In Japan, the timeless popularity of archery

Jessica Gerrity glances at the target 28 yards away. Her face tightens as she bends her bow, her muscles tighten, but her whole body, white shirt and wide navy pants look still. The tensions disappear as soon as the arrow leaves… which finally misses the target. “Too bad, it was so close”, exclaim his comrades, also amateurs of traditional Japanese archery, called kyudo (“Way of the arc”).

New Zealander living in Japan since 2003, Jessica Gerrity is vice-president of the association Yumi to zen (which means “the arc and zen”), founded in 2019 to promote this martial art, whose origins go back almost 2,000 years old. Every Saturday, his association provides, in a gymnasium north of Tokyo, courses for all levels, in Japanese and English. In total, no less than 1,100 people participated. “Some days, half of the practitioners are foreigners”, notes Jessica Gerrity.

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Often taught in high school, kyudo is a popular sport, but many followers face a lack of clubs to practice regularly. “There is little information online, and beginner courses are too rare”, explains Hirokazu Kiuchi, the president of the association.

A form of meditation

The kyudo differs from Western archery by the size of the weapon first – larger in the Japanese version. Above all, kyudo is a highly codified body language exercise, which is used by practitioners to seek a form of balance between body and mind. “It’s about learning to master each of your gestures, your posture, your step. Everything must be performed with the greatest concentration, in search of the perfect movement. It’s a psychological game ”, continues Hirokazu Kiuchi, for whom there are many points in common between kyudo and meditation.

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Jessica Gerrity, she relishes this moment when, at the end of the session, she is “In a more serene and calm state of mind. It helps me to be less hard on my little ones ”, jokes this mother of three children.


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