Part of my introduction to my students is “Why am I in Japan? I want to study Japanese, I want to eat, I want to try kyudo”. My thinking was that I really wanted to find some way of release, and since the shooting range back home was often very satisfying, I figured shooting arrows would be a similar kind of release.
Little did I know…
My school has a really nice kyudo dojo for the kyudo club. I wanted to be invited to be a part of it that I hung out until the end of one of their meetings, in the rain. No such luck. The kids are serious about this that letting in a newbie would disrupt their training. So I gave up kyudo for a while.
Luckily, one of the local veteran ALTs had started kyudo in the last year, and kept a look-out for when they were recruiting new members. They had a recruitment class back in March, but I couldn’t manage to commit to their schedule… I told my friend I’d drop by the dojo one night, and he offered to come with me. We chanced to have met up with the guy in charge, M-san, who gladly took down my information and said he would look for an available teacher for me. Now that things have settled down a bit in terms of trips, parties, and my own personal “routine”, I could finally commit to Tuesdays and most Fridays.
Last night was my first lesson. I learned some expressions for things, for example, you don’t shoot an arrow, you let it go. Kyudo is not to be used as a weapon, so you don’t say things like shoot. You say, “pulling on the bow” （弓を引く） and “letting go of the arrow”（矢を離れ）。
So much for shooting!
The bowstring is the つる and the glove is the ゆがけ, or かけ for short. The inner lining for the glove is the したがけ。The target is called a まと。And a bunch of other terms I’ve already forgotten. Luckily, that’s expected, so they suggest that I take it slowly.
There were people of all levels there, and I was really nervous about intruding, seeing how I completely missed the designated period for classes for newbies, and am currently getting special one-on-one training. At one point, a pro came in, and the teachers introduced me to her as someone to imitate if I’m at a loss as to what to do. Not ask her, but to imitate her (don’t bother her damn it!). She quickly denied the compliments. Then when she was getting ready to release, the teachers said, “Take a look,” as she pulled her bow, but she promptly gave up, and said, “Please don’t look, I can’t concentrate, please show her something else” or something to that degree. That’s the most straightforward thing I’ve ever heard anyone say since I’ve been here!
The first hands-on thing I learned was how to put the ゆがけ and tying it. I only did it once, so I don’t think I can remember how to put it on again… it was pretty complicated! Then, 手の内, the way to hold the bow in my hand. They gave me a ゴム弓, a rubber “bow”, which is a small stick grip with rubber hosing to practice the hold, as well as strengthening when pulling the bow.
Here’s to sticking with a new hobby!