Thursday, April 09, 2015

Memory Lane 懐かしい... Kyuudo 弓道 - Japanese Archery

One of the best things I did while I was in Japan was join a club.  I know it sounds corny, but it really was.

Kyuudo 弓道 - Japanese Archery

I learned a skill that has been around for thousands of years, met some of the greatest friends ever and I think it helped with my Japanese language skills... bit.

Its first noted recollection was during the Yayoi Period (500 BC-300AD) in the Chinese Chronicles, Weishu in 297AD.  Though Kyudo was used for combat purposes at one point, it eventually more of an art form or meditation.

I didn't know what I wanted to do when I first got to Japan but my councilor at the exchange office back at home told me to do something and stick with it for the full year.  It'll be worth it.

And she was right.

I decided to join the Kyudo Club because everyone was joining something at the time and I saw a poster of it. Actually, my good friend Kayoko was on that poster and I should actually thank her for unintentionally inspiring me to joining.

It was rigorous and at times frustrating because of the language barrier but I honestly made some great friends though the whole experience.

I'm going to put on some of my old post about my experiences as well as some of the pictures I took when I had the opportunity.

Practice hall or Bushitsu

This is where all the equipment was kept as well as where we practiced the forms.  I saw more of the outside than I did of the inside more often than not.  In fact...I probably saw the inside (this view) about 5-10 times....definitely < 10x.

The Matou or Targets (back by sand)

Here's what it looks like outside.  Usually when practice is going on, two people are in the back chanting/singing Ha~Na~Re meaning Release [arrow] after you let loose your arrow.

It's usually a whole progression of kata's or meditative movements but luckily, I had enough forethought to get most of the progression on camera as well as on video.

I've inserted my old blog of the day I got back from doing the whole routine back in 2008:

Yet again, this is more for my own purpose of remembering steps so yeah... it will be boring. If you want to know what I'm talking a about SKIP on down and watch the VIDEO at the bottom with the procedures I'm trying to explain.

Miki & Kayoko were teaching me for the past 3-4 weeks how to properly set up and do the entrance into the shooting area:

1) line up with the Sign thingie that I can't read because I'm Kanji Illiterate. Yumi in Left hand and Ya's in Right at your side but the parts behind you have to form a "V". The bow string should be up against your elbow and arrow similarly so.

2) one small step with the left foot and Rei (small bow) together.

3a) Start with another Rei and then go on your tippy toes and down. As soon as your feet are flat, both fists at your side need to almost punch in the direction of the floor and a loud "E!" need to shouted. All of this should be done in a 3 second count (3 byou)

3b) Also start with another Rei after A does their "E" and follow in suit with the tippy toes but when you should it would be "O!" instead as you thrust your fists towards the ground.

4) Now everyone as one need to step three times into the shooting area starting with the left foot. Left, Right, Left, sliding towards the Matou and on the left foot, you turn about face towards the right and bring your feet together. You should be in the center of the Doujo as well, centering yourself.

*** Note, when you finish the L,R,L, your bow will be pointing towards the Matou. Just before you do the about face, hold your bow straight so that when you turn, you don't hit the person in front of you. Then put your bow tip down towards your right. It shouldn't be touching the floor and should be about 10 cms hovering. If you don't have anyone in front of you, you can freely move your bow without holding it up straight and when trying to center yourself, the bow should be pointing directly at the front of you but centered as well.

5) Now that you are centered, you look to the left towards the Matou and move your left foot to create your "Ashibumi" or foothold/stance (whatever the meaning :P). Straight from the Matou look forward sweeping your head right in doing so. Then looks straight down at your right foot and adjust it to your left so they are Parallel.

6) Now that you've got your stance, you may lower you bow (modoshite???) and you turn the bow so that the string is not facing the outside anymore but rather towards you.

7) Bring both your bow and arrow so that your hands are about eye level and make sure your elbows are bowed out. Make sure you grip the arrows in your hand so that you can bring out the Haya out first.

*** Haya is the one with a thicker white seam on the top or left by the hane. Otoya is the one with a thicker seam on the right of the Hane.

8) Grip the Haya with your Left hand pointer, elbows still bowed, and with your right hand, Te no Uchi (??) or the back or hand facing you, find about half way down the arrow and slide it until your right hand meets the string. Now, the second and last time you grip the Ya, you hold it with your Kake, thumb facing you this time and bring it all the way towards the string as well. You only move the Ya twice and then hook it up to the sting or tsuru, making sure it is on securely. All the while, you still have your arms bowed out and the ya should be eye level to the point that if someone were to look at you from the opposite side of the ya, they shouldn't be able to see your eyes.

9) After you hooked your Ya, you take the Otoya and place it between your Middle and ring finger with the arrow head facing the other direction. Make sure to leave out a good 10 cms sticking out through the other side; arms still bowed out.

10) Now with that set up, with your MeTe, grab the string side of the bow, your pointer and middle finger facing out while your thumb is facing you and bring the Yumi down onto your Hidari Hiza (Lt Knee).

11) take your MeTe and place it on your right hip and then Ya wo Motte, or Grab the ya that is sticking out on the right side of the string with your MeTe. Grab the Ya by the head and place it on your hips just as you started.

12) Now you look at your Ya and Yumi and your do a check: Look above the Ya and below it. Down the Ya to the tip and straight at the Matou. now Hantai/reverse. When you are done you are ready to prepare your Kake.

13) Kake wo tsukete: take your MeTe and grip the Tsuru a bit below where you are actually supposed to hold it. Hold it a bit loosely at first so that you can slide it up to string and hitch it into a groove on the Kake. Once you are sure you have it ready and have heard the sound or felt that the Kake is hitched to the Tsuru, you can tighten your grip as well. Make sure you have your Pointer and Middle finger tilted slightly towards your direction rather than away.

14) Now you are ready to draw the bow. You look to the left for your Monomi towards the Matou (almost until it hurts) and then you slowly raise both hands up to Uchi Okshi. Kata o sagatte: Make sure you loosen you shoulders as they tend to tense during this.

*** Usually as this point, if you were behind the first person, you'd set you you Kake and have it rested upon your knee until you reach "Kai".

15)Daisan: from Uchiokoshi, your turn the Yumi & Ya towards the Matou, pulling the Yumi a bit further than before, usually until the Yumi is half way down the Ya. Make sure the Yunde's Tenouchi is now closed tightly and your thumb is pointing towards the Matou, pointing it a bit downwards. Your MeTe is slightly above the Yunde and make sure to loosen you shoulders as well as keeping your Monomi straight at the Matou. Make sure your Monomi is still locked towards the Matou.

16) Now you have to do that weird thing with you Hiji where you turn it so that it twists towards the right and is flat. As you pull both the Yumi and Ya down for "Hikiwake", use only the power from your Hiji and NOT the Shoulders. You'll also be pulling it at an ark towards yourself rather than a straight line BUT your Yunde as well as your MeTe need to be pulled down at the same time until the Ya is just above your Kuchibiru.

17) It is crucial at this point to make sure that your Monomi is definitely directed at the Matou and your Hiji is turned otherwise the Yumi's Tsuru may whack it...HARD! At Kai/Yudaoshi, you hold the Yumi and Ya for 5 byou and when you have the image in your mind on how to release the Ya, make sure you keep in mind the Matou as well as you MeTe while Yunde holds steady. When releasing the Ya, your MeTe must release at an ark about 45 Degrees.

*** If you are behind someone, at this point of Kai, you can start Uchiokoshi and follow all the way through the cycle.

18) Hanare/ Release

19) Yudaoshi: After Hanare, your arms are extended for a few seconds. Your Yunde is holding the Yumi and your MeTe is still holding the (final) Ya. For "Yudaoshi", you bring your fists to your sides once again just like the beginning and then turn the Yumi 1/3 the way to the left. Then you can finally release the Monomi by turning your head right and looking forward. Once you turn your head, you can touch the tip of the Yumi down onto the ground and then turn it again to the left.

20) You prep for the next round by bringing that last arrow in your MeTe held by your Pinky and Ring Finger to the side of your hips where you are holding the Yumi. Use the Thumb of your Yunde to hold the Ya as you grab it fully by your MeTe once again. The whole purpose of that is to get a better grip over the Ya with your fist rather than your weakest fingers. You should have the Ya head just below the pointer in a fist and then put it back to your waist.

21) Now you are going to follow steps 7-19 all the way through until the first time you turn your Yumi to the left. If there is someone in front of you, you raise the Yumi up right again and do an about face TOWARDS the Matou this time. Now you will be doing everything Hantai/Opposite from the beginning when you made your entrance.

22) Your Yumi should be in front of you centered and your legs still apart. With your Right leg behind you, bring it forward half way between its original spot and the left leg. Your arms are still at your sides in line with your chest and then you bring your left leg to join the half way point with the right leg. Don't pause and start stepping back from your right leg, then Left and right again until you are in light with that sign thingie that is in hard Kanji :P. You wait with your arms at your side as well as your bow still centered in front of you yet not touching the ground (about the hight of your fist) until everyone is done

23) When everyone else is done and if you are the last one to get back in line, you lift the Yumi up a bit to let them know that your are ready and as soon as that yumi starts to come down again, everyone "Yuu"s (deeper bow than Rei) and all is done.


I think that I actually nailed that shot.  Beginner's Luck, I guess.