Kyudo is known as the practice of Japanese traditional archery. Compared to other countries, Japan utilizes the long bow instead of a short or recurve bow. The art is practiced worldwide with the help of the International Kyudo Federation (IKYF). In Japan, the All Nippon Kyudo Federation played a central role in establishing the IKYF and has over 130,000 practitioners.
Kyudo is the practice of Japanese traditional archery. In the 12th century, archery was a growing need for the impending Genpei War, which resulted in the founding and teaching Yabusame (mounted archery). During the Sengoku Period, the country was torn by war between the different ruling clans. It is around this time that the efficiency and accuracy of bows evolved. This spurred the rapid growth of archery schools in this era. However, when matchlock rifles (tanegashima) were used by Oda Nobunaga’s armies the usefulness of archery in battle became obsolete. When the Edo Period began, the practice of the bow and arrow was optional for the upper hierarchy. Those in the samurai class practiced archery in ceremonial forms and in competitions. It was then archery evolved to embody principles of Zen Buddhism creating what we now know as Kyudo.
Yumi (bow): The bow is traditionally 2 meters long. Traditionally it is made of bamboo, but carbon fiber bows are a common sight.
Ya (arrow): Traditionally the arrow is made from bamboo, but it is more common to see aluminum and carbon fiber ones. The length of the arrow is determined by your draw length (yazuka). The arrows are also fletched with 3 feathers either from turkeys or swans.
Yugake (glove): The glove is usually made out of deerskin. There are two types of gloves; one has a hardened thumb with a groove, and the other has a flexible thumb with no pre-made groove. Depending on the weight of the bow, practitioners can choose to use a three-fingered (mitsugake), or a four-fingered (yotsugake) glove. An under glove made out of cotton or synthetic materials is worn to protect the glove from sweat.
Muneate (chest protector): A chest protector is worn by female archers to protect their breasts from being struck by the bowstring.
Kyudogi: It is the practice uniform that consists of a white dogi and black skirt or trousers. The color of the dogi can change, but the recommended is white.
In Kyudo, there are 8 forms that practitioners conduct to shoot the arrow. The goal is not to hit the target, but to perfect the forms and then the arrow will hit the target. Kyudo is a form of meditation that will reflect your state of mind at the time you release the arrow.
1. Ashibumi (Foot Placement)
It is when you place your feet about shoulder length apart.
2. Dozukuri (Posture Set Up)
Adjust your posture as you place the arrow into the bow and then place your right hand back at your side when finished.
3. Yugamae (Readying the Bow)
Place your gloved hand under the arrow and adjust to your liking.
4. Uchiokoshi (Raising the Bow)
Raise the bow until the arrow is above your head.
5. Hikiwake (Drawing Apart)
Draw the bow about more than half way.
6. Kai (Full Draw)
Fully draw the bow and aim.
7. Hanare (Release)
Release the arrow
8. Zanshin (Reflection on Release)
Stand in the release position and meditate on the shot then assume a bowing posture towards the target.