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Kyudo-Budo

When we think of budo, what are we talking about?
What is budo? What is bushido?

Budo can be considered as martial way. And within budo, bushido is taught.* Budo is a way of living and a way of dying. In Daidoji Yuzan’s book, Budoshoshinshu, he begins with:

“The man who would be a warrior considers it his most basic intention to keep death always in mind, day and night, from the time he first picks up his chopsticks in celebrating his morning meal on New Year’s day to the evening of the last day of the year. When one constantly keeps death in mind, both loyalty and filial piety are realized, myriad evils and disasters are avoided, one is without illness and mishap, and lives out a long life. In addition, even his character is improved. Such are the many benefits of this act.”

Budoshoshinshu, while written as the warrior’s primer, offers much in the way of guidance that is still pertinent today. When I read the section above, I take it to mean that we should live every day as it is our last. We should live life to the fullest and appreciate every moment. We should not leave things that should be done now, until tomorrow. We should make peace where peace needs to be made and to quote from one of my favorite songs, “Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel.”

Budoshoshinshu goes on to state:
“Day and night without fail, as one is involved in all of his business, both public and private, when there is just a moment to be calm, death should be kept in mind… these words are for the understanding of those intending to be warriors.”

I would think, good words for all.

“Bushidō (武士道?), roughly translated as “the way of the warrior,” is a Japanese code of conduct and way of Samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry. As part of the Samurai philosophy, Bushidō stresses loyalty, frugality, the mastery of martial arts, and “honor unto death.” Born of two main influences, philosophy and swordsmanship, the violent existence of the Samurai was tempered by the wisdom and serenity of Japanese Shinto (&) Buddhism.” (Wikipedia)

If we look at Inazo Nitobi’s Bushido, the Soul of Japan, he states:

“Bushido, then, is the code of moral principles which the knights were required or instructed to observe. It is not a written code; at best it consists of a few maxims handed down from mouth to mouth or coming from the pen of some well-known warrior or savant. More frequently it is a code unuttered and unwritten, possessing all the more the powerful sanction of veritable deed, and of a law written on the fleshly tablets of the heart. It was founded not on the creation of one brain, however able, or on the life of a single personage, however renowned. It was an organic growth of decades and centuries of military career.”

“Bushido as an independent code of ethics may vanish, but its power will not perish from the earth; its schools of martial prowess or civic honor may be demolished, but its light and its glory will long survive their ruins. Like its symbolic flower, after it is blown to the four winds, it will still bless mankind with the perfume with which it will enrich life. Ages after, when its customaries shall have been buried and its very name forgotten, its odors will come floating in the air as from a far-off unseen hill…”

It is our job, as martial artists, to do our part in ensuring that the budo code not be forgotten… not only by passing on the words, but by being living examples… by traveling the Way.

*A good article with more in regard to budo and bushido can be found @ http://ekamachdi.wordpress.com/2008/10/22/understanding-aikido-as-budo

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My kyudo notebook is an eclectic mix of diagrams and arrows, quotes and passages from books that I have read, study questions and answers for testing, seminar notes, project outlines, letters, doodles, reminders, page numbers to refer back to the Kyohon on, various words that few would understand unless you were there when they were said… such as squirrel’s butt, and profound, partial sentences trailing off into nothingness resulting from a night around the table with a bottle of Eagle Rare. It tells a story as I look at it. I read between the lines and it tells a tale of travel.

You might see how when I got home one evening to discover that my notebook was not with me, I was a bit unsettled. Luckily, I knew exactly where it was. I had left it on the right-hand side of the table behind the sofa at Sensei’s house. There were no better hands it could have been in, but never-the-less, not the sort of thing one wants to do. I could never re-write this book and only parts of it do I share. On my return to his house later on, he put the notebook in my hands without a word. None were needed.

Sensei recently brought out his notebook and read an excerpt to us while we were shooting. He has read from his notebook previously… a rare treat, one of those special moments you don’t want to miss. As Sesnei left the dojo on this day, he picked up his notebook and causally walked by. He informed us that he was taking the notebook, that it might blow up our minds if he left it there for us. I enjoy my days in the dojo with Sensei, with his wisdom and his humor. Some days I understand and some days I don’t. This day, I understood.

As I thumb through my notebook this morning, I see everything from the words from Confucius, the Tao Te Ching, Tich Nhat Hanh, Rumi, Kosaka sensei, Miyauchi sensei, Blackwell sensei and many more, including all of the Sensei that collaborated to make up the Kyohon, down to my own words. As I look at this, and think with great respect to all that gave their time and wisdom so that others could find the Way, I find it a bit “mind blowing”.

While I don’t know which great mind the following words came from, I would like to share them from my notebook. I hope they will help you in finding the Way.

“Everything happens for a reason.”
“You are always where you are meant to be.”
“The Way teaches.”
“Quiet the mind to be open to where you should be next.”

With that, I leave you to go shoot!

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The 2009 Kyudo Seminar of the Americas is still winding down as we tie up the loose ends of packing away the maku, shipping the yumi home, returning the rental vans and items inadvertently left behind, and nursing our tired, worn and broken bodies. Even with this ending, parts of it will live on in our minds and hearts. It is what we choose to do with this experience that matters now.

The fact that we showed up, we stood our ground and gave our best tells us that we are winners. We left with much more than we came with. We gained knowledge of ourselves as well as the art of Kyudo. We renewed old friendships and created bonds with new ones, as well as with the sensei. We have an idea of the areas in our practice and ourselves that needs attention.

Did we achieve the rank we tested for? Some did, others didn’t, but this is not the core of the matter. Pass or fail, the end result is the same… we live to shoot another day.

Let go of what you need to and nurture the rest.

The Time is Now!
The way is in the training!
Japan 2010!

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This video depicts the flight path and rotation of the arrow and explains the rotation.

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NHK production video discussing modern Kyudo.

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This video includes information on making of bamboo yumi and ya, along with history of Kyudo. (NHK Video Production)

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