Technique and practice
The physical technique of kuydo is deceptively simple. The shooting process consists of eight stages (Hassetsu). These stages are never deviated from, no matter at which level you practice. They have been formed by centuries of experience at archery, and will ultimately allow for a perfect shot that naturally hits the target.
Ashibumi is the foundation for proper shooting— the positioning of the feet for the best stability.
The posture off the upper body. Focus on the parallel relationship between feet, hips and shoulders—the “three-cross relationship” (sanju jumonji).
Preparing the bow for shooting. It includes gripping the string with the shooting glove (torikake), holding the bow (tenouchi) and moving your gaze to the target (monomi).
4. Uchi okoshi
Raising of the bow as preparation for the draw.
The drawing of the bow. The first stage is a preliminary “half-draw” (daisan), followed by the full draw. In kuydo the full draw is so large that the right hand (string hand) ends up behind the ear.
Kai is he completion of all the previous stages into the full draw. Kai means “meeting” of these five stages, and is essential for a proper release of the arrow. Kai may seem as an inactive stage, but is actually full of activity.
The release of the arrow. Hanare means “separation”, the natural consequence of a “meeting” A proper execution of all the stages into a proper kai and a proper execution of kai will, at best, result in a natural release—whereby the string is torn from the shooting glove by its own force. Such a release will make the arrow fly straight and fast with the greatest possibility for a strike.
After the release, the shooting sequence continues into zanshin (remaining spirit). Maintaining this stage for a short time after the arrow hits sends the remaining sprit forth, letting the energy built up toward the release dissipate, and any mental reactions to the result fade away.
Parallel to the technique of shooting, involving the body and the bow, it is important to practice mental awareness, in order to develop the presence and calm which is essential for proper kyudo practice. For this there is no one way of doing it. Every practitioner has to find her or his own way. But the purpose is to find one’s own way to the perfect harmony of the three elements—body, bow and mind (sanmi ittai).
Principles and guidelines and more detailed descriptions for all aspects of practice can be found in the ANKF Kyudo Manual (Kyohon).