Wa-Kyu and Shaho-Hassetsu
the longest bow in the world!
The usual bow in western archery is about 160 cm. On the other hand, a Wa-Kyu for Japanese archery is 221 cm, the longest in the world! Although the bow string was originally made of natural materials like hemp, synthetic fibers are starting to become more widespread.
Shaho-Hassetsu, the most important eight steps!
When you are a beginning archer, you should not think about hitting the target. Just focus to learn the most important eight steps, eventually it will hard to forget!
1. Ashi-Bumi: Making a perfect A-line posture with your stance at a 60 degree angle.
2. Doh-Zukuri: Making a perfect A-line posture while stabilizing your body.
3. Yugamae: Setting up the bow while glancing at the target.
4. Uchi-Okoshi: Raising both the bow and arrow(s) before pulling the string.
5. Hiki-Wake: Pushing the bow and pulling the string horizontally.
6. Kai: Pushing the bow while pulling string with all your strength. This step is when you should try and aim at the target.
7. Hanare: Releasing the arrow, while making no other movements.
8.. Zanshin: After releasing the arrow, move to the proper posture and adopt a clear mind.
The traditional Japanese martial art of wielding a bow used to be a tool for hunting or a weapon for battle.
There are approximately 2,000 people, including students, acquiring the way of Japanese archery in Ishikawa. Most cities or regions within the prefecture have a Kyu-Doh-Joh (dojo for practicing the art), and I go to the Matto Kyu-Doh-Joh in Hakusan city almost everyday.
The bow and arrow was created as a tool for hunting or a weapon for battle, as you know from your own culture. In Japan, once upon a time, archery was sort of required training for Samurai, and many great archers had existed. The martial art has been adapted as a merger of the tool, the technique, and one’s meditation.
After feudalism came to an end,
the accomplishments of the Samurai seemed to disappear.
Since the feudal era of the Tokugawa shogunate came to the end, such mandatory training went with the Samurai. Only those who were considered Samurai were permitted to use archery, thus the new age brought a fall to the traditional martial art. Instead, ordinary people enjoyed it as an amusement of sorts, although it was more commonly used for gambling. It seemed like we were going to lose this aspect of our culture, but fortunately it survived! Some serious Kyu-Doh masters kept on to preserve the proper way of the bow. Then, the age of war started. The Japanese government recommended that the people study martial arts in order to train their mind. Kyu-Doh was also used in this manner. Respect, politeness, and innocence are the necessary accomplishments of the archer. When I first started to learn Kyu-Doh, my Sensei (instructor) told me, “Do not try to aim at the target! Just concentrate on the routine to complete your posture! Once you learn that, everything else will naturally follow you! It was tough to take his advice to heart, especially as a beginner! But, I persevered and gradually improved my posture. Hitting the target is not necessarily the goal of Kyu-Doh. You shouldn’t do it to beat someone or to fulfill your own sense of pride. This is why Kyu-Doh is so perfect for me. It’s nota competition against someone else, but against yourself. Control your ego and hold back your desiresto become pure and innocent!
At a competition or a ranking test, we always bow both to the judges and also to the targets to show our respects.
Renaissance of the martial art established through the way of Japanese archery.
Let’s complete the eight steps!
Shaho-Hassetsu literary means “the eight principles for one’s shooting technique”. It was established after World War II, and learning the steps is officially recommended by the Zen-Nihon Kyu-Doh Renmei (All Nippon Kyudo Federation). We first learn the movements while breathing in and out. It will eventually synchronize your body and soul. When I started to learn Kyu-Doh, the string often hit my cheek. That hurts! Therefore, the posture is very important for your own safety as well. You will also be surprised to see the long distance from the shooting position to the target. Although this beautiful bow is the longest in theworld, it’s only made out of natural bamboo. Is it possible for a beginner to hit the target on their first try? Of course not, and my first arrow didn’t even come close. Beginners use a Maki-Wara (straw target) for training, starting at a short range, increasing the distance as one improves their skill.
I recommend that you observe this martial art when you visit Kanazawa. You can stop by the “Kenroku-En Kyu-Doh-Joh” after visiting the great garden or watching a Noh performance. You will see some archers in their Hakama uniforms quietly training. They will be willing to show you their practice, but please try to be quiet while observing!
Also, let me introduce a nice Kyu-Doh event for the biggest annual festival in Kanazawa, “Hyakumangoku Matsuri” in June! You can see the achievements of many archers at Kanazawa-Jo Castle Park, and they will conduct lectures before lunch time. Why don’t you give it a shot?
Join the Kyu-Doh Festival
at Hyakumangoku Matsuri! It’s a great opportunity to try Japanese archery!
•Date: Jun 5, 2011 (11:00-12:00)
•Place: Kanazawa-Jo Castle Park
*Reservation required until 11:00 am.
*Space limited to first 100 applicants.
*Schedule is not yet set in stone, so please verify beforehand!
4-18-1, Ishibiki, Kanazawa / Map
Open: Everyday (9:00-21:00)
*Please be quiet when observing!