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What Is Japanese Kyudo?

October 17, 2018

What Is Japanese Kyudo?

Japan is responsible for inventing some of the world's most popular and widely recognized martial arts, some of which include sumo, jujutsu, judo and aikido. While most of these martial arts involve hand-to-hand or sword-based combat, some involve bows. Kyudo, for example, is a traditional Japanese martial art that specifically focuses on bows. And while it may lack the popularity of the aforementioned martial arts, it's still a well-known style of martial arts that's practiced by countless men and women today.

Overview of Kyudo

Kyudo is a traditional Japanese martial art centered around the use of a bow and arrow. Like many other forms of traditional Japanese martial arts, it originated during the country's feudal period, when warring families known as daimyo were constantly battling one another. This paved the way for a new era of martial arts, eventually giving rise to kyudo as well as other martial arts.

It's believed that kyudo first appeared during Japan's Yayoi period (500 B.C. to 300 A.D.), during which the daimyo were slowly taking power of Japan. As this changed occurred, it prompted the need for new martial arts training. Samurai were required to train themselves with the fundamentals of archery so that they could better protect and serve the daimyo under which they lived. And the training regimen for archery eventually became known as a kyudo.

Different Schools of Kyudo

There are a variety of schools that teach kyudo. The purpose of these schools varies depending on its focus and origins. Some kyudo schools, for example, focus on ceremonial archery, so they emphasize aesthetics and form over military purposes. Other kyudo schools focus on combat utility.

The Nippon Kyudo Federation -- the Japanese martial art school that organizes kyudo competitions -- says the primary task of kyudo is to achieve the state of shin-zen-bi. So, what does this mean exactly? Although it's open for interpretation, most martial art historians agree that shin-zen-bi refers to the ability to shoot accurately and correctly in a natural manner.

Kyudo Today

With Japan no longer being governed by a feudal system, many of the country's traditional martial arts have faded from popularity. With that said, kyudo remains a well-known martial art that's practiced by many people, both in Japan and elsewhere.  According to the International Kyudo Federation, there are more than 132,000 members who regularly practice kyudo.


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