Kyujutsu (classical combat archery) was honed to a fine art during Japanís feudal era. Training consisted of shooting 1,000 arrows daily, and the ability to handle all types of bow with full draw. Every element connected with the shooting of an arrow was regimented to the smallest detail until the archer was in total harmony with his weapon.
In addition to being experts at hitting stationary targets, Japanese warriors were also adept mounted archers, able to nail a target with pinpoint accuracy while in full gallop. In the 16th century, firearms were introduced and the military art of kyujutsu declined and eventually evolved into a sport called kyudo. The art form it as unique as the weapon itself.
The Japanese bow (yumi) is almost 8 feet of laminated bamboo and wood. The grip is not centered, but is approximately one-third of the distance from the bottom of the bow. The bowstring is made of hemp and arrows range from 36 inches to 40 inches with 5-inch feathers. To become proficient in kyudo requires the same mindset used by the ancient Samuri.
In fact, Japanese archery was one of the 18 martial arts in which a Japanese samurai was expected to master. Japanese archery (kyudo) combines the physical art of archery with the philosophical principles of Zen Buddhism. While hitting the target dead center is considered the ultimate victory by Western archers, this is not so in kyudo.
The most important part of kyudo is the style and manner in which the art is executed. A practitioner is trained to “feel” the bow and arrow, and he or she must be able to mentally “project” the path of the arrow after it has left the blow and is en-route to the target.