Kyudo: State of the Union

Well, no, not that State of the Union. There have been a couple of tutorials and taikai since the last post, and several things seem to be coming together, though I’m wary of the “magic key” effect. I want to get some things down in bits before I forget.

At the most recent tutorial one of the teachers (hanshi, 8-dan) listed five principles, five things to avoid:

  • Wasteful movement
  • Wasteful strength
  • Wasteful breathing
  • Wasteful seeing
  • Wasteful spirit

The term I’m calling “wasteful” is 無駄 (muda) which also has senses like “useless” or “unnecessary,” and here the idea is to avoid adding something that isn’t needed, or worse, something that actually leads you away from what you should be doing. I think a lot of the points below relate back to these ideas. As usual, a lot of what follows was advice given to me to solve my own problems, so don’t take it as universal. Some people were probably told the exact opposite!


  • Create the rounded ensou form of the left arm from the very beginning, when you lower the motohazu of the bow to your left knee. Create it then and don’t change it.
  • The emphasis on this ensou form relates to the idea that body, spirit, and bow should be one (sanmi-ittai). If you push the bow far away from your body, it will be difficult to develop that unity.
  • Up until torikake your face should be framed by the bow and the bowstring.


  • As you bring the right hand up to the nocking point, shift the bow to the right so that the center of the fletchings (as seen between the bow and the bowstring) is in line with the center of your body (as seen from the front, of course).
  • Maintain the ensou form.
  • Maintain the sanju-jumonji.
  • During this process, shift your center of gravity forward quite a bit. This was recommended to me because I have a tendency to twist my body, especially my shoulders, from uchiokoshi onward. Leaning forward stabilizes the lower body, which makes it harder to twist the upper body. What I’d been doing until this was using some force to keep my shoulders straight, but one bonus of using this forward shifting of the center of gravity is that no force is needed in the upper body.
  • Based on the ensou form of the arms, habiki must use the muscles/tendons running along the outside of the arms.


  • I need to twist my head more to the left and tilt my chin down a bit. For me, the correct turn of the head means that I’ll feel the stretch in my neck.
  • The movement of uchiokoshi is led by the right elbow. The rest of the arms just follow along. One benefit of focusing on the right elbow instead of the right hand is that it doesn’t tempt you to put strength into the right hand or wrist.
  • After habiki, don’t draw the bow any further apart as you raise it in uchiokoshi. I have an unconscious habit of doing that.
  • Maintain the ensou form.
  • Move slowly… take your time…


  • This movement is led by the back of the left hand, maintaining the 90 degree angle between the hand and the bow. This helps to maintain contact between the bow and the root of the little finger.
  • Keep the right wrist relaxed.
  • Maybe… raise the right elbow gently into daisan. I have to experiment a bit with this.
  • There is no squeezing/twisting feeling between the grip of the bow and the left hand from uchiokoshi to daisan. You just let the bow turn in your hand.


  • This movement is led by the outside of the upper arms, down near the elbows. Actually my usual way of drawing the bow is to do it from my feet, so I have to find a way to balance these two ideas…
  • Because I’ve shifted my center of gravity forward, the aiming point will shift more to the left.
  • There’s no need to really think about the left hand. Just the operation of tsunomi, and then don’t give in.
  • Move carefully and take care with the breath.

Kai -> Zanshin

  • Expansion in kai is led by the shoulders moving outward through the elbows, etc.
  • Both the shoulder blades and the chest open up, but this movement is not dramatic. When one of the hanshi was demonstrating I had a hard time seeing any movement at all at first.
  • Push… or maybe “gather” is a better term? the breath down into the tanden. Study breathing to understand the tanden.
  • Don’t use strength at hanare; use feeling.
  • Concentrate! Focus! (This is something I was told a lot, though I have to admit one of the challenges for me at the moment is where to focus, or what to focus on)


  • This movement is done in time with a full inhalation and exhalation.


  • This movement is also done with a full inhalation and exhalation.

General Points

  • Let the bow teach you the proper tenouchi. This implies the need to experiment and be sensitive to what it’s teaching you! There’s no need for any strength in the lower three fingers of the left hand.
  • Don’t blink. Blinking is an example of “wasteful seeing.” [In my experience, I blink when I lose concentration, or feel that one movement has ended and I’m about to move on to another, but movement and concentration should be continuous]
  • At the same time, when in the Kyudo Kyohon it tells you to keep your eyes focused on a point X meters in front, the point is not to focus intently on that one spot. Your gaze is set there, in a relaxed sort of way, but your vision is wide-angle, with peripheral vision taking in everything around you.
  • In Kyudo there’s a lot said about the heart (kokoro), but it’s not just that. Heart and body must be one (and the bow, too).
  • The left hand should not move left or right, up or down, at hanare/zanshin, though they sort of let you get away with a slight drop to shoulder height. There are various reasons why these movements do occur. Some have to do with spiritual focus. Others have to do with gripping the bow too tightly. Sometimes if you release the arrow on purpose, the left hand opens in sympathy with the right. All of that is “wasteful movement” or “wasteful spirit.”
  • There are some very good essays in volume 4 of the Kyudo Kyohon. Well worth the effort of dealing with some rather old-fashioned language.

Another tutorial focused just on kaizoe and I have some other notes, but need to stop now because someone wants to go to bed!


This entry was posted in daisan, hikiwake, kai, kyudo, kyudo notebook, mind, tenouchi, uchiokoshi, Uncategorized, yugamae, zanshin. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Kyudo: State of the Union

  1. Zen says:

    At frist I went OHHH NOO, Not more political stuff, not on a Kyudo Board. Whewwwwww, you got me! Great tips!!! _/|\_

  2. karamatsu says:

    Ha! Sorry for the scare!

  3. Paul R Over says:

    Tremendous post. Most of it already heard, but right on the issues. Some of them we easily forget them along the practice. Wonderfully arranged.
    I’m going tomorrow to Nagoya, my premiere in Japan. I’ll take a copy of this between the Kyudo Manual to reflect upon during the flights.
    Great post, thanks.

    • karamatsu says:

      Good luck in Nagoya! It’s a great dojo, but this time of year will probably be really, really cold! If you still have time before leaving, pack some long underwear (but choose a color that won’t be noticeable under your hakama!).

  4. Paul R Over says:

    During European seminar last summer a new small booklet/papers from ANKF was given to participants in A seminar. It has written in kai to think in nothing just focus, but because is dificult not to think on something, then think/focus on the maintaining the flux of energy keep going.
    Hope it helps.

    • karamatsu says:

      Thanks! One of my favorite Awa Kenzo quotes is something like, “At the full draw there is nothing. It is like water flowing.” What you’ve said fits well.

  5. Yuki says:

    Totally unrelated, but I seemed to have won the IKYF webpage lottery and have my photo as one one pictures tagged to a shinsa from last year…interesting…

  6. Yuki says:

    Oh and I finally finished “The Life-Giving Sword” you mentioned last time. I bookmarked about 6 sections that I’ll have to put my thoughts together on and drag them over this way…

  7. Yuki says:

    Are things ok where you are after the earyhquake?

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