It’s May and my allergies are really doing me in. But I am armed with eye drops and a new outlook on life. Why? Because I started Kyudo.

Kyudo (弓道) is the way of the bow, and it’s a Japanese martial art that I have been itching to get into for years.

My city has a dojo, only for residents of the city, and every year in May they hold a class for newcomers that’s about 6 weeks long. Last Sunday, I had my first class and it was so much fun but extremely hard.

The bows, called yumi, are extremely heavy and we have to carry them in a precise way with our left hand. We carry two arrows in our right hand, and when we stand, we have to make a triangle with our bodies, the bow and the arrows. There are 8 steps to Kyudo called Hassetsu, and it was really cool to watch the members demonstrate how a competition might look. It takes a long time, about 15 minutes, for one person to shoot two arrows. It is a Zen sport, so it is silent in the dojo and we are only allowed to talk while learning and behind the glass barricade that separates the dojo into the shooting range and the equipment and changing areas.

I did archery as a Girl Scout when I was in high school, but of course archery is a lot more fast paced and is all about hitting the center of the target. In Kyudo, a hit on the target is counted no matter where the arrow lands, and the bulls-eye isn’t worth more points.

The aim of Kyudo is the achieve 無心 (mushin) which can be translated as extreme peace of mind. Kyudo is done as a form of meditation and concentration. I really need to learn patience and concentration, and this is a perfect way to meet people in my city and learn about Japanese culture. Kyudo is good for your health and is also accessible to people of all ages. A lot of people who start Kyudo end up doing it their whole lives.

Once our beginners class ends, we can join as members to the dojo and compete and take level tests. Lately I have become obsessed with learning all I can about Kyudo. I watched Youtube videos and researched the history and things about the equipment, etc. I also started a weekly workout routine in order to help me become better at Kyudo. I also have to learn how to sit in 跪座 (kiza) which looks like this:

I have to be able to do that for about 15 minutes at a time. Right now I can get to about 5 before my toes burn and I have to stop.

The bow is so heavy that I am also going to do a lot of push ups. The bows have levels of firmness, and right now I am on a level 10 which is apparently pretty hard to pull. The arrows must be measured against our arm length, and mine are the second longest in the class. So with a tough bow and a long arrow, I have my work cut out for me.

Today at school we had practice for Sports Day. They want me to do the three legged race on Saturday with another teacher, so I’m really excited. I have always dreamed of going to Sports Day, and I had a lot of fun talking with the students today. The girls did a dance and the guys have to do human pyramids and stuff. It’s really cool looking but a lot of students got hurt today, not surprisingly.

I am having so much fun as an almost second year JET. This year is so much better than last year. Now that I have Kyudo and I know the ropes on being an ALT, I feel a lot better mentally and physically. I’m ready to take on new challenges and keep going at a steady pace. I think a lot of my disappointments come from expecting too much too soon. I have to take baby steps and learn as I go.

I think my internet got turned back on at my house finally, so maybe I will be able to catch up on my TV shows!! I am currently reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and it is fantastic. I finished Winger, which was really good but made me kind of sad at the end. Maybe I can get back into doing book reviews now that I have my internet back.

What are all of you up to lately? Any new hobbies? Sports? Books? Shows? Lay it on me!


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