The Japanese bow, known as yumi, has hardly changed during the last 2000 years. It is in reality an asymmetrical longbow. It is exceptionally long (well over 2 meters). It’s asymmetrical in such a way that the grip is placed at two thirds down from the tip. This gives the archer the choice to use it standing, kneeling or mounted on a horse (yabusame).
The yumi is traditionally made of bamboo and wood. But today they are made of other materials also, such as fiberglass or carbon fibers. The reason for these other materials is that the bamboo bow is very sensitive to climate changes and may be damaged fairy easily by non-experienced archers. The string is traditionally of hemp, but today one often uses a mixture of hemp and Kevlar.
The length and strength of the bow is determined by the height and experience of the archer. All archers shoot to the left, regardless if one is right or left handed.
A special grip of the hand (tenouchi) must be learned in order to enhance safety, accuracy and beauty of the shooting. Sometimes fudeko (rice ash) is used a sort of talcum powder, to achieve the proper grip of the bow.
Even the arrows are traditionally made of bamboo, with flights of feathers from birds of prey. But today most archers who do not use a bamboo yumi use arrows made from aluminum or carbon fiber, with flights of feathers from turkey or geese.
One normally shoots with two arrows, one that spins clockwise and the other counter-clockwise, due to left- or right-sided feathers. The second arrow is carried in the right (string) hand.
The length of the ya is determined by the draw length of the archer (yazuka), and are kept in a cylindrical quiver that is not carried while shooting.
In order to grip the string, the Japanese archer uses a glove. The thumb of the glove is hard and has a groove (tsurumakura) to grip the string. There are different types of gloves; three- four-or five-fingered. Most archers use the three- or four-fingered type. The gloves are carefully fitted to suit the individual archer’s hand.
The reason for the glove is to enable the archers string hand to be completely relaxed, so as to not disturb the release of the arrow, giving it maximum speed and accuracy.
The friction needed by the glove to hold the string properly in the glove, (one does not use any strength of the fingers) is provided by giriko (resin powder) on the thumb of the glove. This powder also protects the working areas of the glove from wearing out. A good glove can last for decades.
Kyudo archers wear traditional Japanese hakama (pant-skirt), keikogi (training shirt), obi (sash) and tabi (Japanese socks). At somewhat higher levels, a kimono is often worn instead of the keikogi. Women also wear a muneate (chest protection), to protect them from the string.
In addition to this basic equipment, there is a myriad of other items intended for protection and maintenance of the equipment.
The equipment is usually purchased from Japan, but can also be purchased from a few other countries as well. New members will be assisted in the first purchases to ensure that the right equipment.