Kyudo



What' s Kyudo?
Kyudo (the "Way of the Bow") is the Japanese martial art of archery. Until the 14th or 15th century, when foot soldiers began to surpass the horseman in battle, the bow and arrow were the primary weapons of the samurai. The roots of kyudo lie in those long-past days, when a warrior's worth was determined by his skills with a bow.

History
In the Prehistoric Period (7000 B.C.E. – C.E. 330), archeological evidence of a hunter/gatherer group called the Jomon suggested that they frequently utilized the bow and arrow, probably primarily as a hunting tool. During the latter part of this period, the legendary first emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, ascended to the throne. He is often depicted with a bow, as a symbol of authority.Since the beginning of the study of archery in Japan, there has always been a spiritual aspect attributed to the use of the bow and arrow: either to scare away evil spirits or purify space. These spiritual elements of archery are preserved today in kyudo through traditional ritual movements and practices.


In the Ancient Period (330–1192), Japanese culture was strongly influenced by China. The Japanese adopted the ceremonial archery of the Chinese aristocracy, and it was considered a measure of a noble to be skilled in archery. With the rise of the professional samurai, the end of the ancient period saw the beginning of the kyudo ryus (martial-arts archery schools). This also marked the start of standardization of instruction in archery.

During the Feudal Period (1192–1603), toward the end of the 12th century, the Ogasawara Ryu standardized yabusame (archery on horseback). Civil wars during the 15th and 16th centuries created a great demand for capable warriors, and this period saw a great development of all martial arts, including archery. Heki Danjo Masatugu, an archer who according to some sources lived in the mid-to-late 1400s, codified his own method of archery and formed what came to be known as the Heki Ryu. Danjo's teachings still influence some of the non-Kyudo-Federation-regulated styles that are practiced today.

In the mid-16th century, the Portuguese introduced the musket to Japan. The musket eclipsed the bow and arrow as the most effective long distance weapon, and resulted in a significant diminution in the bow's use.The Transitional Period (1603–1912) was a period of peace in Japan This was the time during which the great archery competitions were held in the temple of Sanjusangendo in Kyoto. The temple is 120 meters long, and this competition measured how many arrows could be shot within a 24-hour period that could travel the full length of the temple and strike the target at the temple's opposite end. (Ancient arrows from these competitions can still be seen in some of the temple's structural members.)


The current modern record is held by Wasa Daihachiro with 8,133 hits out of 13,053 arrows shot; this feat required the archer to shoot an average of one arrow every six seconds over the entire twenty-four-hour period. During this time, the martial art of kyujitsu arose (kyujitsu differs from kyudo in that kyujitsu refers to technique of shooting, whereas kyudo is a method of using the bow to discover a path of harmony and balance).

By the end of the 17th century, ceremonial archery was becoming popular outside of the warrior class. Towards the turn of the 20th century, Honda Toshizane, who was at that time the instructor of kyudo at the Tokyo Imperial University, combined what he considered to be the best of all the existing styles (as he knew them), melded the ceremonial and warrior archery forms, and created the Honda Ryu, which eventually became the basis of modern kyudo.

In the Modem Era (1912 to the present), attempts at greater standardization occurred under the auspices of such organizations as the Zen Nihon Kyudo Renmei, and there are now more than one-half-million kyudo practitioners world-wide.

Thank you to Nanka Kyudo Kai.