The Art Of Samurai Archery (kyudo)

The Art Of Samurai Archery (kyudo)

The samurai needed to be trained in the arts of the warrior. This included, above all else, archery. The bow and arrow were their most important weapons of war. It was considered shameful to lose an arrow that you did not shoot, but it was also considered just as shameful to miss your target or hit an innocent bystander. Samurai would train for hours at a time during the day and sometimes all night long.


The practice of bowing before shooting is said to have originated with Kyūshū samurai who, during the Genpei War (1180-1185), shot arrows upwards so they would rain down on warriors on horseback below. There are some stories that say Tokugawa Leyasu himself would catch the arrows in his palms. He was also known to have shot an arrow into the breastplate of a suit of armor, then fired another arrow into the same spot from behind.

Archers were divided up according to their individual bow length and shooting distance. There were units trained for short-range combat (50-70 paces) and units trained for long-range combat (70-100 paces). Samurai would practice from dawn to dusk, sometimes all night long.


Archery contests were popular entertainment during the Edo Period. The contests would be held in a large archery field and the targets were carefully constructed, with straw wrapped around the wood and then covered with rice paper which was in turn painted with a picture.


The samurai would shoot for half the day and in the evening, there was often a banquet or party held to watch fireworks displays. Archery contests were also held at shrines and during festivals. Samurai would compete with their master’s bow.


They would pay for themselves in a contest but if they won, the prize money was given to their master instead of to them. During the Sengoku period, samurai archery evolved into Ichi-no-Tachi or the “one-cut method.”


The samurai would draw their bow, hold it for a moment at full draw, and release it so the arrow was released on the downstroke. This meant that the speed of the arrow was greater than normal allowing for deeper penetration.

Samurai archery took place in three steps: knocking, drawing, and losing (heojutsu). The knocking step involved one or two men walking forward to check that all the arrows were properly set on the bowstrings. The drawing step involved taking a position on one knee, placing an arrow on the string, bringing it back to full draw, and carefully aiming before releasing. The losing step involved letting go of the arrow.


After the samurai era, Japanese bows and arrows were used for hunting rather than warfare. Target shooting became popular in Japan due to Western influence at the end of the 19th century. Nowadays, Japanese bow makers continue to produce high-quality traditional bows, while archery is still practiced in modern Japan by samurai reenactors known as Gendai budō.

Japanese Archery

You may not be able to imagine this, but Japanese archery is actually one of the oldest forms of archery in history! The history goes back as far as 200 BCE- yes that is before Christ! It has gone through many different changes over the years and it is still practiced today by many people around Asia. 


Japan is often thought of as an island country because approximately ninety-eight percent of the islands are located in the Pacific Ocean. However, only four percent of the land is actually located on one island. Japanese archery has a long history that dates back over 2000 years to around 200 BCE, during which time it was heavily influenced by Korean archery. Over the centuries the form changed and evolved into what is seen today in Japan. There are many different types of Japanese bows, separated by time period and the social class of the archer.

Japanese history is split up into many different periods including pre-feudal Japan, feudal Japan, and modern history. 

Pre-feudal history included that of early history in Japan while it was still developing, though not much is known about history before the Nara period. During this time, there were many different types of bows used by Japan. The bows and arrows are used as the archers’ armor to protect not just themselves but their tribe. Most of these bows were very similar to those used during feudal history.


During feudal history, which includes history from around 900CE to 1900CE, archery was highly regulated by the state and many different types of bows began to emerge during this period. One notable bow is the hankyū. The hankyū has a short stave measuring less than two feet and is used by horseback archers. The bowstring was protected from the elements such as water and dirt by a piece of cloth that wrapped around the string.


Modern history. During modern history, which encompasses history from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 through to today, civil war has been rampant in Japan, with many different armies competing for control over Japan. Archers were common on both sides of conflicts. Today, archery is still practiced in Japan by many people.

What is Yumi?

Yumi is a Japanese archery bow that differs from the bows of other countries. It has a certain set of characteristics, which includes the bow being slightly curved, shorter limbs, and more string pieces. The Yumi is traditionally made of bamboo.

The archer uses their shooting technique to achieve the ideal trajectory. They also have to concentrate on where they want to strike their arrow before they shoot. Different types of arrows are used depending on the archer’s preference or style, including longer arrows for long distances or shorter arrows for close-range shots. Modern archers are using fiberglass instead of bamboo because it is easier to produce and less prone to breaking.


The archer must align their Yumi with the target and angle it slightly upwards as they shoot. Since the archer only holds the Yumi on one side of their hand, it is easy for them to adjust its angle as needed. This makes archery more difficult than other styles where archers hold sturdier Yumi in both hands. However, archers are able to move the Yumi’s angle more quickly than archers with sturdier Yumi who hold it in both hands. There are different types of archery styles that archers use depending on their preferences and goals.


The Japanese archer’s Yumi is not just a simple archery bow. It is a cultural archery bow with many different techniques, styles, and features. The Yumi was first used by the Heian Period archers for hunting games to feed their families. During the warring states period, archers would continue to use these bows for archery battles or archery duels.


Archers would sometimes do an archery duel if they were to get in a dispute. Eventually, the Yumi archery bow grew in popularity and became well-known throughout Japan. 

Yumi is a Japanese archery bow that differs from the bows of other countries. It has a certain set of characteristics, which includes the bow being slightly curved, shorter limbs, and more string pieces. The Yumi is traditionally made of bamboo.


The archer uses their shooting technique to achieve the ideal trajectory. They also have to concentrate on where they want to strike their arrow before they shoot. Different types of arrows are used depending on the archer’s preference or style, including longer arrows for long distances or shorter arrows for close-range shots. Modern archers are using fiberglass instead of bamboo because it is easier to produce and less prone to breaking.


The archer must align their Yumi with the target and angle it slightly upwards as they shoot. Since the archer only holds the Yumi on one side of their hand, it is easy for them to adjust its angle as needed. This makes archery more difficult than other styles where archers hold sturdier Yumi in both hands. However, archers are able to move the Yumi’s angle more quickly than archers with sturdier Yumi who hold it in both hands. There are different types of archery styles that archers use depending on their preferences and goals.


The Japanese archer’s Yumi is not just a simple archery bow. It is a cultural archery bow with many different techniques, styles, and features. The Yumi was first used by the Heian Period archers for hunting games to feed their families. During the warring states period, archers would continue to use these bows for archery battles or archery duels.


Archers would sometimes do an archery duel if they were to get in a dispute. Eventually, the Yumi archery bow grew in popularity and became well-known throughout Japan. 

Kyudo: A Japanese Martial Art of Archery

“To shoot well in kyudo, one must remain serene and balanced, even at times when the body is being pushed to physical limits. The focus on mental clarity allows practitioners to experience a sense of simplicity. Kyudo adds complexity by increasing the number of variables that must be considered when shooting an arrow.”


Kyūdō is a form of archery where archers practice traditional Japanese archery in ceremonies and competitions. Kyudo is thought to be one of the oldest martial practices of Japan; it arose in its current form around the fourteenth century. For Kyudo, a bow is a tool of meditation as well as a weapon; it has been called “a physical expression of the Japanese philosophical view of harmony and balance.” As such, Kyudo is often described as a martial art or spiritual practice rather than simply a sport.


In Kyudo, one does not aim at a target as much as “throwing” the arrow in that general direction. In order to hit the target consistently, it is necessary to have trained for thousands of hours, and even then, it may be difficult. Kyudo has been described as similar to golf or archery; both require patience and discipline, and both demand the concentration of the participants to achieve an ideal state.

Korea Archery Association

Importance of Archery in Japan

Bow and arrow is thought to be one of the oldest forms of hunting in Japan. Archery is also considered to be the national sport of Japan. This form of hunting has been steadily declining in popularity throughout the country but it still maintains a huge significance in Japanese culture.


Hunting has been an important part of Japanese life since the time of their ancestors, and it is one activity that reinforces Japanese nationalism. From an anthropological perspective, it can be argued that the bow and arrow are vessels for symbols that are ingrained into heritage. The mark left by an arrow on a victim was considered honorable by samurai warriors because it represented their dominance over another human being. Similarly, the act of killing itself was considered to give ultimate power to those who wielded it.


The technique of archery is also greatly admired in Japan’s culture. There are several schools that have been established to preserve the art of Japanese archery by teaching it as a martial art. In these schools, there are strict regulations and codes that govern the kinds of bows that can be used, distances between shooters, types of targets, and rules for shooting them. There are also formal ceremonies and etiquette observed during practice and competitions that highlight Japan’s high regard for this ancient tradition.


From a religious perspective, the bow and arrow became associated with various deities of Shinto, Buddhism, and folk religions throughout Japan. Emperors were thought to be descendants of gods with the ability to shoot special arrows called “heaven’s arrows” that only they could use. The bow was also thought to have the ability to ward off evil spirits, which is one reason why it remains an important part of Japanese culture today.

Share your love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.