Saturday, February 6, 2010

Kyudo in Ritual

While I was living in Japan I read the weapon with the deepest spiritual connection in the Japanese psyche is not the katana like many would believe. It is the bow.

"In Japan, the oldest written description of the bow appears in Japanese saga called "Kojiki (The Record of Ancient Japan). According to this volume, the bows were the sacred weapon used by the ancient Japanese gods and goddesses, and they were used not only for hunting but also as a symbol of the gods' holiness in many occasions such as religious ceremonies." (1)

"Legend says that Japan's first ruler was Emperor Jimmu, (illustration above) who ascended to the throne in 660 B.C. In paintings and descriptions of his life Jimmu is always depicted holding a long bow, a symbol of his authority." (2)

"From the fourth to the ninth century, China and Japan maintained close contacts and had a great influence on Japanese archer, especially held in the Confucian belief that through a person’s archery their true characters could be determined. A blend of Shinto and Zen Buddhist religions along with the pressing requirements of warriors influenced the existence of archery for over hundreds of years. Bows in the past started to be used for hunting in addition to warfare. Japan then adopted the ceremonial use of a bow from China and continued in Japan even after it ended in China. Kyudo also adopted the composite technique of bow manufacturing by gluing together splinters."(3)

Patrick Darden writes

"Modern Kyudo is descended from the Heki school of Kyujutsu, the art of killing by the bow, combined with a branch of ceremonial archery, the Ogasawara school. The branch of Kyujutsu, as all martial arts in Japan, embraced Zen as its spirit--possibly because of its lack of moralizing and its value in training the spirit of a warrior to actually be able to KILL. Ceremonial archery on the other hand emphasized the value of archery as an art form and a Shinto tool (as is evidenced by the usage of the bow at Sumo tournaments, Shinto rites and holidays, when a child is born, and specific events like coming-of-age-day). The sound of the string being plucked is supposed to strike fear in evil spirits' hearts, and the sound of a master-archer shooting is supposed to bring spiritual enlightenment. The combination of both forms is beautiful and appealing to the spirit."



1 comment:

  1. Howdy Partner, myt fine blog ya got here!