Kyudo Notebook: Arrows

Yesterday we had a mini-taikai. Unfortunately I had dropped off four of my six kinteki arrows to have some damaged flights replaced, and they hadn’t arrived back yet, so I ended up using enteki arrows. “How much difference could it make?” I figured.

Quite a lot, it turns out, so much so that I’m curious to understand why. They’re thinner and lighter, yes, but I should have been able to compensate for that by changing the aim. Yet not a single one of them was kind enough to hit the target, so in a way I am torn… hope that my trusty old kinteki arrows will be waiting for me tomorrow, or try to figure this out?

In any case, now I know. There is an exquisite balance that should not be fooled with unnecessarily. I was talking to the teachers about tsurune, and one thing they pointed out was that the best tsurune is really a matter of having everything just right. The bow, the string, the arrow… all these must be “right,” not just among themselves but for the individual person. It’s a dependent arising, it seems, and it depends on all of those things. I guess my enteki arrows aren’t “right” any more…

Meanwhile I found a site for a kakeshi who makes and sells “soft” gloves, without the pre-formed tsurumakura. I’ve seen some discussion here and there about the advantages of such a kake versus the normal hard type, but I wasn’t sure where to find one. Now I know, though being able to afford one is another matter, since it seems they are all custom-made. If I understood correctly, the kakeshi is himself a hanshi. That sounds expensive.

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5 Responses to Kyudo Notebook: Arrows

  1. markagain says:


    just browsing through your blog… very interesting… thanks for sharing.

    so,… arrows…
    It is very difficult to give definitive advice on arrows because much depends on your technique.
    In principle you can shoot pretty much anything if your technique is good and you are used to it.

    Maybe google “archers paradox” if you haven’t already…
    all arrows bend when you shoot them and still fly straigth. The amount they bend needs to match the bow and the draw length or the arrow will strike the bow in leaving. In kyudo we pay little attention to the recommended spine weights (stiffness) that are common in western archery but obviously the laws of physics still apply and affect arrow flight. We just compensate for “discrepancies” by twisting the bow. Kyudo is unique in that respects, no other system of shooting requires an active bow hand.
    Maybe also look up “tsunomi technique” on youtube. If your tsunomi works then you can shoot anything irrespective of spine or weight you just need to get the torque right for your draw, bow strenth and arrow stiffness.

    Still to make life easier…
    generally the main thing is that arrows should be the correct weight for the bow.
    That is more to do with safety than anything else. Arrows that are too light may damage your bow.
    A formula many use is:
    arrow weight = bow strength/1000 + 11gr
    eg 14kg bow : 14gr + 11gr = 25gr arrow

    Anyway, the normal Easton 2015 arrows most people have will be about 31 gr.
    1913 arrows will be about 25gr so your enteki arrows most probably are considerably lighter (but still ok for a 14kg bow).
    No idea what bow you shoot so…

    For experienced archers weight can go down quite a lot (Shichibu = approximately 26kg bow, Shichimon =26.25g arrow was a guide for heki ryu archers at one time but today few could get away with arrows that light)

    If you shoot well light arrows are faster and very accurate as their trajectory is straighter but your technique needs to be good for that to work for you as they are often less forgiving of mistakes too.

    Spine (stiffness) and weight balance also makes the difference here.
    Both materially affect the compression of the arrow in leaving the bow.
    Thin arrows generally (unless they are carbon) bend more.
    If arrow deflection and speed don’t match to how much torque you apply to the bow then the arrow will hit the bow in leaving and will fly god knows where.

    For kinteki some recommend arrows with the centre of gravity slightly forward of the middle.
    For very light bows and for enteki some recommend arrows with a centre of gravity slightly back from the centre of the arrow.
    For kinteki arrows the weight balance forward compounds the stabilizing effect of the feathers so arrows right themselves quickly in flight.
    For enteki (or a low powered bow) trajectory is more important than a stable flight and arrows with weight back of centre tend to “rise”.

    It is very complex as so many factors (including you) play a part but what you can say is that a stiff and heavy arrow is more “dosile”. The bow has to work harder (actually works more efficiently in terms of energy transmission) with a heavy arrow. Arrow speed is lower but arrows are more stable.
    With stiff arrows the energy transmission is better and arrow speed is also faster as there is less vibration. So light and stiff (eg carbon) arrows give highest performance.
    With light arrows arrow speed is high of course, the bow works less effectively though, the arrow very quickly reaches maximum speed after which the bow string effectively runs “empty” behind the arrow unless your technique is very good and your left is strong.
    This is a strain on the bow too (a lot of shock when the string returns) and can lead to damage if arrows are too light.

    Likelihood is the enteki arrows are absolutely fine for the bow (unless your bow is 20kg or so) it is just you are not used to light arrows, they nock out too soon, bend too much, if timing is a little out or you apply too little torque in the bow hand they strike the bow in leaving…

    As for tsurune,… good tsurune occurs when the arrow leaves the string late. Then you get the sound of plucking a taut string.
    If the string flies empty and hits the uwa-seki-ita at speed you just get “thwack!” often 2 thwacks – one from the string and another from the arrow hitting the bow.
    Well matched (and familiar) equipment helps, as does a good strong left and a nice bit of hineri for a sharp release.

    maybe this helps…

    all the best

    • karamatsu says:


      Thanks very much for this. Much food for thought. You must have been practising a long time to acquire all this information? I’ve seen charts of recommended lengths and weights, for instance, in various books (especially when the author was proficient in both archery and kyudo) but it was never clear what formulas they were based on. Or even just the principles involved. The different factors there are really interesting. Is that the voice of experience alone or are those things written up somewhere?

      As for the arrows, I’m sure you are right and there would be nothing particularly wrong with using them. After all, I used them OK for enteki, at least at one point. But I just didn’t know how to adapt. Normally I use 8023 carbon shafts but these were 1914 aluminium, so lighter and much more flexible. Perhaps their unforgiving nature was revealing problems that I should work through regardless.

  2. markagain says:


    …not so much the “voice of experience”, just an ambitious amateur…
    It may be just unfamiliar arrows but maybe have a look at your arrow shafts (toward the ends), the fletchings and the to (the rattan bit on the bow), if there is significant wear your left is probably weak. That wear will appar on all arrows, carbon too.
    …or, as you seem concerned about tsurune… maybe also be that you increased the hight of your bow too much, shortening the string in hope of improving tsurune… doesn’t really work, just prevents tsunomi no hataraki from working so you get slapping sounds from arrows hitting the bow and it will eventually cause the bow (bamboo anyway) to get out of balance and fail.

    Your style of kyudo may be quite different from mine, so best ask your sensei to look at you and tell you rather than taking advice from one who has never even seen you. I am just making some general points which may, but may just as easily not apply.

    I practice heki ryu insai ha which is more “practical” and focused on technique, so there is a more technical approach to equipment too.
    The ultimate aim for us is getting the most energy out of the shot. With correct technique one can accelerate arrows beyond what the bow alone will deliver.
    It isn’t that the spiritual or formal aspects don’t come into it, we just believe that the study of the bow forms the spirit (yumi no kokoro) and nothing else.
    Ceremony and kimono etc come very late on in the day for us, typically after 10 years or more. For heki ryu chikurin ha they used to say 60.000 arrows to train the muscles, 60.000 to learn nobiai, 60.000 to perfect the form. 180.000 arrows before you are past being a beginner… even at 100 every day that takes about a decade.

    Most of our teachers are technically very competent and teach not just form, technique and history but about care, repair and making of equipment too.
    A few of them have gotten together recently and published this little volume on all things “kyugu” which may be of interest:弓具の雑学事典-森-俊男/dp/4789921301/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1294777972&sr=1-11

    I’ve trained with most of the authors and they are all very knowledgeable indeed.
    If you’d like to learn about technique and equipment that may be a good place to start.
    One of them, Ken Kurosu, has a very interesting blog:
    Toshio Mori answers questions on kyudo in an on-line forum. It may take a while to get an answer but he does know his stuff. Toshio Mori is the eldest student of Inagaki sensei and succeeded him as professor for kyudo at Tsukuba university.

    If you are interested in the physics of shooting maybe check out this student blog too:
    You’ll have to go back quite a bit to get to the articles on the physics of shooting but there is a lot of fun and interesting stuff there along the way.
    The approach may be quite alien to you: home made equipment and the annual kata-mono (shooting hard targets) competition… as I said, heki-ryu is more “practical”…
    Heki ryu was the style practiced by infantry soldiers. Accuracy and more importantly the ability to pierce armor was vital so a technique was developed to achieve maximum arrow speed and impact. This has been handed down virtually unchanged since medieval times and is still being practiced – and occasionally tested – today.

  3. karamatsu says:

    Thanks! In fact I just purchased that book in Sapporo over the holidays, but haven’t had a chance to really dig into it. Tsurune… not so much a concern as an interest, but I do find that I have to be careful about the height. I’m using a 4-cun nobi bow and the “right” height seems to be about 16cm. Any less than that and I start feeling/hearing some odd effects, but as you say, that could be me. I will check for wear on the arrows and yazuridou. I suspect you are right, though, because something I’ve been working on for a long time is that my left hand/arm will whip somewhat to the right at release before moving back to the left. I expect this is just reaction to the turning of the bow, but I’m not sure how to prevent it. Sometimes it’s a problem and sometimes it’s not. But in any case, it seems likely that that would result in the wear you’re talking about.

    Meanwhile I’ll check out the blogs and other links. Thanks!

  4. J-Boon says:


    I was reading the comments here, and I was wondering about something.

    1. Is the Yasurido area where the rattan is, meant to be the Japanese equivalent of a strike plate for the yumi?

    2. Since, its rattan, won’t the yasurido be worn out rather quickly? I’m guessing you will see individual rattan fibers? If so, how often and when do kyudo practioners make the call to change the Toh of the Yasurido?

    3. I assume that the wearing down of the Toh at the yasurido is a matter of time, and
    I’m aware that shops sell toh specifically for the Yasurido. When the repair of the Yasurido is done do you a) Sent it to a store with the replacement Toh to get it repaired or b) Do it yourself? Would it be too much to ask you how to replace the Yasurido if you have done it before?

    Thank you for taking the time to reply 🙂

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