Gaining the skills of concentration and persistence while also experiencing ancient Japanese cultural traditions is the main focus for the University of Arizona’s Kyudo club, the first of its kind on campus.
The UA Kyudo club consists of both undergraduate and graduate students who share an interest and dedication to the technical Japanese art of archery.
Said to date back as far as 500 BCE, Kyudo and the use of the bow and arrow evolved from a weapon used on the battlefield to a competitive and even meditative sport.
Kyudo is one of the oldest martial arts in Japan and translates as “the way of the bow,” but is commonly called ‘Japanese archery,’ according to the Arizona Kyudo website.
The equipment required for Kyudo is a yumi (bow), ya (arrows), a yugake (glove) and a gi (uniform including a white top with black hakama and belt).
There are eight steps that Kyudo practitioners must master when shooting their arrows. These steps are how students begin to truly grasp the importance and necessity of concentration in the sport.
Bill Savary, sponsor and head instructor for both the UA Kyudo club and Arizona Kyudo Kai, writes that the skills members discipline themselves to use will also “discipline the body and mind to better cope with issues.”
The university Kyudo club was founded by UA alumnus James Moxness, a previous member of Arizona Kyudo Kai, in 2000.
“The University or Arizona Kyudo Club is, to the best of my knowledge, the first university kyudo club in the U.S.,” Savary said.
There are national seminars held at various universities and colleges around the country, and several kyudo groups in the U.S. have used university facilities for practice locations, but “this is the first actual school kyudo club in the country,” according to Savary.
Students participating in Kyudo may do so recreationally, competitively or purely as a cultural pursuit. The skills they establish are transferable to their everyday lives and may be applicable to dealing with stress or anxiety.
“When a student enters a dojo, they are supposed to leave all external worries and distractions outside the door,” Savary said. “They are supposed to set aside all the anxieties of the outside world and focus only on kyudo.”
The need to “concentrate on your actions” is unending, and paradoxically, the need to not worry about it is also necessary at every step, according to Savary.
“You have to learn to drop the ego if you are going to perfect your skills. This is in itself a balance of concentration and meditation,” Savary said.
The UA Kyudo club partners with Arizona Kyudo Kai to study and practice Kyudo every Sunday from 10 a.m. until noon at Rhythm Industry, 1013 S. Tyndall Ave., or at the Ina A. Gittings building, 1713 E. University Blvd. Weekly emails are sent out with the meeting location.
The UA Kyudo club will take part in a ceremonial Japanese archery event on Saturday, March 24, at the Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson. This event will highlight the art of Japanese archery and will discuss the basic elements of kyudo, show the standing and kneeling forms of the hassetsu, and will also be opened to audience participation afterwards.
The program will be done two different times: 10 a.m. to noon and noon to 2 p.m. Admission is $15 for the event and includes entrance to the gardens. For more information, visit the events page on the Yume Gardens website.
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