Translated from Nihongo (Japanese), the word Kyudo literally means the way of the bow. Kyudo is known as a Japanese martial art wherein an individual’s body and mind are trained, as well as disciplined in shooting a Japanese bow and arrow right at a specific target.

It was developed in history as the Kyujutsu or the art of Japanese archery for tactics and military art; and today, Kyudo is also considered as a sport or a form of exercise for one’s health.

In this day and age, schools from ancient times still exist and are continuously preserving the traditional school while simultaneously coexisting with modern Kyudo.

History of Kyudo

Archery in Japan began all the way back during the pre-historic period and the very first images that depict the distinctly unique asymmetrical Japanese longbow come from the Yayoi period specifically around 500 BC to 300 AD.

These featured the maruki-type longbows that were created out of a single piece of fine wood that was wrapped in birch and painted black.

The bow has also been depicted on various hunting scenes that were drawn on vessels that are bell-shaped. Here, longbows that are fixed with grips can readily be identified.

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During the ancient period in Japan, the country was greatly influenced by the culture of China and it was also the time when ceremonial archery became one of the most vital parts of the country’s court system.

Japanese bow makers also started basing their bows composite construction from the Chinese, and when the tenth century came, they were able to create a double-piece composite bow with the use of wood and bamboo.

The combat form of utilizing the bow has been derived from the warrior or samurai class, and they were the only ones allowed to use and carry such weapons. The samurai bow men were highly respected due to their skills and were considered as very efficient during battles.

During the fifteenth century in Japan, it was considered a time of unrest since a large number of warriors were greatly displeased with the rulers; and in order to encourage a revolt, these individuals began teaching peasants how to utilize weapons and these included the Japanese bow.

In the seventeenth century, the civil war in Japan ceased and the emphasis on the country’s form of archery slowly changed from kyujutsu to Kyudo; also during the transitional period, the general public saw themselves becoming more involved and interested in the practice of archery.

Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke, Photo ID: 2006111752721, Submitting Unit: MCB Camp Butler / Public domain

Modern Archery Japan

During the Edo period when the war in Japan finally came to an end, the practice of kyujutsu was greatly pursued as a form of art, thus, eventually evolved into Kyudo which literally translates to “The Way of the Bow”. During the Meiji era, Kyudo was among the arts that were greatly encouraged and included.

In the Taisho period right at the beginning of the Showa period, the art of Kyudo was highly accepted in numerous schools and was also considered as a great extra-curricular activity.

However, when the Second World War ensued, the Ministry of Education altered their policy to have Kyduo excluded since they claimed that the art was not directly connected to actual combat; after the war, all forms of martial arts were banned from every school available.

In the year 1951, Kyudo was allowed to be practiced once again, and in the year 1967, it was eventually embraced as a regular curriculum in high school.

The athletic and educational aspect of the art of Kyudo was highly recognized so modern Kyudo eventually began as part of the physical education of schools.

The mission of contemporary Kyudo was to educationally contribute under a new spiritual concept by taking every scientific approach to successfully spread the art.

Equipment Used for Kyudo

The Kyudo Bow

The weapon utilized for the practice of Kyudo is referred to as the yumi which is an exceptionally tall bow that reaches over two meters past the height of the Japanese archer. Traditionally, the Kyudo bow is made from wood, bamboo, and leather, and when it comes to its production techniques, the process of creating this bow has not changed for centuries.

However, there are a lot of modern-day archers who utilize the synthetic Japanese bow. Advanced practitioners may also have their own non-bamboo-made Japanese bow and arrow due to the vulnerability of these types of equipment during extreme climates or situations.

The proper height for a Kyudo bow all depends on the yatsuka or the archer’s draw and this is generally about half the height of the user. The Japanese bow is exceptionally high/tall since it stands more than two meters and usually goes over the archer’s height.

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These were traditionally made from bamboo, with either hawk or eagle feathers; today, most of the ya shafts are still made out of bamboo and its feathers are now taken from birds like swans, turkeys, and other non-endangered birds.

The measurement of the arrow’s length is compared to the archer’s yatsuka, plus the addition of six to ten centimeters. Archers of Kyudo commonly shoot about two ya per round where its haya (arrow) is shot first, then the otoya (the second arrow).


The ky?d? archer wears a glove on their right hand and is called the yugake. There are numerous types of the yugake and most of these are made out of deerskin. Kyudo practitioners can readily choose between the soft glove or the hard glove, each having their own advantages.

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Powder that is made from the husks of burnt rice is called the fudeko and this is applied to one’s hand before holding the Kyudo bow; this is necessary to absorb the person’s sweat while allowing the bow to easily turn in one’s hand.


This type of chest protector is specifically made for female archers; it is a piece of plastic or leather that is mainly designed to protect and safeguard the breast from sudden strikes by the bowstring during shooting activities.


Since continuous usage usually weakens the bowstring, it is not common for these to break during shooting practice and activities. This is the reason why a lot of archers bring spare strings or bow string rolls with them called the tsurumaki.