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Quotes From Zen in the Art of Archery | Independent Society

Beauty both enhances life and stimulates the spirit. In kyudo, truth and goodness, themselves, are considered beautiful. Beauty can also be found in the exquisite grace and artistry of the Japanese bow and the elegance of the traditional archer's attire. It is also present in the refined etiquette that surrounds the kyudo ceremony.

Much has been written about the philosophical connections of kyudo. In his book Mr.

Kazuhisa Sensei

Herrigel sets forth his experiences with kyudo in the 's. It was a beautifully written account that has been translated into many languages, giving people worldwide their first glimpse of the art. Unfortunately, the book was very one-sided in its description of kyudo as a Zen art and is responsible for a lot of the current misconception surrounding the practice of kyudo as a religious activity.

While kyudo is not a religion it has been influenced by two schools of Eastern philosophy: The previously mentioned Zen, a form of Buddhism imported from China, and Shintoism, the indigenous faith of Japan. Of what importance are weeks, months, years?

Kyudo: The ancient art of Japanese archery

The arrows flew off course and he became more discouraged with each wayward shot. During a particularly humbling session, Herrigel stated that his problem must be poor aim.

Kenzo, however, looked at his student and replied that it was not whether one aimed, but how one approached the task that determined the outcome. After night had fallen, the two men returned to the courtyard where the practice hall was located. Kenzo walked to his usual shooting location, now with the target hidden in the dark. The archery master proceeded through his normal routine, settled into his firing stance, drew the bow string tight, and released the first arrow into the darkness.

Becoming the Target: Focus and the Japanese Art of Kyudo

Herrigel jumped up and ran across the courtyard to inspect the target. In the case of Awa Kenzo, the master archer was so mindful of the process that led to an accurate shot that he was able to replicate the exact series of internal movements even without seeing the external target. This complete awareness of the body and mind in relation to the goal is known as zanshin. Zanshin is a word used commonly throughout Japanese martial arts to refer to a state of relaxed alertness.


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Zanshin is being constantly aware of your body, mind, and surroundings without stressing yourself. It is an effortless vigilance. In practice, though, zanshin has an even deeper meaning.

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Zanshin is choosing to live your life intentionally and acting with purpose rather than mindlessly falling victim to whatever comes your way. The battle only ends when you get lazy, when you lose your sense of commitment, and when you stop paying attention. This is zanshin as well: the act of living with alertness regardless of whether the goal has already been achieved. Hunting scenes drawn on early Bronze Age vessels, depict a long Bow with an off center grip. This description, along with what is written in the Kojiki ancient chronicles of Japan , prove that the Bow had a significant meaning in the ancient Japanese world.

弓道②(Kyudo - The Way of the Bow)

It was and remains a symbol of dignity.