Kyudo


 


"The Way of the Bow"

Kyudo is a Japanese target archery martial art. It is a highly meditative martial art whose ultimate goals are Shin (Truth), Zen (Goodness) and Bi (Beauty). Styles can be divided into two broad categories, shamen uchiokoshi and shomen uchiokoshi. Shamen archers predraw the bow at an angle to the body and fix their grip on the bow before raising it. Shomen archers raise the bow straight over the head and fix their final grip on the bow in a predraw above the head.

It is the oldest of Japan's traditional martial arts. The bow has been used in Japan since prehistoric times. From the fourth to the ninth century, close contacts between China and Japan had a great influence on Japanese archery, especially the Confucian belief that through a person's archery their true characters could be determined. Over hundreds of years archery was influenced by the Shinto and Zen Buddhist religions along with the pressing practical requirements of warriors. Court nobles concentrated on ceremonial archery while the warrior class emphasized kyujutsu, the martial technique of using the bow in actual warfare.

With the introduction of firearms the bow as a weapon was neglected and almost died out all together until Honda Toshizane, a kyudo instructor at Tokyo Imperial University, combined elements of the warrior style and the court ceremonial style into a hybrid style which ultimately became known as the Honda Ryu (Honda martial school). With the American occupation banning all martial art instruction, traditional kyujutsu schools declined further and when the ban was lifted, Kyudo, as opposed to kyujutsu, became widely practiced. The Zen Nihon Kyudo Federation (All Japan Kyudo Federation) was established in 1953, publishing the standard kyudo textbook called the Kyohon. There now exists a European Kyudo Federation.

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