Jasmine Hensley: Kyudou


Before applying for KCJS, I read up on the program parameters on the KCJS website.  Upon reading about the CIP assignment, I knew that I wanted to do kyudou because I had a previous interest in the martial art.  Initially I had been concerned that I would not be able to do it because I am very petite young woman and was without any form of archery experience.  Nevertheless, I pursued kyudou as my CIP, and began practicing every Monday and Thursday at the Kyoto Budou Center.

When I first entered the Budou Center’s kyudou dojo, I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the archers were women around my size (though clearly much stronger than me from their years of practice).  Our teacher Kawaguchi-sensei herself is a sprightly and strong older woman with a commanding presence.  That is not to say that she was cold or unapproachable; on the contrary, she has been so kind and patient with us over the past few months, as have the other archers at the dojo.

Although practices are usually very independent, Kawaguchi-sensei and occasionally the other archers will offer tips and corrections to our postures.  Because kyudou is so ritualized, requiring one to repeat the same pattern of movements before every shot is fired, it is crucial to correct one’s movements before they become too deeply ingrained to be fixed.  I had very little upper body strength before starting kyudou here, so it took almost three months before I was strong enough and good enough to be allowed to move to a larger, heavier bow.  I don’t think that I could ever have imagined how much pride and self-accomplishment I would feel for being allowed to exercise harder.

Kyudou as a whole has served as a catharsis during my months in Japan.  This was my first time abroad, and the experience has been wonderful, but trying at times.  As I’ve become more aware of my linguistic inabilities, I’ve found myself losing self-confidence very rapidly; however, kyudou is an activity that almost entirely transcends the language barrier.  In addition, because there are other students who do not speak Japanese at all, I’ve gained some confidence in being able to translate between Kawaguchi-sensei and those students.  Furthermore, it is a time apart from homework where one focuses only on the ritual of drawing the bow and one’s own body.

Kyudou is definitely a CIP that requires time and effort, but the rewards far outweighed any measly inconveniences.  The support that I felt from Kawaguchi-sensei and the other archers, the atmosphere of the dojo, and the time for self-reflection not only helped rebuild and boost my self-confidence but also allowed me some peaceful time in my continuously active life in Japan.

4 thoughts on “Jasmine Hensley: Kyudou

  1. What a great picture! The uniforms and practice space look so cool!
    It sounds like learning kyudou was a very worthwhile experience for you–both the study of the art, as well as the peaceful practice time.
    Do you have any plans for continuing kyudou in the US or in the future?

    • Thank you, buying uniforms was a really wonderful experience! Our teacher drove us to the shop, helped us pick everything out, and showed us how to wear them. Not only does the uniform make me feel more legit as I’m shooting, it also makes me feel like a part of the community at the dojo.

      I definitely plan to continue kyudou in America. I looked online and found two dojos less than 20min. drive from Emory, so I’ll be contacting them upon returning to America. I’m really fortunate to have the facilities so close by!

  2. I’m really grad you enjoyed Kyudou and I do hope you can continue in Atlanta. I’m glad kyudou allowed you to gain more confidence. Excercise often can help the mind in addition to training the body. Enjoy your uniform. 🙂

    • Yes, I will definitely be trying to continue in Atlanta!

      I agree that exercise is a great way to keep the mind and body healthy and happy, and it certainly has this semester. 10/10, would recommend.