Kyudo Notebook: Statistics

The August edition of Budō 「武道」magazine has a interesting article by Matsuoka Makinori (International Budō University). Among other things he has a statistical breakdown of ANKF membership for the years 1993-2010. Overall the numbers have barely changed: 130,960 members in 1993, 132,099 in 2010. But within the various demographic categories, several things stand out:

Sometimes you read that kyudo in Japan is most popular among girls and women, but it turns out this was never true overall in the period with the published data. But it was true among high school students until 2008. So perhaps the idea comes from people who are only familiar with kyudo as a high school club activity?

Athough high school students are the largest category (46% in 2010), university students make up only 10% of the total, so apparently only a small number of high school students continue after graduation. This is borne out by observations at our dojo, where many people who start up as adults actually had some previous experience in high school, but the pressures of university and work/family life after graduation forced them to take a break.

Among adults (36% of the total membership), men outnumber women by about 3:2 right now, down from 2:1 in 1993. The number of men has been relatively steady over the years, dropping only slightly, while the number of adult women is increasing.

A trend hidden in the data is junior high school students. There have always been some (9% of the total), but in the last two years there has been a significant effort to increase kyudo education for junior high school students, so I suspect the statistics for 2011-2012 will show a marked change.

Among high school students the ups and downs for girls and boys are well-correlated, particularly up to 2008. It’s fun to try to figure out why that would be… media influence? There have been some television dramas that featured kyudo, for example. But then between 2008 and 2009 that changed drastically as the number of high school girls suddenly dropped 10%: some 3,500 students. If you figure the average club size is maybe 6-10 students that’s 350-600 schools dropping out all at once. Why? The number of boys continues to increase. Perhaps this trend will reverse as junior high school girls move up to high school?

The article also mentions internationalization of kyudo. Generally it’s seen as a great thing, but it also sounds like people are starting to worry a bit. It’s not so much xenophobia as wanting to protect what’s seen as kyudo’s core values… they don’t want it to become a mere competitive sport, as they’ve seen happen with some of the other budō as they became internationalized, and a more democratic, less tradition-bound, process took hold.

I don’t think this should be seen as a divisive point within the kyudo community itself, though, something that comes between Japanese and foreign kyudoka. After all, many, if not most, foreign kyudoka began their study for decidedly non-competitive reasons. It’s probably the only thing Yamada is right about. So we all have a stake in trying to find a way to maintain the core spiritual and moral goals of kyudo, come what may…

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