Kyudo, way of the bow

Kyudo, way of the bow

Learn about the Way of the Bow

Kyudo (or the way of the bow) is the Japanese art of archery. It has its own customs, philosophy, techniques, and equipment. This form of martial art has been around since prehistoric times and it boasts with over 500, 000 practitioners today, mostly Japanese students learning this martial art at school or university. Since it is a dangerous martial art it, is only taught to students older than 15 years of age.

The yumi (bows) are exceptionally long (over two meters) and asymmetrical and the grip is positioned two-thirds of the distance from the top of the bow. The yumi’s curve is different at the top and the bottom, resulting in an extremely powerful bow that can be drawn about half the height of the archer. There are modern yumi bows but most prefer the traditional yumi made from bamboo, wood, and leather.

Kyudo arrow shafts are called Ya and originally were made with bamboo with either eagle or hawk feathers (These days they use non-endangered bird feathers like turkeys or swans). You find them in male and female types that have feathers on opposite sides. The male version (haya) spins clockwise when shot and the female (otoya) spins in the opposite direction. Archers usually shoot two arrows in sequence, one otoya and one haya, firing the haya first.

Kyudo is not just for warriors or sport. Kyudo has been used in Shinto ritual since ancient times. The yumi has been revered as a sacred instrument that has the power to destroy evil, to protect, remove obstacles, to attract good fortune, to bestow magical powers and to cleanse the spirit. Even all over the world shamans used the bow as an instrument of power. One practice of the bow as a sacred instrument is to ward off evil. A Shinto priest will shoot an arrow over the entrance roof of a temple. The arrow will make a high-pitch sound as it flies and thus wards off evil spirits. It is part of an hour-long ceremony.

There are more to archery than most people realize. It is an instrument not just of war, or used for hunting, but there is also a deeper spiritual connection. Archery is a noble sport and should be respected.

Archers or archery in Anime:

Here is a list of anime series or movie suggestions with archery or archers as characters.

In InuYasha, both Kikyo and Kagome are Kyudo archers.
In Cardcaptor Sakura, Yuki and a girl compete in an archery completion.
In Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke) Ashitaka’s archery is Ainu style so it was not strictly of Kyudo tradition but it is worth a mention.

Learn more with us about what Kyudo means: Interview with Mamie Manayaki.  

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