Someone asked for a good book. Looking at those I’ve read, I’d have to say that there really aren’t any that can substitute for spending time with a teacher. There are just too many subtleties. But there are some books that can provide an introduction, and others that can be extremely helpful as references and food for thought (and practice) once a person has begun. I thought I would start with this one.
The Kyudo Manual is an English translation of the first volume of the ANKF Kyudo Kyohon (弓道教本) series. Translation credits go mainly to Mr. Liam O’Brien, Kyoshi 6-dan (now 7-dan), and is based on the 1953 edition of the Japanese text. It is by far the most comprehensive English-language book that I have seen on the basics, and is invaluable in providing background information on the philosophy and inner attitude of kyudo, as well as the mindset of the masters at the time the text was compiled.
The parts of the text that will be of interest at first are the ones covering the four fundamental postures and eight fundamental movements, and then the shaho hassetsu. Later sections on ceremonial shooting (sharei) and demonstration shooting (enbu) are also very helpful for someone who needs to know or review the important points of those procedures. Worthy of study for anyone is the first section on kyudo history and its philosophical attitude, although some of this is expressed rather tersely and can be difficult, especially for someone unfamiliar with Chinese and Japanese thought. I suspect it’s the kind of material that a person could benefit by reading every year, or every six months, over a long period of practice, until through personal experience they can say, “Oh, that’s what that meant.”
So I’d have to say that this book would be well worthwhile for anyone practicing kyudo, especially those practicing according to the ANKF standards. It’s the kind of book you return to again and again (and again and again). Also on a practical note, since many of the shinsa written test questions are drawn directly from this text, it’s good to have, both for the material itself and for the Japanese technical vocabulary.
You can order it from the ANKF web site, pick it up at many of the kyudo equipment shops in Japan, and perhaps other places. The list price in Japan is ¥3,060.