Katsumi Morales: 弓道

I have been interested in archery from childhood, but until college, I never had the chance to experience it. However, once having experienced archery as a competitive sport, I realized that wasn’t even close to what I really wanted. I was never interested in sports, in competition or prizes. Although a lot of the motions and key points in 弓道 are parallel to those in the archery I practiced in the United States, being here, in this environment and practicing something fundamentally different, leaves me with a much more satisfied feeling after every hour I spend at the dojo, compared to the 2 hour practices I had back at my home institution which often simply gave me something more to feel stressed about. When I was a competitive archer, hitting the center of the target was the most important aspect, and everything that was done to improve your form was solely for that reason. Counting up points for scores and then comparing yourself to others always left me feeling like I was in the wrong place.
In 弓道 importance lies more in focusing and centering yourself. We are still learning and so most of our time is simply physical practice, but the feeling of the dojo itself and the environment created by the people there makes all the difference. The other day Jasmine and I had the privilege of watching our sensei and a few of our senpai shoot, and the formality and gracefulness of it simply reminded me of why I wanted to do this in the first place. Simple things like properly greeting our sensei make all the difference to me. The ambient in the dojo isn’t extremely formal, and I often hear my sensei chatting with some of her older students in a quite informal way. However when it comes to 弓道 itself, there is a formality which gives it weight, which separates it from any kind of sport. I watch others shoot in awe and respect because their every move seems perfectly calculated and the end result is quite beautiful. I have always felt the need to learn that kind of self-discipline, and so I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity not only to learn 弓道 but to learn it while being in Japan.

4 thoughts on “Katsumi Morales: 弓道

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed Kyudo! It seems you got a lot out of it in terms of self reflection and learning the differences between American archery and Kyudo. It’s really nice to see appreciation in the beauty of a sport, something I don’t think we have in America.

    • I have been enjoying it, quite a lot. It’s a very interesting experience and I feel like it is a great opportunity for self-reflection in the moment. My point was actually the fact that Kyuudou isn’t a sport, but a martial art. I believe that is the reason why it is so different, and why I have much more interest in it than I ever could in a sport like archery.

  2. Since you are a practicing Buddhist, I was wondering if you found any relevant connections between Kyuudo and Buddhism? I enjoyed reading about the transformation undergone by the role of archery in your life, from raw competition to a more delicate niche involving self-enrichment. Are there many technical differences? What kind of bows did you use?

    • I’m actually not Buddhist. I am Hindu. I wouldn’t be able to tell you about any connections between Kyuudou and buddhism but I’d advise you to look at the transformation of the various “術” (ie.剣術) into ”道”(ie.剣道).
      Speaking from a more technical standpoint there are quite a few differences. Surprisingly enough the bows weren’t too different. Of course the yumi is quite a special bow, its length and uneven shape makes it different from any other bow in the world, but other than that it’s not much different from the recurve bow that I used back in the States. A lot about technique is actually pretty similar, but Kyuudou is much more particular about the details. Kyuudou has a set technique and form, whereas when you are doing archery, there are many different methods, and you are free to choose which works best among them. Footwork, form, positioning, and draw style and length are, I think, the biggest differences.
      If you like we could talk more about this some other time.