Kyudo is a Japanese traditional competitive sports; which is based on the classic Kyujutsu(“art of archery”) transforming into a ritual sports. We can say Kyudo has its long history in Japanese martial art. The basic of Kyudo is to train the archer’s body and mind by his or her movement, mental strength, manner, morality, etc. through shooting the target by the bow and arrow. During the old days, the art of archery also included using tactics and striving for victory among different schools or skills, while Kyudo is nowadays developed as a health-oriented sports.
Let us talk about ritual in Kyudo. In fact, modern Kyudo is purely a shooting sports, but adding the ritual part makes the Kyudo as the art of archery. Every kyudo learner had known that the ritual starts from the time stepping into the practice venue (Kyudojo). Learning the basic walking/sitting/kneeling/turning/bowing movement (Kihontai), entering and leaving the Kyudojo (before and after each round of shooting), exam procedure, competition procedure, and the repeating base setting to full draw movements (Hassetsu) are all forming the ritual.
Why a pure shooting evolves into Kyudo, as the art of archery? We can summarize into one sentence: the ritual entitles the shooting a new meaning instead of just repetitive shooting. We can learn about the importance of ritual from the conversation bewteen the Little Prince and the fox.[extract from The Little Prince, Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry]
Let me quote a few lines from [The Little Prince]. ……said the fox. ‘ For instance, if you come at four in the afternoon, when three o’clock strikes I shall begin to feel happy. The closer our time approaches, the happier I shall feel. By four o’clock I shall already be getting agitated and worried; I shall be discovering that happiness has its price. But if you show up at any old time, I ‘ll never know when to start dressing my heart for you…We all need rituals.’
‘What is a ritual?’ said the little prince.
‘Something else that is frequently neglected,’ said the fox. ‘It’s what makes one day different from the other days, one hour different from the other hours. There is a ritual, for example, among my huntsmen. On Thursdays they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a stroll as far as the vineyard. If the huntsmen went dancing at any old time, the days would all be the same, and I should never have a holiday.’
In contrast with an hour of pure shooting the target, an hour paying more attention to the detail than the previous shot leads us on the way to the true meaning of kyudo. Well, Kyudo is also named the Way of Bow. And the ‘Way’ itself can rarely be explained or passed on simply. Everyone may experience or persue a different ‘Way’.
There is no absolute right or wrong, hence, it is not necessary to force the other to recognize or implement my ‘Way’. We do not assume it is a fault if he or she does not do well, whereas the learners are encouraged to experience, to pay attention the flow of the ritual. This makes such an hour of time different from an hour of pure shooting. Then, the learners will find their own ‘Way’ one day. They will be aware that every shot is unique.
Even myself, I have not had a definite answer for my ‘Way’ yet as I am still on my way of learning. I am still a beginner and sometimes slack off, pretty much like my life. Despite the above mentioned, I started writing about Kyudo in the hope of gradually building up a better sense in each future hour of Kyudo along my learning. There must be one day, I can become more aware that how each shot would be unique comparing to my previous thousands or millions of shot. I hope this article can let us encourage each other in our endeavours .
Wai Ming, Languages and the way of saying/listening are my way to heal my curiosity. As an architect, I had made enough reasons(excuses) to travel. Love to read books and read interpersonal atmosphere. Two shooting hobbies: Photography and Kyudo.