Kyudo is a discipline of archery that originated in Japan with the samurai. This school of archery was founded in the 12th century, but there are hundreds of thousands of practitioners of kyudo to this very day. Today, we’re going to explore the benefits of kyudo to explain why so many people still engage in it.
As with any other physical activity, kyudo helps an individual stay fit while also refining their hand-eye coordination. Because of the immense focus required in a kyudo archer, it is also seen as an excellent way to clear the mind and instill calm, almost like a form of meditation.
Of course, there are many more reasons why people continue to practice kyudo hundreds of years after it stopped being an effective form of combat. We’re going to take a deeper look at these reasons and also explain some of the benefits that we mentioned up above.
The Benefits of Kyudo
Here are some of the most notable benefits of kyudo:
- Maintaining your physical fitness
- Practicing your hand-eye coordination
- Improving your posture
- Stress reduction
- Sharpening your concentration
- Learning to reflect on your actions
- Developing determination
- Meeting like-minded individuals
- Kyudo’s meditative nature
Kyudo’s Fitness Benefits
If you’ve never used a bow and arrow before, you may not know just how much of a workout it is to merely nock an arrow. This is because of the relatively high elastic strength of the material that is used for the bowstring, which is what allows you to propel the arrow with so much force.
As Newton said, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This means that you’ll have to put just as much force into pulling back the bowstring as the arrow needs to be propelled from your bow. This will naturally grow several muscle groups, though your shoulders will see the largest impact.
Your posterior deltoids are used to draw the bowstring back, and they will probably be some of the sorest muscles when you just get started, as we don’t use them that frequently in daily life. Along with these, you’ll see your biceps and triceps grow, as they are used for drawing and holding the bow, respectively.
Kyudo will even work out your back and chest muscles, including your pectorals, trapezius, and rhomboids. Along with other disciplines of archery, kyudo will also help strengthen your rotator cuff. It’s important to start slow to ensure that you don’t tear or otherwise injure any of these muscle groups.
Improving Your Hand-eye Coordination
Something like Kyudo, where you’re expected to practice your ability to hit a target using your hands will naturally develop your hand-eye coordination. This is your ability to process information that your eyes perceive to guide your hands and arms to accomplish a specific task.
As with any other discipline, the best way to improve your coordination through kyudo is through practice. While you may not be able to even hit the target on your first few shots, your brain is slowly learning how to turn what its eyes are showing it into results with your hands.
While kyudo may sometimes feel frustrating for a beginner, especially if they aren’t even able to land a shot, it’s important to have faith that your skills will improve. Since it isn’t necessarily a conscious process of learning, you have to bear with it and have faith that your brain will develop and get better at the skill.
Improved hand-eye coordination has a wide range of benefits, and the skill will serve you well, even outside of kyudo. Good hand-eye coordination can make you a better driver, and the skill will carry over to other sports, like basketball, baseball, football, and soccer.
Technological advancement has certainly made our lives more convenient, but it has also resulted in a few health issues that our ancestors didn’t typically experience. One of these is poor posture from being hunched over our smartphones or sitting at desks working on the computer.
However, one of the foundational elements of kyudo is using the right posture to ensure that your shot is on target. Instead of only focusing on the bow and the target, you must remain aware of the position of your body so that you can maximize your chances of success.
This is because kyudo is about a lot more than the simple act of archery itself. The discipline is a delicately intertwined web of skills that work together to make you more likely to hit your target. In fact, good posture while shooting is just as important as hitting the target when taking part in kyudo competitions.
Your posture while taking aim is considered part of your Sha, which translates to shooting. Kyudo practitioners are expected to keep their bakcks straight while pulling their shoulders back. Incidentally, this is the kind of healthy posture that human beings are expected to maintain in their daily lives.
Kyudo as a Means of Stress Reduction
You’ll find that many of the practices used by experts in kyudo overlap with those taught to patients experiencing extreme stress. For example, when an archer is trying to pierce a target, they will slow down their breathing, much like people are told to do to alleviate the effects of a panic attack.
Slowing your breathing and concentrating on it will allow you to avoid thinking about things that are stressing you out. However, the very act of focusing on your target (separate from controlling your breathing) is also a major factor that helps people reduce their stress levels.
When you’re holding your bow with the arrow nocked and you’re trying to hit your target, the last thing that should be on your mind is stress that your experiencing. Archery like kyudo has a way of bringing you into the present moment, where nothing exists except for you, the arrow, the bow, and your target.
Along with the innate benefits of stress reduction, reducing your stress levels can also help you improve your ability to hit the target. When you aren’t weighed down by your feelings of stress, your mind is less occupied processing other thoughts and more focused on hitting the target, leading us to our next point.
Sharpening Your Concentration with Kyudo
Going hand-in-hand with the ability to reduce your stress is kyudo’s innate ability to help you improve your concentration. As with any other kind of shooting exercise, it’s hard to perform well if you aren’t concentrating on your target, as you’ll need to keep in mind the target’s position, the arc of your arrow, and the bow in your hands.
Many of the skills that kyudo teaches that help with stress reduction are also an excellent way to improve your concentration. Namely, the ability to control your breathing is something that is taught to sharpshooters to this very day, as that helps minimize any ambient sway caused by your body.
Kyudo’s breathing control exercises teach you to release the arrow when you have fully exhaled and you have no air remaining in your lungs. This is because having air in your lungs causes a nearly-imperceptible tremor in the rest of your body, so you’ll need to time the shot perfectly.
However, focusing on your breathing also helps you avoid any influence from the surrounding environment. Since our breathing is an inherent part of us, it allows our mind to focus on what we are doing instead of what may be going on in our surroundings.
Kyudo and Reflection
The ability to reflect on your actions is another skill that is prized when practicing kyudo. This is because reflection is often the only way to determine why you missed a target. If you tend to have a short temper and get frustrated when you aren’t doing well at something, kyudo may be able to teach you to do otherwise.
The simple fact is that you won’t get better at kyudo unless you’re willing to reflect and see why you missed the target on your previous shot. This sport makes it much easier to walk through the actions you took leading up to the shot to determine why things didn’t work in your favor.
You may have had poor posture while you were shooting, allowing you to reflect and correct that in any future shots. On the other hand, you may have loosed the arrow a second too soon, before the air was fully expelled from your lungs, creating a slight flutter in your hands that sent the arrow wide.
Kyudo is so good at teaching us to reflect because of the minute errors that can make a huge different in the arrow’s flight path. Basic physics dictate that even a small mistake will make a huge different in the flight path of the arrow as it gets further and further away from you due to how projectiles deviate based on their initial aim point.
Kyudo Helps Make You More Determined
We’re not going to sugercoat it: kyudo is a hard discipline to master, and it’s even harder for someone who has never practiced archery before. It’s almost guaranteed that you’re going to fail miserably before you get better unless you already have excellent hand-eye coordination or you’re just a virtuoso.
However, if you’re the type to easily give up, sticking with kyudo and gradually getting better at it can help enhance your determination. This sport will allow you to realize that there’s nothing you can’t get better at if you focus on it, and when you hit your first target, all of your hard work will have paid off.
This skill isn’t exclusive to kyudo, as determination can be developed by taking on any kind of challenging hobby that will require time and effort to improve at. However, kyudo won’t magically make you more likely to stick with things. You’ll need to mental fortitude to deal with the failures you’ll experience while you learn.
Meeting Other People Through Kyudo
Kyudo has many benefits, and they aren’t all about improving your mental or physical state; at least not directly. One of the often-unmentioned benefits of practicing kyudo is that it allows you to meet people that are practicing the sport for many of the same reasons that you are.
Whether you have a passion for archery or if you’re looking for a way to improve your concentration and determination, you’re likely to find someone adopting kyudo for many of the same reasons as you.
There are many ways to meet fellow kyudo practitioners, though the most common method is through group classes that teach you how to improve your skills at archery. There are dedicated kyudo classes all around the world, and a quick search on the web will allow you to find the nearest one to you.
You can even ask various people in your friend group whether or not they’ve heard of kyudo, and a few of them may surprise you. If you don’t have any friends who have participated in kyudo before, you may even be able to convince one of your closest friends to start kyudo with you.
Kyudo as a Form of Mediation
Many people find it difficult to practice mindfulness meditation since they find it so difficult to put their minds at ease. In these cases, kyudo can act as a form of meditation, as it allows someone to use the bow and arrow and the shooting stance as a way to meditate.
When you clear your mind and focus on your breathing and the bow in your hands, you’ll enter a meditative state in which nothing else can perturb you. This allows you to enjoy the many benefits of meditation without having to engage in traditional meditation, which may simply not be right for you.
The advantages of practicing meditation through kyudo include getting a new perspective on situations that are taxing your mind, allowing you to enjoy the moment, and making you more patient. You may find that kyudo is a much-needed escape from day-to-day life.