and those in turn into subgroups (Ha), according to style (Kata) and specific techniques (Waza), the essence of true Kyudo practice always remains the same. It is standing Zen.