When you have a big crowd, you don’t exactly know what to expect. Many people. Many personalities. Many likes, dislikes and various interests. Very hard to please everyone.
Or is it?
Yesterday’s Kyudo Seminar, sponsored by Asian Cultural Arts Society and Central Florida Systema school was a huge success. A crowd of more than 20 came and participated in an exemplary demonstration and teaching of the art of Japanese archery. Senseis Ron Jones and Ed Symmes (from N. Florida and Georgia respectively) did a magnificent 4 plus hour presentation of all aspects of this deeply technical and detailed art.
First the equipment. . . .
The bows themselves are pieces of art unto themselves. Standing some 7 feet in length, they are made of either bamboo or some type of synthetic material and range from $400 to thousands. The arrows, also make of either natural woods or aluminum (with ether turkey feathers in American made or birds-of-prey feathers if from Japan or other countries) along with the shooting glove complete the major “tools” of the art.
The art. . . . .
Have you ever put together a complex puzzle or built your own computer? Details, details and more details. This is how I would describe the Kata (form) for Kyudo. Ed Symmes Sensei said it very well, “The good news is that there is only ONE kata in Kyudo. The bad news is that it typically takes a lifetime to master.”
Upon hearing, it may sound like a humorous statement but it hold more truth than comedy. The pace of the kata is very slow and rather painful at times. Whereas other arts such as Aikido have the martial artist sit in a kneeling position (sitting on their feet essentially), Kyudoka are elevated some 10 inches above their feet and must remain in that position until all fellow Kyudoka (including oneself of course) complete the kata.
The depth of details (there is that word again) cannot be described in such a short blog. From holding the bow, to parallel placement of the 2 arrows, to the release, breathing, posture, placement of the head etc. etc. etc., details, details and more details. Upon getting a taste of the details, one wonders if ONE lifetime is enough to master this art.
The feedback from the attendees was very positive. Virtually all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the outstanding presentation and I would anticipate a study group forming from this.
It appears that Kyudo is a dying art in America (though prospering in Europe and Asia). However, with seminars like this, teachers like Jones and Symmes Sensei and the energy of crowd such as this, this art will begin to have the resurgence it deserves.
Special note of thanks: Thanks to Bill Clark and Justin Kagan for helping bring this group down to train here in Orlando. Great job as always guys. Your dedication to martial arts as a whole is very impressive. I admire both of you and am proud to call you friends.
Also a thanks to Gary and Garth from Central Florida Systema school. Both of you have really stepped it up, training-wise. It is a pleasure to be around you. I admire you dedication to training, in spite of your work, kids and other commitments. These are the perfect excuses not to train, yet you set priorities, roll up your sleeves and get moving. You are examples of living the modern-day Budo life.
Finally, a big plug for my wife Lisa. Three years ago, you took a looong trip to Pensecola to train with Ron Sensei and have loved it ever since. Your passion never ceased, despite the lack of teaching in this area. Finally, your “pit bull” mentality of never giving up, paid off. I am so happy for you.