Monday, 24 September 2012


"The perfect mastery of the bow was considered an art by the Samurai, an art that knew no other goal than the highest experience of the here and now, of the moment as it is, beyond any strategies of thought and concept. [...] Each arrow is shot as if it were the only one, just as each moment of one's life is the ultimate moment. ...if the heart is right, each shot clears away some more of the obstacles clouding the vision of one's true nature." - - Standing Zen

A Japanese Kyudo archer.
A traditional Chinese Manchu archer.
 Archery was very popular in China before the use of guns, and Confucius was said to have been an excellent archer. Horseback archery was part of the military exams in ancient China.

A Chinese mounted archer during a military exam.
 The ancient Chinese yoga-like calisthenics practice known as '8 Pieces of Brocade' (BaDuanJin QiGong) includes a posture known as 'Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Hawk', which imitates the drawing of a bow. This practice is one of the most, common, popular and widespread Chinese calisthenics used by people all over the world.

Chinese people performing 'Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Hawk' in a park, China.
 The mindful dimension behind archery of any sort should be obvious - it seems the archer, poised with arrow aimed at the target is symbolic of the meditative state. As states, for example:
"‘Ta' means ‘hitting the centre' or ‘touching the centre', in the same way as when we practise archery, and you shoot the arrow; you touch the centre. This is the meaning of ‘ta' here, in shikantaza [Soto Zen seated meditation]."
There has been a book written, called 'Zen and the Art of Archery', but it seems that book is not a particularly reliable resource on the role of zen in archery in Japan, which is a shame.

In February 2011 my partner and I decided to fulfill a long-held ambition to have a go at archery and so we joined an archery club here in Beijing. We progressed quite quickly but then the club shut down for a few months so that it could move location, and we are eager to return. Here is a picture of myself with some of my language students during an outing to the club we joined:

It is very enjoyable exploring the role of mindfulness while practicing archery - the feeling when an arrow hits the bullseye seems to sometimes hold a kind of perfection - not just as a result, but in the whole aim, release and arrival of the arrow at the target. It becomes a very addictive pastime in this respect.

Recently, during the 2012 Olympics, a South Korean woman, called Kim Jang-Mi, won a gold medal in the women's pistol shooting category. She credited Buddhist Mindfulness meditation as having helped her win. This was specifically because more body control was required for this event.

Kim Jang-Mi Celebrating her Gold Medal win.

Kim Jang-Mi taking part in the pistol shooting during the Olympics, London, 2012.
We would love to have a go at the Japanese art of Kyudo one day, and deepen our appreciation of the Art of Archery.

A Japanese Kyudo Club.

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