Emily Thurston: Kyuudo

For my CIP, I chose to do Kyuudo, or Japanese Archery. I had no experience with archery before, so I was certainly expecting a challenge. However, Kyuudo is so distinct from other forms of archery that I did not feel disadvantaged compared to those who had archery experience.

Practicing archery allowed me to get a glimpse of Japan’s hierarchical dojo community. I was expecting it to be somehow more rigid in structure, but my first lesson illustrated quite the opposite. The other KCJS students and I were mostly left to practice on our own, with occasional feedback. Moreover, the sensei even left when to end of the lesson up to us. We practiced for an extra half and hour waiting for her to signal the end of the lesson until we finally realized that it was our duty to do so.

Practicing kyuudo was a very rewarding experience. I learned a lot about proper patterns of speech when addressing one’s sensei. I noticed that even women who seemed to be around the same age as the sensei spoke to her in keigo, indicating that she was their superior within the dojo. Although I did not get to know anyone in the dojo very well, the other members were very welcoming and always greeting us warmly. This atmosphere, as well as the actual act of practicing kyuudo are very unique to Japan, and thus this experience has become an important aspect of my time here.


4 thoughts on “Emily Thurston: Kyuudo

  1. It sounds like kyudo was good keigo practice! Was there a hierarchy within the students? If so, was it based on age, skill, or a combination of the two?

    • It was definitely a combination of the two. Younger people were usually less skilled, so that was pretty straightforward. However, people would often speak in keigo to those in the same age range as well, which was based more in skill.

  2. You know, this is pretty interesting to me. I’ve always bee in that rigid structure that you mention, where the sensei is the one that mandates everything and everybody else just listens because he is of higher hierarchical status. This is all total guess work but, do you think your experience would have changed if this rigid structure were present? And do you think you, personally, would have preferred that structure rather than the one you experience? I don’t mean to make you write an essay on the topic so don’t think too much about it!

    • I think that there are merits to both ways of learning. However, as a beginner I feel I would have preferred that rigid structure so that I could be certain I was doing everything right. The lack of rigidity meant a lack of feedback, which could have easily led to an illusion of proficiency if I had continued it long enough. So my experience definitely would have been different, and in some ways I think I would say that I would have preferred it.