Shooting Nurtures the Mind’s Eye

by Dr. Ryouji Yokoyama, Kyoshi, 6th Dan.
published with the permission of the Author.


From its long tradition and history, the Kyudo or Japanese Archery that is commonly practised today mandates the learning of strengths which the archer must embody in the process of his or her training.

"Shooting Nurtures The Mind’s Eye" is one of those strengths.

As the archer reaches kai (full draw) with a fully tightened draw, the mind’s eye develops while gazing continuously at the target. The continuous focus of the archer’s gaze on the target is co-ordinated with "tsumeai" and "nobiai" while enduring the force of the bow, thus strength of spirit, strength of stability and strength of endurance are developed.

Picture of my Makiwara-Sharei demonstration (May, 1996) University of California, Irvine.

Tanryoku (strength of stability) is the removal of strength from the archer's chest and the generation of energy in the tanden (lower abdomen), therefore in the kyudo teachings of the Shahokun, it says ‘place your spirit in the center of your body’. Because placing the spirit in the centre of the body evokes the observing of the target with the mind’s eye instead of the physical eye, the archer is freed from the target. In such a situation the target can appear larger and may seem to approach. If the archer embodies such training then he will be able to see through to the Truth of things in his daily life and consequently he will become a trustworthy person.

I wrote this essay for the magazine ‘Seien’ (No. 536, 1993 November edition) because I believed that informing people of the strengths of Japanese archery will regain recognition of Kyudo as one of Japan's traditional martial arts and the essay has been well received. Now for the encouragement of kyudo students studying overseas in Europe and The United States I have had ‘Shooting Nurtures the Mind’s Eye’ translated into English with the help of Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan from the Northern California Kyudo Federation. It is my pleasure to present this essay to you.

Shooting Nurtures the Mind's Eye

On the cover page of the program for the All Japan University Kyudo Tournament held on the 2nd of August in 1993, I wrote the saying ‘Sha wa shingan o yashinau’ (Shooting nurtures the mind’s eye). My intention was to improve the quality of the students’ shooting.

This address was also given to celebrate the adoption of Kyudo as an officially recognised physical education subject by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education has also amended a section of the Educational Guidelines document to reclassify Kyudo from ‘Kakugi’ (combative sport) to ‘Budo’ (martial art) as of April 1st, 1994. This has been a long-time desire of the Budo (martial art) Association in Japan. I have devoted my efforts to the development of university kyudo because I wish to improve the quality of university kyudo which has tended to put too much weight on sportive aspects of Kyudo since its revival in 1953. I also wanted to respond to a request from the Ministry of Education to improve the moral education of Japanese university students through Kyudo in order to earn respect from foreign students, most of whom are from various Asian countries.

The improvement of moral education results from nurturing a proper mind.

The proper mind is described in Kyudo as ‘If the mind is proper then the conduct of shooting will be correct. If the conduct of shooting is correct then the release will be correct, too.’ If you ask what proper mind is, the answer will be Mushin (absolute mind) and Kyoshin (emptied mind). Mushin is also considered to be a force that works freely, responding as necessary.

The Kyoshin in the saying indicates that the mind is neither troubled non fettered to. Thus the mind develops to the state of Mushin.

A considerable amount of training is needed to reach such a state of mind which is not captured by the target when standing at full draw at a distance of twenty eight meters after following the proper conduct of shooting.

Therefore a classic saying goes, ‘The art of shooting forges one’s mind, this is the ultimate.’ Renshin Renmoku (forging the mind, forging the eyes) is born from this saying. Renshin (forging the mind) is to train one’s mind up to the stage of no desire of hitting the target. This is to reach the stage of Kyoshin and Mushin. And this Mushin is the cultivation of a mind which is able to freely change its form. Renmoku is training one's viewing ability. One should continue gazing at the target with the generation of kiryoku (spiritual force) until the target is naturally drawn toward oneself This gaze training is forging the mind through the eyes, and as a result the mind and eyes should be united in one, which is the essential factor in the development of the mind's eye.

The mind's eye is nurtured through training by gazing at the target while in full draw, called Kai in Kyudo, with an increasing force toward the Tanden (a few inches below the navel). While doing this, one maintains full draw longer than six seconds while discharging excessive strength from the chest. The increase of power into the Tanden is the generation of kiryoku (spiritual force) and this spiritual force, when developed to the full, makes the mind proper. Thus right conviction is also developed. While enduring the strength of the bow with proper will as a foundation, to generate such spiritual force with absolute mind requires self-restraint, calmness and patience. As a result, concentrated mind is developed. This concentrated mind is developed during the gazing of the target, which will also open the mind's eye. Once the mind's eye is opened, one can cope with anything with Fudoshin (firmness) or with Heijyoshin (uninfluenced mind). Then impurities of the mind such as doubtfulness, anxiety, timidness, fear, and low self-esteem, will be naturally removed.

As the spiritual force reaches fullness Kiai (spiritual energy) is generated. Such strength creates a powerful Hanare (release) and the arrow departs. The released arrow will suddenly be seen as existing in, the target. Such a release is striven for in Kyudo.

The posture after a release that is derived from the development of the mind’s eye is called Zanshin (remaining spirit). The remaining spirit should harmonize with the universe and should look majestic as it expresses the archer’s enlightened and trained mind.

The mind’s eye is developed and becomes a part of one's body through constant training with the awareness of the mato (target) as the primary teacher and the etiquette based on the Rei (@L . rites) as the secondary teacher. The essence of Rei in kyudo is different from that of Gi (* . right or moral principle) in Confucianism. It is rather explained as Kei (1& . respect) and also Chi (. intellect or knowledge). When Chi develops to the stage of ‘the absolute mind that works freely as needed’ it becomes a creative mind. It also appears to be a brave mind and a mind with harmony of spirit.

Having stated this, the mind's eye that is derived from the development of Renshin and Renmoku (forging of the mind, forging of the eye) leads to the cultivation of a mind that is able to clearly distinguish the truth of objects and phenomenon.

This helps to improve decision making and creates a trustworthy person in its daily application. Thus it is said ‘kyudo is living’ or ‘kyudo is life’.

I believe that development of the mind’s eye originates from ‘proper mind’ and it is natural that Japanese Kyudo, which has been cultivated through long Tradition and history, is now acknowledged as a Budo (martial art) and it will be acknowledged even more highly as a way of humanity.

I am truly delighted about this acknowledgement of Kyudo as a Budo and I hope that all university students practising Kyudo will work harder to nurture their mind’s eyes.

I will continue guiding them to be able to apply such strength of mind to their daily lives even after they finish their studies. In order to accomplish this, I will study the history of Kyudo more deeply and at the same time I am determined to reach the soul of Kyudo by exerting myself through shooting to nurture my own mind’s eye even further.

Thinking respectively of the late honourable Eiichi Shibusawa, I have taken this opportunity to speak about an aspect of Kyudo that is my mental food.

Note: Seien is the name of a bulletin published in commemoration of Mr. Eiichi Shibusawa who was a leader in Japanese industry around the 1890's.

Dr. Ryouji Yokoyama

President of The All Nippon University Students’ Kyudo Federation
Regents' Lecturer, University of California
Consultant to the Board of Directors Hitachi Chemical Co., Ltd.

Up-dated 18 July, 2000