Kyudo: The Traditional Japanese Martial Art of Archery
Kyudo, the Way of the Bow, is one of Japan's oldest and most honored martial traditions. Over the course of Japanese history, under the influence of Shinto beliefs, Confucian morality, and Buddhist philosophy (including but not limited to Zen), the technique of archery flowered into an art form where archery is practiced as a Way of seishin tanren or "spiritual forging." The diligent practice of Kyudo provides both a healthful exercise and a way of cultivating self-awareness and spiritual maturity which, in turn, leads to a realization of "Shin Zen Bi" or "Truth, Goodness and Beauty".
Kyudo practice encourages the student to develop self-control and an insight into the complex interplay between mind and body. As with yoga and tai-chi, mastery of the outward forms leads to greater awareness of the true unity of the physical, emotional and mental foundation of our lives. Practicing Kyudo develops poise, character, and refinement. Ultimately, Kyudo liberates the finest qualities in each person. Kyudo has a sporting aspect but is not a sport. It has a spiritual aspect but is not a religion. It is a physical discipline with a powerful psychological and emotional aspect. This diversity provides a means for balancing these very different dimensions of human life within a single activity.
Shin Zen Bi: The Ultimate Goal of Kyudo
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.
Shin (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 (Zen) 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 (Bi) 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.
The key to understanding kyudo is to keep an open mind and realize that any style of kyudo you see or practice is but a small part of a greater whole, and that each style has its own history and philosophical underpinnings which make them all equally interesting and important.
We at the Florida Kyudo Kai welcome you and look forward to practicing with you and to share our keen interest and love for the art of Kyudo.