Something I’ve always found curious about the Kyudo Kyohon is the number of times we’re told about ultimate goals, and how varied, at least on the surface, those goals seem to be. For example:
- Raiki Shagi: 射は仁の道なり (sha ha jin no michi nari). The English version translates this as “Kyudo is the way of perfect virtue,” [E. pg. ix] which conceals as much as it reveals since the Raiki Shagi we have in the Kyudo Kyohon is really excerpts (passage 2 and part of 11) from the longer Archery chapter of the ancient Confucian Raiki, and 仁 (jin) can’t be fully understood outside that context. You can think of it as being a complete human being (both internally and in relation to others), and shooting as a path (michi) to that accomplishment. It’s the central goal of Confucian practice and the more I look the volume one, the more it seems to be permeated by Confucian ideas. Some of this is very explicit, of course, (J. pp. 37-41, E. pp. 17-19) but in other places it’s more implied. Or seems to be.
- Uno-sensei is said to have “emphasized the following points as the main objectives (眼目, ganmoku) of Kyudo: to study the principles of shooting and the art of shooting, to apply the formalized movements based on etiquette, to improve the level of shooting and shooting dignity, and [my favorite] the necessity to strive for perfection as a human being.” [J. pg. 16, E, pg. 8]. The word translated as “perfection” (完成) could also be taken as “completion.”
- “Our goal in Kyudo is not the hitting of the target. On the contrary, the expression of harmonious beauty is the objective of the shooting.” [J. pp. 16-17, E. pg. 9].
- The keys [要諦, youtei] to Kyudo are said to be sincerity [至誠, shisei] and courteousness [礼節, reisetsu]. [J. pg. 17, E. pg. 9] For a long time, I wondered about the meaning of “sincerity,” there, thinking that it meant something closer to honesty, but it seems that 至誠 also has the connotation of “wholehearted effort,” so it’s not just being honest but also fully committed.
- “The highest goals of Kyudo are Truth (真, shin), Goodness (善, zen), and Beauty (美, bi)”. [J. pp. 42-44, E. pp. 19-21] Here it’s useful to recognize that, in Confucianism, zen (not to be confused with 禅, the Buddhist Zen) isn’t some kind of abstract concept (“The Good”) but seems to revolve around goodness in relation to others. Likewise beauty is not just elegance or something pleasant to look at, but has the sense of “The beauty of that which is true; The beauty of that which is good.” [J. pg. 43] which seems to be the origin of one of my favorite sentences in the English translation, “[Beauty] is the form of truth expressed in the application of good.” [E. pg. 20]
- “There are those who with much hardship have exerted themselves in pursuit of the quintessence (真髄, shinzui) of Kyudo. In this demanding way, it has relentlessly been studied by many great archers. Although seeking for the highest level of practice is not the ambition of everyone, practitioners of Kyudo should still be aware of the spiritual aspect. Then the popular aspect of Kyudo will have a relationship to the deeper parts of the practice. Without this relationship, the popular aspect will be shallow and empty.” [E. pg. 21, J. pg. 45]
- “To many it might seem an unreasonable notion, but nothing is more distasteful in Kyudo than shooting based on this attachment to the act of hitting. In our daily lives also, we often experience this kind of attitude, but the reality of this desire is more evident in our shooting so that through our practice the importance of the right attitude toward desire is found and our lives can be experienced more profoundly. In this context expressions like “Shooting is Life” (Sha Soku Jinsei), “Shooting is Living” (Sha Soku Seikatsu) or “Shooting is Standing Zen” (Sha wa Ritsu-Zen) take on significance.” [E. pg. 21, J. pp. 45-46]
- “It is true that we can do nothing without technique, but technique alone does not give the depth to our performance. We must unite both aspects into one by attaining a stage where technique and spirit are braided into one rope… The two aspects are not distinct, but must always be considered as one. In unity these two poles will merge into the condition beyond division. The technical aspect and the spiritual aspect, while different in external form, once they are united and internalized, then no distinction will arise between them. This will produce the noblest values in attitude and performance.” [E. pg. 22, J. pg. 47]
- “Sanmi-Ittai means the unity of the three essentials, Body, Spirit, and Bow as one body… For the practitioner of Kyudo, the vital question is how to create this unity…. By seeking these qualities in our training, we will realize the “Five Virtues.” (these are the Confucian virtues of Benevolence, Justice Courtesy, Wisdom, and Sincerity).” [E. pg. 24, J. pg. 52]. This is Uno-sensei (宇野要三郎先生, 1878-1969) again, commenting on the Raiki Shagi. The Japanese text does not explicitly identify these as Confucian virtues, but any educated person of his time would have recognized them as such. Uno-sensei had quite an influence on the Kyudo Kyohon. He was kaicho (president) of both the wartime Budokai and the postwar ANKF, so in addition to Kyudo itself he had to navigate the politics of both the wartime government and the post-war occupation forces. Anything involving martial spirit was of central concern to both.
- “Present-day Kyudo has no practical application… Its purpose today is to realize the physical and emotional well being of the person and develop the personal qualities that will enrich our lives… Our aspiration should be to become the kind of archer who has beauty and refinement in his shooting, growing into a mature and dignified personality.” [E. pg. 27-28, J. pg. 57-59]
- “By performing these actions [the fundamental forms and movements] through the concentration of right attitude, the archer will over a period of time cultivate those qualities of personality that are the highest goal of practice.” [E. pg. 29]. I do not see this passage in the Japanese text of either the 1971 or the 1956 editions. Maybe that’s a sign that I should go to bed! That phrase, “right attitude” or “right belief” appears several times in the text and I’ve always found it mysterious. What attitude/belief? Attitude toward what?
- “The various stages [shahou hassetsu] until now have been done to attain the full draw (Kai) in which the spirit, body, bow and arrow are harmonized as one. In this unified condition the waiting is maintained until the time ripens to ‘brim with the fullness of spirit,’ ceaselessly expanding to ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ and to the left and right (Nobiai) until the opportunity for release arrives. To attain this is without doubt the perfection [極致, kyokuchi, culmination/acme] of shooting.” [E. pg. 68, J. pg. 115] Strictly speaking this is not described as an ultimate goal of Kyudo but still… perfection in shooting must be part of that, or a path to it.
- “The full draw (Kai) is, psychologically speaking, the continuity of an imperturbable spirit. Removing attachments, desire, and worldly thoughts towards the target, at the full draw you must wipe away negativity like doubt, anxiety, faintheartedness, fear, and self-depreciation and make the effort to fulfill the spirit with self-control, composure, endurance, and determination, founded on the right belief. This disciplining of oneself is the very precious way connected to Shasoku-Jinsei — Shooting is Life. [E. pg. 70, J. pg. 119].
- “The purpose of Japanese Kyudo is not only competition but cultivation of the mind and body, as a way to achieve self-perfection.” [E. pg. 75, J. pg. 128]. As in second point, “self-perfection” is 自己完成 (jiko kansei), so you could also say self-completion.
- “With this awareness [of the importance of etiquette], the movements of the shooting will become graceful and solemn, creating a state of spirit in which there is serenity and purity of heart, which is the harmony of shooting and etiquette. The application of this sincerity to each arrow is the principle object of Kyudo.” [E. pg. 76, J. pg. 128] What’s being called “etiquette” here is 礼 (rei), another one of those very deep Confucian terms. In their book, The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation, [really fascinating and my source for a lot of the perspectives on Confucianism] Ames and Rosemont say, “Li [J. rei] are those meaning-invested roles, relationships and institutions which facilitate communication, and which foster a sense of community. The compass is broad: all formal conduct, from table manners to patterns of greeting and leave-taking, to graduations, weddings, funerals, from gestures of deference to ancestral sacrifices — all of these, and more, are li. They are a social grammar that provides each member with a defined place and status within the family, community, and polity.” [pg. 51].
- “Shooting, which in this way places a strong emphasis on the spiritual, should be pervaded with sincerity and courteousness and through the shooting express your heart and the beauty of harmony.” [E. pg. 76, J. pg. 129]. This echoes the third passage, above.
Clearly it is possible to synthesize these, and treat them as slightly different signposts all pointing toward the same place. But the big surprise, as far as a 21st century practitioner goes, is the strength of the Confucian influence. I wonder how much that really permeates modern Kyudo thought? I mean, at the highest level? The Hanshi I have met, when they talked about the philosophical side of things, usually express it in more Buddhist terms, using expressions like mushin or muga, terms that I don’t think occur in volume one (but I could be wrong about that, so someone please correct me if so). The only time a teacher ever made explicit reference to Confucianism was at a lecture during a Kyudo tutorial that was sponsored by the larger Budo organization, which does seem to have at least a partial Confucian emphasis. There is more to say on that, but I don’t want to get political.
What I think you can say is that there is an underlying belief that, through the discipline and practice of Kyudo (and other “Ways”), a person can forge themselves into a better human being, both individually and, perhaps even more crucially, in the context of relationships with other people/society. Because shooting is, at least in one sense, a solitary activity, I think we may neglect the interpersonal aspect to some extent in modern practice, but the relationship aspect is very much there in the Kyohon and, of course, in such practices as sharei, taihai, the duties of kaizoe, etc. If you watch renshi shinsa, and the mochimato sharei that is the second part of the test, sometimes you see groups that really are synchronized, both physically and spiritually. Other times it seems like people are just shooting for themselves, going through the motions but with easily discerned gaps. It makes a huge difference, and it’s something I need to work on.
But of course the real point is that, if shooting is life (sha soku jinsei), then we have to carry all this into our daily lives and not just leave it in the dojo. That’s difficult because random people in the shopping mall (not to mention government) won’t usually have, or even value, that sort of discipline. Maybe that’s why Confucius always seems like a tragic figure, trying to show by words and example how people and society should be, but always confronted by how it is? But I guess all ethical and moral standards are like that. It’s a question of what you are willing to sacrifice for.
In any case, for Kyudo practitioners, I think it’s worth looking at all these statements about ultimate goals and thinking what they really mean, and whether that’s where we, as individuals, really want to go. If it is, then it seems we need to pursue it wholeheartedly, and dive into the depths.