We are somehow blessed at the range. Nanka Kyudo Kay from Pasadena practices Kyudo every Sunday from 8AM to around 11AM at Rancho Park Archery. Archery is to Kyudo what fast food is to a four star Michelin restaurant. We both launch arrows to the target, but they make it look good. Kyudo is “The way of the Bow”, and it shows in their execution.
We have this image of the Samurai warrior with his katana hacking people in half from shoulder to hip. In reality, Kyudo was considered more important in the formation of a warrior than swordsmanship. From the 12th century to the 16th century in Japan, the bow was the symbol of the professional warrior, to the point that the way of the warrior was called “the way of the horse and bow” (kyūba no michi). When the matchlock musket was introduced to Japan in 1543, the importance of the bow in war declined, and the importance of the musket and the spear (yari) increased…then, after Tokugawa Ieyasu controlled all Japan and created the shogunate and peace lasted untill the 1860s, the whole mystique around the katana and the samurai was invented, but that is a story for another day…
Like with many other Japanese martial arts, the way of the bow evolved both as an art or a path “do” and as the martial techniques of the bow “jutsu”. Kyudo schools merged, disappeared, evolved
and expanded all over the world, and we are lucky at Rancho Park to have Nanka Kyudo Kay practicing here.
I highly recommend not only my archery students but also anybody interested in archery to go see them practice. It’s not only beautiful, it is also inspiring. Not only that, I also think that their approach to archery is also applicable to the modern archer.
One very interesting thing on Kyudo’s archery technique, if I understand it correctly, is that there is not a single point where the practitioner aims, the whole process of the shoot is aiming. If you have the correct stance and you perform the technique correctly, you will hit the target. That is something that I drill into my students. If your technique is correct, you will hit the target…and everything is aiming.