Review: Waza wo Kiwameru Kyudo

Cover Photo

Waza wo Kiwameru Kyudo

Since I just mentioned this book I thought I would write a little more about it, because it’s kind of unusual. The author, Takayanagi Noriaki (kyudo 5-dan) holds a 9-dan rank in (Western) archery, and has coached many winning teams, including, apparently, the Japanese Olympic team. As a result, he has some unique opinions about kyudo, and some creative methods for dealing with common problems. You might say he brings a bit more of an engineering approach to kyudo, as, for instance, the comment about how to obtain maximum power from the left arm by aligning the radius and ulna. I guess that sort of mechanistic analysis, optimizing a little here, a little there, is typical these days of someone who trains athletes to excel at a sport, and so the book really aims at those fine points.

As another example, he goes into some detail on choosing the correct arrow shaft based on yazuka and the draw weight of the bow. Here the primary thing you’re looking at is the degree of stiffness in the shaft, which has to be measured. You want something “not too stiff” and “not too flexible,” and he gives a way to determine that, along with a table using common shaft specifications. Also as you might expect, he has a lot of advice about competition and how to be at your peak when the moment comes.

There is also some anatomical information (like the point I mentioned above) and advice on mental training, or for instance, here he shows a simple trick to train a kyudoka to keep their right wrist relaxed and so avoid the phenomenon called つまみ引き (tsumamihiki):

Using Hashi to Train Right Wrist

Solving つまみ引き

This is common among beginners, who tend to start out drawing the bow with the strength of their hands. I’m not sure how clearly it stands out in the photo, but what he does is slip a pair of hashi between the himo and the back of the kake. This will make it impossible for the student to extend their wrist (cause the back of the hand to rise up toward the back of the forearm), so they should quickly learn to keep it relaxed. A lot of time the problem in kyudo training is that the teacher may tell you to do (or not do) something, but it’s hard to tell if you are (or aren’t) really doing it without some kind of sensory feedback. The hashi give you that, plus it seems like a very “Japanese” solution somehow, using such an everyday object.

So it’s really quite useful. I tend to use this book in the same way I use so many of the others, as a kind of reference for when I’m having difficulty. Each author, each book, has its own perspective and its own set of techniques. You wouldn’t want to use this one to learn the basics of taihai or the hassetsu (though he provides good advice on the fine points), but as an addition to some of the others, it can be quite good, going where no other book does.

List price is ¥1,200 and it’s available in bookshops in Japan or from Amazon. By the way, I provide these links to Amazon Japan just for reference and because I know they ship worldwide. I’m sure there are other on-line sources as well.

Just as a note, I’m not sure what the 9-dan ranking really means in Western archery. Is there such a system? Maybe the Japanese Archery Association just felt compelled to create one, but I’m not sure what their criteria are. Something to look into someday.

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