5 Reasons Why You Should Pick Up Kyudo!
More of a ceremonial art-form than competitive sport, “kyūdō” is unique for its focus as a contemplative discipline that promotes the ideals of shin-zen-bi, truth-goodness-beauty. Like all Budō arts, kyudo incorporates the ideals of moral and spiritual development, and the attitude that practitioners should take toward material things, people and events in everyday life. While shooting straight is important that emphasis differs from school to school with many schools today being more sport oriented and placing greater value in accuracy. But the one thing they all have in common is the concept that by learning the proper techniques and mindset and trusting in “seisha seichu,” or “correct shooting is correct hitting.” they will succeed at the art.
Modern kyudo as we know it today developed from the pre-historic use of the yumi, an asymmetrically shaped longbow that is shorter at the bottom and longer at the top, in war and, in particular, by the samurai class. As the times changed and the Meiji Era saw the decline of the samurai classes, traditional martial arts started to become obsolete as skill of war. In an attempt to preserve the art, kyujutsu (Art of Archery) along with all other Budō skills, were adapted into a ceremonial or sportive forms as what we know today as the modern sport kyudo, ‘The way of the bow’.
And it’s easy to find reasons to like the modern zen-minded adaptation over its more practical – and violent – counterpart. Unlike its highly antagonistic, strife-filled ancient cousin whose sole purpose was to maximize death and permanent injury from afar; kyudo is a sport that promotes calm, elegance, discipline and humility. It is also unique in the sense that the importance of the cultivation of good values and technique take precedence over the ability to hit the target – to demonstrate a cool composure and lack of desire in the face of temptation (i.e. wanting to hit the target).
So, here’re five reasons why you should learn the art Kyūdō:
Learn how to remain calm and composed and control your emotional greed.
When one has an arrow drawn and ready with a target in sight it is only natural to want that arrow to ‘fly straight and true’ but the concept that kyudo is quite the opposite – and that accuracy can be achieved by detaching oneself from focusing too greatly on wanting the shot to be accurate but instead to let the proper technique and mindset drive that arrow home for you. In fact, hitting the target is a secondary objective when it comes to kyudo. In this short documentary, a group of neuroscientists (22:48) conducted an experiment to study the brain-waves of two participants through functional MRI (fMRI), which measures the level of brain activity through changes in blood flow. The results showed almost no increase in brain-activity when a master kyudo practitioner was tested while the person as control showed significantly heightened levels, which spiked during the exact time the arrow was fired.
Learn elegance, grace and dexterous shooting skills – not to mention a healthy respect for procedure.
While Accuracy International 101 isn’t always paramount in kyudo (depending which way each school swings) to succeeding at this activity, but it still builds one’s manual dexterity as well as discipline of body, while the beauty of the art enriches both the other elements. Kyudo maintains very strict rules and each step taken in the entire performance must be followed to the letter. Although the power of the bow can be custom picked according to the physical ability of its user, a bow is not a toy and it still provides substantial resistance. Like any weapon art wielding a bow requires great care and discipline in order to maintain safety for others and yourself.
Learn humility and respect for others.
It’s the twenty-first century and popular culture is rife with narcissistic behaviour. While it is possible to recognize the merits of a confident, self-assured society – too often narcissism, especially among youths of today, turns into arrogance, selfishness and insensitivity. kyudo emphasizes ‘good mental hygiene’, which is demonstrated by practitioner’s respect and silent acceptance of the techniques, decision of the judges and one’s own lack of ability (courtesy, compassion, morality and non-aggression). Learning humility and respect also goes a long way to bringing peace and tranquility into one’s life, and being able to control the state of emotions can greatly help us get through troubles that sometimes are inevitable. Not too different from the concept of shōganai.
Challenge yourself – integrity at its purest.
It’s easy to lose faith in humanity with every doping scandal we hear on the news or people cheating to get ahead. While it is possible to lie and cheat to others to get ahead in life, kyudo however isn’t about beating other people but rather to seek true betterment of oneself. The attitude of, ‘It’s legal as long as you don’t get caught’ doesn’t apply when seeking genuine improvement, nor does it benefit others in any meaningful way. Again, Shin (Truth in Japanese) forms the basis of Kyūdō, along with Zen (Goodness) and Bi (Beauty).
It be fun…
Though kyudo is at its most fundamental is something that’s taken pretty seriously, it’s hard to deny that it’s fun. It’s a balanced sport that’s well suited for various levels of fitness and it’s an elegant art that’s designed to teach good qualities that we can practice in everyday life. Many people mistake kyudo for what it is not: a highly interpersonal competitive sport and is not widely known. Nevertheless there are about half a million practitioners of the art today. So, for those who have always wanted to pick up a Budō art but found the sword arts too intense or the naginata (sword-on-a-pole) equally taxing – kyudo, The Way of the Bow, may be just right for you.
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