Kyudo Book.


Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Aug 28, 2001
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Terre Haute, IN
I recently purchased the book "Kyudo: The Way of the Bow" by Feliks Hoff. (It was originally published in German and translated by S.C. Kohn.) It is a comprehensive book on the history, branches, equipment and materials, practice, teaching, competition, and promotion and ranking aspects of kyudo, with an emphasis on the standardized (ZNKR) and Heki Ryu systems. A large section of the 258 page book is devoted to correcting very specific common errors in shooting (63 pages) but the rest is very useful for those with a general interest in kyudo.

The importance on every movement being just so, and on zanshin and the improvement of focus/concentraion being a main goal of practicing the art, was clear. Some pictures showed the archer with a katana on his left hip which is one aspect of ceremonial/historical shooting (in armor, on horseback (yabusame), etc.). Shooting two arrows seems standard in competition or grading/demonstration, but there is a variety of forms of competition.

Let me just sample a few ideas from it, highlighting things I found interesting:

The concept of kyudo (vs. kyujutsu) occurred earlier than it did for for most other arts, probably due to the 1542 sale of muskets in Japan by the Portuguese. Guns were easier to learn than the bow and easier to make than swords. (pg.4-5)

The system of the author is the Heki Ryu Insai Ha, the Insai school of the Heki style, which is headed by Prof. Genshiro Inagaki. (pg.6) Numerous other schools exist; the best known is the Ogasawara Ryu, as well as ZNKR standardized kyudo (about 500,000 members). (pg.11-12)

A kyudojo traditionally has one side open, facing a roofed outdoor filed that serves as the target area. (pg.15) The target itself is called a makiwara. (pg.21)

Bows are made in three lengths because archers vary in body size. (pg.33) Modern quivers are very different from historical quivers. (pg.68) Beginners practice with a slingshot-like rubber practice bow called the gomuyumi. All the basic positions can be practiced with it. (pg.116-119)

The ZNKR grades start at 5th kyu and proceed through 10th dan. The titles renshi (min. 8th dan), kyoshi (min. 6th dan), and hanshi (min. 5th dan) are also used. (Details are given on what is required for the various ranks and titles.) The Heki Ryu systems has an additional system of six titles for the dan degrees, five of which are listed with the dan ranks to which they "correspond": jun mokuroku (2/3 dan), mokuroku (4/5 dan), mugonka (6/7 dan), Shindo no maki (8th dan), and shinanhyakushu (9th dan).(pg.212-219)
I posted a bit more about this here in response to the question of why one would practice a do art of this kind today.

In response to a question that I recall having been asked quite some time back (and possibly it was on rec.martial-arts, not here), yabusame, kyudo on horseback, is practiced by the Takeda and Ogasawara ryu, according to this book.It uses a 256 meter track with targets placed at 37, 115, and 188 meters, about 2 m. off the ground and only 3 m. from the track. Competitions take place in Sept. in Kamakura (this information may be out of date).
Thanks for the info and review, I'll be keeping my eye out for this book.