2015 IKYF American Seminar Report

By: Masaki Ogura (Hanshi 8th Dan)

SponsorInternational Kyudo Federation (IKYF)
Co-SponsorsAll Nippon Kyudo Federation (ANKF)
American Kyudo Renmei – South Carolina Kyudo Renmei
VenueUniversity of South Carolina Upstate
DatesJuly 27 – July 29, 2015
IKYF PresidentTakeo Isihikawa (Hanshi 9th Dan)
Chief Koshi (Instructor)Shoichiro Nakatsuka (Hanshi 8th Dan)
Koshi (Instructor)Masaki Ogura (Hanshi 8th Dan)

Venue with a lot of heart

The American Seminar has been held over 20 times, seven of which have been held in South Carolina. With the full support of the University Administration, much of the facilities on campus were accessible for use. Around this period, all of the university students had vacated the dorms, taking all their belongings home.

The seminar was held in a recently built gymnasium. Utilizing two basketball courts, there was enough space to create three Shajo spaces with 1.8m between each mato for a 5-Person Tachi. Styrofoam was used for the Azuchi with cardboards supporting them. Behind it, a 5 meter net was hung to catch any stray arrows and a 3 to 4 meter Maku was lowered in the middle of the Yamichi and Mato-mae for additional protection from arrows. All precautions to safety were taken.

On the left side (and back) of the Shajo, a filter was used to help reduce the glare of the sunlight. We were thankful for the organizers to pay attention to such small details. We were told that the Shajo took around three hours to build. We could see the efforts everyone placed into Kyudo. Participants utilized the dormitories and cafeteria on campus, and everyone was grateful that all areas had air-conditioning systems.

This year, the total number of participants was 100; the breakdown was USA (68), Canada (17), Mexico (5), Uruguay (2), Argentina (2), Panama (2), Chile (2), Paraguay (1), and Austria (1). 68% of the participants were from the USA. Participants from South America were very few with only one or two participants per country, all of whom were Mudan. I had hoped that some from Brazil could have attended.


Day 1

In the previous seminars there were usually four days, but this time it was shortened to three days. Per Chief Koshi Nakatsuka, the contents of the seminar would be determined after watching all participants shoot Hitote (two arrows). The seminar was broken into as follows: Group 1 with No. 1 to 36 (Mudan) led by Ogura Koshi, Group 2 with No. 37 to 68 (Shodan to Sandan) led by Chief Koshi Nakatsuka and Group 3 with No. 69 to 100 (Sandan to Kyoshi Rokudan) led by Ishikawa Koshi, where during the three days the participants would be instructed on Shagi (Shooting Skill) with their designated instructor. Contents of the instruction focused on the Kyudo Manual Vol. 1, particularly on Kihontai (Basic Posture and Movements) and Shagi. There were no talks in general terms, but focusing on the Shagi.

Yawatashi was performed by Chief Koshi Nakatsuka with Kaizoe being carried out by two Renshi from the USA and Canada. For the most part, there were no major mistakes and it was overall well-practiced. The instructors then demonstrated some key points and gave instructions on the movements for Kaizoe. Afterwards was the Hitote-Gyôsha (Shooting of two arrows) done simultaneously in each Shajô, with each instructor watching.

Among the Mudan, there were some that still had usual problems that beginners face, but in general one could see the efforts of their hard practice. Instruction focused mainly on Ashibumi, Dôzukuri, Torikake, Tenouchi, Daisan, Tsurumichi, Yazuka, Hôzuke, Hanare, etc. But I had heard that there were also many people in the higher levels that had weak Hôzuke.

In the afternoon, all groups proceeded to practice Kihontai together. In the middle of the Shajo, a desk was placed where Chief Koshi Nakatsuka stood on, with the Kyudo Manual Vol. 1 in the left hand, and a microphone in the right as he read from the Manual. A comprehensive lecture was given on Kihon no Shisei (Basic Posture), movements, areas to be cautious on, Hiraki-ashi, etc. and was translated into English and Spanish so that everyone could understand clearly. Afterwards, there was Shagi-Shidô (Shooting Instruction) to finish the day.

That evening, a reception was held for all the participants and several VIPs. In attendance were the Consulate General Mr. Kazuo Sunaga and Consulate Mr. Kazuki Suzuki of the Consulate-General of Japan in Atlanta, Mr. Javier Dias De Leon of the Consulate-General of Mexico, Chancellor of the University of South Carolina Upstate Mr. Tom Moore, Mr. Yasukuni Watanabe and Mr. Shinichiro Kuwahara, Former President and Vice-President of Fuji Film, and Former Professor of Clemson University Dr. Yuji Kishimoto and his wife. Each one gave a warm welcome in their greetings.

The representative of each country also gave their greetings, with one stating that some individuals encountered difficulties entering the country because of some issues in getting a visa. In South America, some practice with an Azuchi that is built in the middle of a desert. Many could not attend for economic reasons and there was hope that seminars would be conducted in their countries.

In general, there are no public Dojo available, so everyone has to pull together and somehow make a space suitable for practice. Comparing this to how fortunate we are in Japan, their enthusiasm can be felt whole-heartily.

Day 2

The three instructors started off by performing Mochimato-Sharei followed by instruction on entering and exiting the Dojo, movements of Yatsugae, and the handling of Shitsu. Once finished, everyone proceeded to Shagi-Shidô. For Group 1, the instruction was on the Shahô-Hassetsu for the Shinsa on the 4th day. Most of the participants could not understand Japanese, so I had to use physical instruction using my hands and legs. When looking at Group 2 and 3, I saw the other instructors teaching surrounded by the participants who were listening and watching attentively.

Day 3

The three instructors performed Hitotsumato-Sharei without any particular instruction. To prepare for the Shinsa for the next day, 74 participants were broken into two groups and proceeded to practice in Shinsa method at the same time. From entering to exiting the dojo, everyone was able to practice several times. There were a few participants from Group 3 who were able to understand Japanese and aided in translation which I am thankful for as it helped make instructions smoother. Group 3 focused on Shagi and Sharei training. During the Shagi training, those in the higher grades were told they had weak Hôzuke. It is important to make sure that in the early stages as a beginner, the arrow is well in contact with the cheek in order to become one with the Yumi. I felt this might also be a problem with the instructors as well.

Day 4

The day of the Special Shinsa. This is the day in which the results of the past three days are seen. For Shodan and Nidan, for the most part Taihai and Hassetsu were done properly, and arrows were released safely. For Sandan and Yondan, more Tekichû (hitting the target) was desired, and Hayake, Yurumi (Weakening), Mukôzuru (Half Yugaeri) stood out. For Godan, everyone had Hayake and no Tekichû.

Not only in Kyudo, but once a bad habit sticks in, it is not so easy to fix. We only try to find the easiest way to do things. Practicing alone is forbidden. To humbly recognize one’s faults, get back to the fundamentals and train hard is the fastest way to improve. Instructors should be keenly aware of the importance of understanding the fundamentals. This concluded the scheduled events.


What was important to us as an Instructor

What I felt about this seminar was that in general, it was like any other seminar in Japan. I didn’t really feel much of a difference. I have the previous senior Instructors who put into their efforts to these seminars to thank. Those who could attend this seminar were the very few who had the time and the means to come. But all of them, even those attending as Mudan, can take back and transmit what they have learnt, and become an instructor to others. This is why it is important as an Instructor to be aware of keeping to the fundamentals and give correct instructions.

Lastly, I would like to give my deepest thanks to the people and other instructors involved in the hosting of this seminar. And additional thanks to those who drove us instructors back and forth every day during the seminar, the thoughtful preparation of Japanese breakfasts by Mrs. Reiko Blackwell and Mrs. Cynthia Moon, and the wonderful Japanese lunch prepared by Ms. Chikayo Kawagishi, a Doll Creator from Saeki, Oita.