Kyudo is a Japanese target archery
martial art. It is a highly meditative martial art whose ultimate
goals are Shin (Truth), Zen (Goodness) and Bi (Beauty). Styles
can be divided into two broad categories, shamen uchiokoshi and
shomen uchiokoshi. Shamen archers predraw the bow at an angle
to the body and fix their grip on the bow before raising it.
Shomen archers raise the bow straight over the head and fix their
final grip on the bow in a predraw above the head.
It is the oldest of Japan's traditional
martial arts. The bow has been used in Japan since prehistoric
times. From the fourth to the ninth century, close contacts between
China and Japan had a great influence on Japanese archery, especially
the Confucian belief that through a person's archery their true
characters could be determined. Over hundreds of years archery
was influenced by the Shinto and Zen Buddhist religions along
with the pressing practical requirements of warriors. Court nobles
concentrated on ceremonial archery while the warrior class emphasized
kyujutsu, the martial technique of using the bow in actual warfare.
With the introduction of firearms
the bow as a weapon was neglected and almost died out all together
until Honda Toshizane, a kyudo instructor at Tokyo Imperial University,
combined elements of the warrior style and the court ceremonial
style into a hybrid style which ultimately became known as the
Honda Ryu (Honda martial school). With the American occupation
banning all martial art instruction, traditional kyujutsu schools
declined further and when the ban was lifted, Kyudo, as opposed
to kyujutsu, became widely practiced. The Zen Nihon Kyudo Federation
(All Japan Kyudo Federation) was established in 1953, publishing
the standard kyudo textbook called the Kyohon. There now exists
a European Kyudo Federation.
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