View Full Version : The Myth of Zen in the Art of Archery

11th April 2001, 00:10
The two messages below first appeared in the Koryu section under the heading "book review." So that more people might notice Yamada's article, I am reposting them here.



Posted by W.Bodiford on 04-09-2001 07:29 PM

If you are interested in Herrigel's Zen and the Art of Archery, be sure to read the following article:

Yamada Shoji. 2001. "The Myth of Zen in the Art of Archery." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 28, nos. 1-2.

This issue of the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies should be available in the libraries of major research universities (and via inter-library loan) in a month or so.

Yamada's essay (which Earl Hartman translated into English as a selfless act of devotion to kyudo) explains how Herrigel's teacher came to create an odd new religion that had no relationship to Zen, how Herrigel came to misunderstand his teacher's archery as a form of Zen, and how that misunderstanding has been uncritically accepted by students of Japanese culture.

Yamada's article will become a classic account of the misunderstanding of Japan. I highly recommend it.
William Bodiford

Posted by Earl Hartman on 04-10-2001 01:33 PM

Zen In The Art Of Archery is worth reading, so long as one goes into it with one's eyes open, but it is hard to imagine a book that would be worse as an introduction to kyudo as it is generally practiced in Japan. I speak from experience: Herrigel was one of my motivations for beginning kyudo, and it is only after many years of personal practice and independent research that I came to realize how skewed his presentation of kyudo was. I will not say completely mistaken; rather, his presentation deliberately concentrated on his (erroneous) understanding of the spiritual content of the practice to the exclusion of any disucssion of the practical side to what he was doing. The result is a lopsided discussion that does not do justice to the reality of kyudo training.

There are many things in the book that are interesting and valuable, but as far as kyudo is concerned, the book is quite worthless if by reading it one intends to get an understanding of what kyudo is all about. Taken out of context, Herrigel's pronouncements about the nature of kyudo are dangerously misleading; and a solid grounding in kyudo practice under competent instruction is a must if one is to understand, and properly evaluate, what Herrigel is talking about. A reader with no practical experience in kyudo will inevitably develop a completely distorted image of kyudo if he relies on Herrigel alone.

If one knows nothing about kyudo and wants to get a clear, objective, and balanced introduction to the art, the best book for this purpose is "Kyudo; The Essence and Practice of Japanese Archery" by Onuma and DeProspero. There are other English language books on the subject, but they are, for the most part, quite flawed. The Onuma/DeProspero book is, by far, the single best English-language book on the subject, bar none.

Upthread, Professor Bodiford spoke about an article by Professor Yamada Shoji entitled "The Myth of Zen In The Art Of Archery". This article is a concise and dispassionate critique of Herrigel's work, and is, in my opinion, required reading for anyone seriously interested in understanding the true nature of Herrigel's "contribution" to the (mis)understanding of kyudo in the West.

The translated article can be found at the following URL:


I should also point out that although I did the original translation, Professor Bodiford did the editing, without which the article would not be anywhere nearly as readable as it is.
Earl Hartman


Undmark, Ulf
11th April 2001, 08:04
Dear Professor Bodiford,

I've read somewhere that zen is considered a minority sect in Japan today. Is this true and has this always been the case?

Also, I believe that Suzuki in one (or some) of his works stated something along the lines "Tendai is for the royal family, Shingon is for the nobility, Jodo is for the masses and Zen is for the warriors"? I probably do not quote him correctly, but from where does this view origin...is it/was it a fair statement?

Ulf Undmark

11th April 2001, 20:11
I would be interested to know what Mr. Yamada's background is. From the sounds of the article it sounds like he is another person who writes without the experience of zen, kyudo or any budo for that matter.
His research of the historical data was wonderful. I was also fascinated with Mr. Awa's history.

Earl Hartman
13th April 2001, 17:28

With all due respect, it is clear that you do not know whereof you speak. Professor Yamada is an experienced kyudo archer who studied under the late Inagaki Genshiro Hanshi, who was a student of Urakami Sakae Hanshi of the Heki Ryu Insai-ha (also known as Heki To Ryu). Urakami Hanshi also taught my own teacher, the late Murakami Hisashi Hanshi.

May I ask if you yourself have any experience in kyudo? Judging from your post, it seems to me that you probably do not. Professor Yamada made no claims in the article that he was a student of meditation; indeed, the whole point of the article was that Herrigel was wrong when he said that kyudo is a form of Zen meditation.

You are obviously starting with the preconceived notion that kyudo is a form of Zen meditation. It is not, and it never has been. The pernicious influence of Herrigel's book, and the writings of D.T. Suzuki (another armchair theorist who had no experience in budo yet wrote about it interminably), are the ONLY reasons that people in the West believe that it is.

The entire purpose of Professor Yamada's article was to dispel that myth, and I think he did quite a good job. Sorry if it burst your bubble. I should also point out that Herriegl's teacher never made any claims that kyudo was a form of Zen either, as the article makes clear. Awa Sensei seems to have had a decidedly spiritual bent that he emphasized in his practice, perhaps to the detriment of other elements of traditional kyudo. This apparently put him at odds with the traditionalists. However, disagreements between teachers in Japan are quite common. There is no one single "approved" version of kyudo. People who only know about kyudo through Herrigel are always making the mistake that Herrigel's kyudo, which was a misinterpretation of a somewhat unorthodox approach to the art, is the only proper interpretation of kyudo. Again, it is not. Kyudo is far more multifaceted than most people think.

Tha being said, kyudo most definitely has a spiritual aspect, but this is such an integral part of kyudo that everyone takes it for granted to the point that people do not babble about it incessantly the way Herrigel did. However, it is spiritual disipline in the service of learning a practical skill. In this process, one will have certain spiritual epiphanies and will learn a great deal about oneself from a spiritual perspective. However, that is just something that comes along with kyudo practice. It is an integral part of it, yes, but it is not the ultimate purpose. People who make it the ultimate purpose often just wind up gazing at their navels and forget that they need to learn how to shoot properly.

If you want to learn about the spirit of kyudo from the horse's mouth rather than relying on the romanticized scribblings of a self-described philosopher-mystic who spent only 3 years learning kyudo once a week through an interpreter, and who then re-interpreted his experience through the lens of his preconceived ideas (which were based upon the writings of someone who had never picked up a bow), go to the following link:


17th April 2001, 00:30
Mr. Hartman,

You make a good point and thank you for the Link. However, please forgive me but I am looking at it from the zen perspective and not the Kyudo side. Since you are correct I have never picked a bow up. Well except for the time at the YMCA Camp at the age of 12 if that counts for anything, which by the way I did hit a bullseye at 12 feet on my first shot with no training. However, I do study Aikido and Zen.

You correctly pointed out that Herrigal's book in by know means is a manual on kyudo. I believe it is a wonderful story about what can happen when you practice with the truest of sincerety of mind and body. Which leads me to ask you - can you have the experience of satori or even Zen without practicing zen officially under a Roshi? I believe Herrigal had the experience just as O'Sensei did as well as Awa to name just a few.

As for my Zen teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi told me just this weekend in sanzen. Zen, Aikido, Kendo, Kyudo is all the same. Meaning that the final spiritual outcome is the same should you practice sincerely with both mind and body coordination. Most people get stuck on the body and the physical world. Therefore, I say to you - with all due respect, it is clear that you do not know whereof you speak as neither you or Professor Yamada appear to be Men of Zen. Therefore, how can one compare Zen to Archery until they have truely mastered both? In my opinion they cannot. Therefore, no apology needed as there was no bubble...

Tracy Reasoner

"Everything is Zen" - Buddha

"Many think they know but they really don't know" - Jim Mora NFL coach .

Earl Hartman
17th April 2001, 17:39
Tracy, I have no idea what you are talking about. If we are to say that everything is the same and everything is Zen, that is so broad as to be completely meaningless. I do not see how your experience in Zen, no matter how broad or deep, gives you the authority to say that Zen and kyudo are the same. Why do Zen practitoners think that somehow they have the authority to talk about things in which they have no experience, yet take issue with others who, from the basis of their own limited experience, feel free to pontificate on things about which they know nothing? Since you have no experience in kyudo, I think it would be wise for you to stop trying to define it based on something you read in a book.

Herrigel presented kyudo in his book specifically as a Zen practice. Professor Yamada makes a very convincing case that this was a figment of Herrigel's imagination. Inasmuch as Awa Sensei was not himself a Zen practitoner, and did not expound his shado as a way for reaching Zen, as the article makes clear, why should you not believe that? This was Awa Sensei's own view, not Professor Yamada's interpretation of it.

I have never claimed to be a Zen practitoner. I do not understand why you should accuse me, or Professor Yamada, of something that neither of us have claimed. In discussions about kyudo with Zen practitoners, I have been told that many of the things found in kyudo practice bear a close resemblance to what they are striving for in their own practice. I am willing to take their word for it, but that's as far as it goes. I am interested in kyudo, not Zen. If a Zen person tells me I am doing Zen, that's just gravy for me. Like I said, your attitude stems from your preconception, based on Herrigel's book, that for something in budo to have value it must be some sort of Zen practice. I do not understand this attitude, frankly. Budo has its own value, and needs no help from Zen or anything else to be a valuable practice. Frankly, I think that it shows great disrespect to kyudo, or to any other budo, for that matter, to treat it as just a tool to be used to accomplish some other "higher" purpose, such as "enlightenment", for example. Kyudo should be practiced for its own sake, and not used as a stepping stone to achieve something that the practioner feels is more important than the art which he is practicing. Such a person will never understand the true spirit of the bow, even if it is right in front of his face.

Like you said, you are looking at it from the Zen side, not the kyudo side. That is precisely your problem, as it was Herrigel's. Does not your Zen practice tell you to see a thing "in its as-it-isness"? To accept it for what it is instead of trying to redefine it through the lens of your own preconceptions? Why do you feel such a need to make everything over in the image of Zen? Why cannot kyudo be its own practice with its own unique spiritual insights? You are making the same mistake Herrigel did.

Professor Yamada makes it quite clear that there are certain ideas common to both Zen and archery. His point was that Herrigel misunderstood these things, not that they do not exist. If you took the time to read the link that I posted, and taken the time to think about what Saito Sensei said, you should be able to understand that there is a deep spiritual side to the practice. Nobody ever said that there is not. There is. I am sure that Awa Sensei had a deep spiritual experience. I have had many spiritual experiences in kyudo as well. It is part of the practice. Since I know nothing about Zen, I am not going to say that these are Zen-type enlightenment experiences. They are spiritual revelations on the road of kyudo. I am satisifed with that.

You say that most people get stuck in the body and the physical world. Why is this a problem? Is it better to have your head in the clouds? The problem with that attitude is that kyudo is a physical practice. People who think it is a purely spiritual practice are wrong, precisely because this idea introduces a dichotomy between the body and the spirit where there is none. This is typical Western dualistic thinking. In kyudo, the spirit and the body, the mind and technique, the "jutsu" and the Do" are one and the same. There is no difference. You cannot have one without the other. The validity of a person's spiritual insight into the way of kyudo is revealed through how he shoots the bow. Since you have not practiced kyudo, I do not expect you to understand this, however.

If you want to say that Zen and kyudo are the same because "the final spiritual outcome is the same should you practice sincerely with both mind and body coordination", well, of course. Did anyone ever say that kyudo does not require such practice? Everything requires such practice. Some people just don't understand that, that's all. Kyudo cannot be accomplished without the deepest coordination between spirit and technique. This is such a truism that it needs no elaboration whatsoever. Kyudo archers take this for granted, and so it is not necessary to talk about it too much.

Whether or not someone can have the experience of Zen or satori without training under a Roshi is not something I am qualified to discuss. Like I said, however, that is not my goal. I am interested in understanding kyudo. Whether kyudo and Zen are the same or different is of little concern to me. Kyudo, by itself, is more than enough for me.

18th April 2001, 00:01
Zen is seeing “directly” into the true nature of things. This method of perceiving the world and its apparent individual “things” can be applied to any and all activities. Thus, “all” activities are the same in providing a means for acquiring this “direct seeing”. All activities, including Kyudo, Aikido, Chado, Ditch Digging-do, etc. can be beneficial in acquiring this “direct seeing”. It is a person’s individual interest and aptitude for these activities that make them effective. It is less important what the activity is and more important what the individual brings to the activity. I have not read Mr. Herrigel's book and know next to nothing of Kyudo, (although I find it a fascinating art.), but if Mr. Herrigel found something Zen-like in its activity then it was beneficial for his personal development and good for him. If this Zen-like emphasis is not the focus of Kyudo in general, that is all right as well, that does not mean it cannot be used for such a purpose by an individual.


Ellis Amdur
18th April 2001, 06:45
It is my understanding that Herrigel and his wife went back to Germany and joined the Nazi party. Zen is sometimes viewed as "beyond" morality, but Philip Aitken Roshi refers to this perspective as "Buddhistic," saying that an underpinning of morality (the Eight Noble truths) is required for Buddhist practice.

So when I read statements from the Zennists above, extolling Herrigel as a man of Zen or enlightenment, I wonder how that goes with the Nazi party. I would not be surprised if a smug prat might pipe up with "The nazi party holds the Buddha nature too." Sure, in the sense that anything that exists has the Buddha nature, which is merely a philosophical tautology - "Anything that exists does exist" or ""everthing is interconnected." (by the way, I am not accusing anyone of being a "smug prat" - but anyone inclined to pull the 'Buddha nature gambit' will, by Buddha nature, define themselves as such)

I will indulge in a little baseless speculation (no more so than the assertion that Herrigel actually understood kyudo in his likening it to Zen). Perhaps his joining the Nazi party was merely a manifestation of his capacity for delusion equal to his likening kyudo to zen and thus it is natural that his conclusions about the nazi party, emanating from his manifest capacity for delusion, fantasy, romanticism and misinterpretation that would also be distorted. Then again, even skewed insights have the Buddha nature. You think me cynical? - even cynicism has the Buddha nature.

Sorry, it's late, I just finished paying my taxes. Whoops! Even the IRS has the Buddha nature.

of course, if I am wrong and herrigel did not join the nazi party, and instead, joined the White Rose resistence movement in Germany, perhaps even firing his bow at the random Gestapo agent (I hope he tried to hit the target!) , then I'll try a little of that Zen archery myself.


Ellis Amdur

18th April 2001, 17:02
Interesting information Ellis!!

Even though all things possess a Buddha nature not all things clearly perceive the Buddha nature. If Herrigel had truly realized his Buddha nature it is doubtful he would have become a Nazi. History is replete with violent Buddhists as it is with violent Christians and I think it appropriate to question the motivation and understanding of those who use violence as a problem solving device.


Earl Hartman
19th April 2001, 01:40

As usual, properly acerbic, pointed, and relevant comments.

Herrigel was a Nazi Party member. Professor Bodiford even sent me an e-mail with his party membership number. Professor Yamada has also unearthed documents either written by Herrigel, or by people in support of Herrigel, that apparently were intended to be used as evidence at a rehabilitaion hearing after the war. Herrigel was not rehabilitated, apparently, which would indicate that the Occupation authorities felt that he was a real Nazi, and not just a fellow traveller. If I am not mistaken, I think Professor Yamada (or someone; I can't remember where I heard this now) may also have the text of Herrigel's speech given on the occasion of his installation as rector of Erlangen University, which apparently makes his Nazi sympathies quite plain. Professor Yamada hopes to have these published and translated in the future.

If I have got my facts wrong, and if Professor Bodiford is lurking on this thread, I am sure he will correct me.

Did you read Professor Yamada's article? I'd like to know what you think of it.

Joseph Svinth
19th April 2001, 06:38
During the 1930s, Jung described Herrigel as a Nazi who distracted his conscience with esoteric Buddhism.
( http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:www.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/Bulletin/23-Heisig.pdf+herrigel+nazi&hl=en ) However, in his own eyes, Herrigel evidently equated Nazism's "Revolutionary Spirit" with Zen's "destructive force." http://www.friesian.com/poly-2.htm .

FWIW, and IMO, Mrs. Herrigel's book shows a lot better understanding of Japanese culture.

Google is Zen.

19th April 2001, 22:45
No matter if Herrigal was a nazi or what his motives were. It is still a damn good book and that is proven through the great reviews it has received and the many printings since 1953.

My personal feeling is that Yamada is taken the opportunity to discredited a piece of work even by going as far as discrediting mathematically the chance of hitting the shaft of a first shot. Which in my opinion is absolutely ridiculous. People win the lottery everyday with greater odds.

I think Ken Wilber said it best - "We do not want our sages to have bodies, egos, drives, vitality, sex, money, relationships, or life, because those are what habitually torture us, and we want out. We do not want to surf the waves of life, we want the waves to go away. We want vaporware spirituality"

Not that I would refer to Herrigal as a sage but the mere suggestion that enlightened people cannot be misled or make mistakes is nonsensical.

Ellis Amdur
20th April 2001, 01:06
Martin Heidegger was a magnificent philosopher, who gave perhaps the greatest exposition of "immanent" philosophy - that the proper philosophical question is "Being" itself. One of his central concepts is that the greatest philosophical question was one's "Being towards death." In other words, the ultimate question is posed by the fact that we will die. In heidegger's view, we live, either authentically by facing this or inauthentically by not facing it.

Heidegger became an enthusiastic Nazi. He was even instrumental in the removal of his own teacher, Edmund Husserl, a Jew, from his position in the same university. Husserl founded a branch of philosophy called Phenomenology, in a sense, a "Zen" of German philosophy in that it was concerned with real experience.

One of Husserl and Heidegger's students was Emanuel Levinas. Levinas stated, correctly, that Heidegger's wonderful philosophy carried the roots of fascism. Two reasons: It was a "totalizing" philosophy - it offered no transcendent being beyond being (a divine energy or spark) and therefore it was a philosophy that encompassed existence. A transcendent philosophy, such as the one Levinas eventually developed, approaches "infinity" rather than "totality." In simple terms, the infinite universe is never known, never encompassed because knowledge only leads to more unfolding. The totalized universe can be "realized" by the "enlightened being."

Heidegger's universe is composed the same way a fascist political system does. Just as Hegel's universe, another "totalized" one, led to Marxism. In other words totalitarianism can be political or intellectual, but if one holds the stance in either realm, one will probably act on it in any realm.

The second reason that Levinas attacked Heidegger's worldview was that Levinas defined humans as we really are. Yes, we are afraid of death, but the most human part of us transcends that animal fear by being afraid of/for OTHER'S deaths. The root concern of humanity is, in Levinas's view, responsibility for one's acts, that, even if one turns away from it deliberately, one cannot hide from the fact one is responsible. (Similar to the samurai ethic at it's best - that one sacrifices oneself for something larger than oneself.)

I'm not doing justice to this, I am aware, but in short, Heidegger's universe is, like pop-Zen, be it new age or that of many Japanese priests, amoral. Levinas' universe is fundamentally moral - in other words, there is good and there is evil. I recall when Chogyam Trumpa's enlightened sucessor, Ozel Tenzing, knowingly infected followers with AIDS, a person named Butterfield wrote a long angst ridded essay in the Sun magazine suggesting, in part, that Ozel had given these people a "teaching," an opportunity to transcend their attachment to health and life.

True buddhists, in fact, are aware of this, and this is where the eight noble truths lie. Zen without Buddhism, in other words, without the sangha with it's rules, morality and discipline, is an excuse of psychopathic detachment. That is why the "bodhisattva" ideal is to reject satori until all sentient beings are enlightened.

Interestingly, Levinas was not a pacifist. He fought in the French resistence. His opposition to murder, his acceptance of responsibility for other's deaths, led him to fight.

So returning to Herrigel. He may have had some wonderful experiences, even, perhaps appreciating the interwoven nature of the universe itself. In my neck of the woods, that's called getting high, and whether one does it on acid or starvation or discipline, it has no intrinsic value. I quoted a rabbi in my book - to paraphrase, he said something like, "I have no doubt that the murderous priests of the Inquisition had the same mystical experiences that I do. The questions isn't where you go when you go 'out there.' The question is 'what you bring back.'

Tracy might find it a "damn good book." So, in the same way were Casteneda's works. But it was clear to me in my trips to the Baja and Sonora deserts that Casteneda had never been there - there's too much cactus to be running at night. Both men wrote fiction. In Casteneda's case, it was conscious. In Herrigel's, it was obviously his fantasies and misinterpretations of Japanese and Zen both. But such romanticism is, I believe, connected to a character trait in him that would be swept by whatever passion move him most powerfully, be it a great archer whom he couldn't understand or an atavistic god-imbued political philosophy like Nazism.

In short, Tracy, it is your adulation that smacks of "vaporware." That you are thrilled or entertained by the book is not evidence of it's value. The point is not that "enlightened" people can't make mistakes. It is simply that they, of all people, cannot be let off the hook because they reorganized their neural net to get high and people seem to think they are so damn special when they do.

On another note, I witnessed a kyujutsu practitioner split his own arrow.

With respect

Ellis Amdur

22nd April 2001, 07:42

All your posts have been interesting, informative and thought provoking. I think it is important to keep in mind that, regardless of a person’s moral outlook and actions it is possible to experience some aspects of truth and communicate that experience. I am not attesting to the truth or falsity of Herrigel’s writings for, as I have previously written, I have not read his book. However, it is clear that many have gained benefits from his writings. Each individual reading his work must determine the truth or falsity of Herrigel’s perspective. My experiences have taught me that the truths I perceive today may be altered or disposed of with further learning, growth and experience and some truths I once thought foolish have with further learning, growth and experience become quite understandable. While many search for truth, the final arbiter of what the truth is can only be determined by each individual, for we are each responsible for our own actions and beliefs. The Chinese have a saying, “A thousand monks, a thousand religions.” No two people will ever perceive or experience the truth in the same exact manner. Apparently Tracy and many others have found benefit in Herrigel’s writings whether they were writings of fantasy or not. Fools and the ignorant are as perfectly capable of perceiving truth from time to time as the rest of us.

I agree with Ellis that it is important not to confer grandiosity to the messenger because of the grandness of his message. After all there is only one truth that is expressed through a multiplicity of perspectives. A particular view of the truth that speaks to one person may not speak to another. The best that any person can do in expressing their own spiritual experiences to others is to point the direction they have traveled. It is like the finger pointing to the moon. Once you find the moon, the finger becomes unimportant; it was merely the means to the end, not the end in itself. It is natural to admire those who have helped us to realize certain spiritual truths, but it is the truths that are important not the messenger. Truth stands on its own regardless of whether a saint or a sinner speaks it. It just “seems” more credible if it comes from the saint.

Thank you all for your contributions to my education on this matter. I appreciate the many views and experiences that each of you has brought to this discussion. It is encouraging to me to read such educated and well thought out opinions.


Earl Hartman
23rd April 2001, 08:09

The popularity of Herrigel's book is no barometer of its value. Pokemon cards are popular too.

I'm glad you brought up the target in darkness episode. This episode, and the meaning Herrigel ascribes to it, is really the heart of Herrigel's view of kyudo.

It is clear by the way Herrigel presents this episode, and the words he ascribes to Awa, that he is asserting that if the archer is enlightened and open to the power of "It", he can perform such miraculous feats as hitting his own arrow in the dark. Herrigel presents this feat by Awa as something that didn't surprise Awa at all and which he nonchalantly ascribed to the power of "It", some mysterious force in the universe that can act through a person if that person is sufficiently attuned to it.

This is, of course, a very seductive idea: one need not worry about technique but must just open oneself up to "It" and let "It" do all the work. Who would not want to learn how to do that?

Does this idea sound familiar? It should. "It" is none other than "The Force" that George Lucas popularized in his Star Wars films. I'll lay gold to groceries that Lucas has read Herrigel.

For Herrigel's assertion of the power of "It" to have any meaning, at least as far as kyudo is concerned, it must be seen as something that can lead to the consistent repetition of such feats. The problem with this is that according to the testimony of Komachiya and Anzawa, Awa specifically disavowed any special meaning to the incident and said quite plainly that it was nothing more than a coincidence, just luck, like winning the lottery. Of course these things happen. But it was just luck. If he really believed what Herrigel asserts he said, then he would have said the same thing to Komachiya and Anzawa. However, the fact that he clearly said it was just a coincidence shows that he did not believe that "It" had anything to do with it. Thus, Herrigel's assertion of the nature of "It" and its fundamental importance to kyudo must be seen, by Awa's own testimony, to be mistaken.

Also, you missed the point about Professor Yamada's use of computer simulations to detertmine the rarity of the occurrence. He was not trying to say it was impossible, he was just trying to ascertain exactly how rare such an occurrence is. While it is rare, I myself have done it on more than one occasion. The only result was that I had to get my arrows repaired.

This is what Urakami Hanshi has to say about the spirit of kyudo:

"The purpose of the Way of Shooting is, by building up your courage, correcting yourself, and making your bones and sinews firm, to strike the target following the Ho (the Law, i.e., the Law of Shooting, or the Shaho). Therefore, everyone who wants to shoot a bow must make their intentions true, set their spirit to rights, and make the form of the shooting correct by following the proper standards, all the way from ashibumi, dozukuri, torikake, tenouchi and yugamae, through uchiokoshi and hikiwake sanbun no ni (hikiwake two thirds), and up to and including tsumeai, nobiai, yagoro, hanare and zanshin. When the form of the shooting is correct, your joints will be properly aligned, the power of your muscles will be properly balanced, your draw length will settle in accordance with your physique, your mind will become settled and distractions will cease to trouble you, your body and limbs will be filled with vitality, you and the bow will become one, your mind and body will be firm and resolute and the bow unwavering, and the entire arrow will fill with power and quicken with life. In this way you must wait for all of these separate elements to unite into one and for the release to come of itself.

If you shoot the arrow in this way, you will never miss the target by thinking too much. This is not just mosha guchu (a shot done in a haphazard way strikes the target accidentally) but hosha hitchu (a shot done in accordance with the Law never misses). Thus, if ever the arrow is shot and it doesn't strike the target, you must consider deeply whether the form of your shooting conforms to the proper standards or whether your mind and spirit are united, and search within yourself for the answer. Since whether the target is struck or missed depends entirely on yourself, hitting the target does not warrant boasting nor missing it anger.

The essential thing is to just dispel all doubt and ego and awaken to the as-it-isness of Nature, to not lapse into thinking and discrimination, to leave the realm of intention and thought behind, and, like an object reflected in a bright mirror or the moon reflected on the surface of the water, to calm the eyes of the mind in the realm of munen muso (no intention, no thought) and to strive to shoot the arrow according to the Law."

This may sound like Zen to you. But it is kyudo.

25th April 2001, 16:07
Dear Mr. Amudur,

Thanks for your post it was very interesting.

However, I would have to partially disagree with your statement:

"So returning to Herrigel. He may have had some wonderful experiences, even, perhaps appreciating the interwoven nature of the universe itself. In my neck of the woods, that's called getting high, and whether one does it on acid or starvation or discipline, it has no intrinsic value."

You are absolutely correct in stating that "getting high is of absolutely no intrinsic value" I did not perceive that at all from Herrigal's writings. And since all of us have different levels of observation maybe mine will change after many more years of practice. Although to me (with my background in the Marine Corps, Aikido and Zen) his portrayal seems accurate.

As for your comments Mr. Hartman. I would merely say that Pokeman cards are a fad until they have withstood 47 years of review. In fact, this article that you so highly proclaim is the only thing I have ever read negatively about Herrigal's work. Which in my opinion is merely a failed attempt to critique his Kyudo style. Like most things, politics shows through (My kyudo is better then your kyudo style...blah blah blah).

So upon this I will agree to disagree. Time has done this book well and I am sure it will continue attract people to Kyudo. Maybe for the wrong reasons according to what is perceived from Mr. Hartman's style. ; )

Earl Hartman
26th April 2001, 02:10

Feel free to continue to take the word of a man who didn't uderstand Japanese and who practiced kyudo for only three years against the testimony of experienced kyudo archers, whom I have quoted to you extensively, who have devoted their lives to the practice of kyudo. You will not be the first person to have done so, nor will you be the last. Since you do not practice kyudo, and, apparently, have no intention of doing so, it is of no particular importance.

Herrigel's book is popular in the West, where people have little or no real knowledge of Japan or its traditions. People here have no frame of reference in which to understand Herrigel's work. It is a wonderful, seductive story, filled with mysterious and mystical events which seem to pass understanding. Based on it, people have drawn certain conclusions about Japan, and kyudo, which, while romantic and pleasant, are, for the most part, erroneous.

Normally, people will lend more credence to the words of people with greater experience than to those of people with lesser experience. I do not see why you have chosen to do the opposite, but that is your problem, not mine. I started practicing kyudo almost 30 years ago, primarily under the influence of Herrigel's book. Like many people who have read it, I was attracted to the mysteriousness of kyudo and wanted to learn how to do those things that Herrigel described Awa as doing. Through my practice, I found that many of the things Herrigel said, while not outright lies or fabrications, were based on a faulty understanding of what he was doing, which was a result of lack of experience, the inability to understand directly what his teacher was saying, and preconceptions which clouded his judgement. Thus, I decided to rely on my own direct experience and forget about trying to shoehorn what was right in front of my face into the framework that Herrigel presented, always trying to "Zennify" what I was doing instead of just doing it. Once I did that, my kyudo practice made a lot more sense and I was able to see the practice for what it was, and not what someone in a book said it should be.

In any case, a book is just a book. I would be a fool if relied on that instead of what I learned from my own teachers and through my own practice and experience.

Margaret Lo
26th April 2001, 14:34
error. sorry.

Margaret Lo
26th April 2001, 14:35
Originally posted by Tracy
As for your comments Mr. Hartman. I would merely say that Pokeman cards are a fad until they have withstood 47 years of review.

Surely neither passage of time nor popularity (or lack thereof) are sufficient defense against assertions of factual error in a given text.

If Herrigel's work is on trial, time and popularity would constitute only circumstantial evidence of its worthiness.

If the work was reviewed during the past 47 years, it is not clear that the reviews were adequate. What reviews can be cited and from what sources?


Margaret Lo
26th April 2001, 14:35

Joseph Svinth
27th April 2001, 07:44
Earl --

Now here's a nice discussion of Zen in a collegiate course, and Clay's kyudo website even gets a plug. :)


Margaret --

On the assumption that the Way of the Reader involves more than reading one 81-page book and then proclaiming "Profound," have you seen the Zen bibliography at http://www.iijnet.or.jp/iriz/irizhtml/ejbiblio/ejbibind.htm ? The texts listed are all in English, and I'd guess Princeton has most of them. Meanwhile, if you read East Asian languages, back up and then you can read many primary sources online.

Eric Montes
30th April 2001, 00:14
Re your comments.
As for your comments Mr. Hartman. I would merely say that Pokeman cards are a fad until they have withstood 47 years of review. In fact, this article that you so highly proclaim is the only thing I have ever read negatively about Herrigal's work. Which in my opinion is merely a failed attempt to critique his Kyudo style. Like most things, politics shows through (My kyudo is better then your kyudo style...blah blah blah).

The only reason that you may have not encountered any negative reviews may be due to the lack of desire in the western world to criticize a "cornerstone" of (non-Japanese) zen literature. The Yamada article is the result of many years of research and discussion in Japanese with direct students of Awa Sensei, in THEIR native language by another native japanese speaker.

Having spent 3 of the last 5 years in Japan studying kyudo, zen was never part of the practice nor the instruction. It is not a necessary part of any budo practice. Nor is budo a necessary part of zen practice. It is my opinion that the concentration, intensity, and "no-mindedness" are too often (and too easily) attibuted to zen just because it is a Japanese discipline that embodies these elements.

I, like Earl, approached kyudo from reading Herrigel's book. I also began studying calligraphy in Japan because of the zen relationship. However, the more I studied, the more I came to realize that zen has little or nothing to do with either. There are great calligraphers that studied zen and there are great calligraphers that didn't. The same with kyudo. Skill comes from practice not from satori.

And by the way, one of my kyudo teachers also split one of his arrows, and boy was he pissed. Those arrows were about $1000 each.


Earl Hartman
1st May 2001, 19:04
Hey, Eric.

$1,000 arrows, huh? Must have had some really nice fletchings. If he just busted the nock, not a problem, but if he wrecked the fletching, yeah, that could have cost him.

Fortunatley, I just ruined my practice arrows, which are not so expensive. When I use my good arrows, I am always careful to miss my first arrow with my second ;).

23rd October 2001, 00:56
Dear Ellis,

Philip Aitken Roshi refers to this perspective as "Buddhistic," saying that an underpinning of morality (the Eight Noble truths) is required for Buddhist practice.

It's the Four Noble Truths, the fourth of which is the Eightfold Path of the Noble Middle Way.

Koji Otaguro
2nd May 2003, 10:06
Originally posted by Earl Hartman

With all due respect, it is clear that you do not know whereof you speak. Professor Yamada is an experienced kyudo archer who studied under the late Inagaki Genshiro Hanshi, who was a student of Urakami Sakae Hanshi of the Heki Ryu Insai-ha (also known as Heki To Ryu). Urakami Hanshi also taught my own teacher, the late Murakami Hisashi Hanshi.


I'd like to know what dan or kyu in kyudo Yamada really is.


Earl Hartman
2nd May 2003, 17:45
Otaguro san:

Professor Yamada has a 5th dan in kyudo.

Also, you don't need to call me "sensei".

12th July 2005, 09:46
while reading a recent post I came across this on aikiweb.

The credit goes to David Valdez who is listed at the end of the post.


Tracy Reasoner

For Yamada, you might want to consider the following.

Some reasons on why and how to read Yamada cautiously:

1. Early philosophical positions relating the concept of emptiness to secular activities got a big cultural base to work with during the Muromachi periods. This connection was based upon Ch'an and/or Zen concepts of emptiness -- concepts that were prevalent during that time at the level of culture. This set the groundwork for what would later follow - several sets of evolutions and/or adaptations that made sense of secular pursuits as Ways.

From Meiji through the end of WWII, secular pursuits, such as the martial arts, were understood slightly differently from during the Muromachi period -- this though emptiness stayed a relevant concept. In particular, the concept of emptiness was used to create a rationale that linked political loyalty to the Emperor, a growing sense of national identity, a foreign policy of territoriality, a sense of serving the state, etc., to things like martial arts training. Awakening, and/or the concept of "no self," were superimposed with the notion of serving the state with complete selflessness. Simultaneously with this came the possibility of speaking of martial arts in a more singular sense -- meaning, this period marks a span of growing homogeneity in terms of discourse, practice, and institution -- a trend that continues on up to the present time. Again, Zen scholars, monks, and institutions (temples, universities, etc.), played a significant role in this second cultural trend.

The idea that folks generally trained in the martial arts (of any kind) for exercise and/or for pleasure is not a post-Meiji thing -- it is a post WWII thing. Physical education, particularly the martially oriented kind, was firmly linked at many levels of culture to the aforementioned (e.g. serving the state, loyalty to the Emperor, etc.), which was firmly finding support from the Zen thinkers of that time. People did not train merely for pleasure or exercise at any kind of general level until after WWII. Hence, those kind of reasons behind training have to be understood as the contemporary trends that they are.

2. Today, the fact that Japanese practitioners may only practice the art for physical education and/or for pleasure does not mean that there was no historical basis for noting Zen's role in the continuing evolution of Kyudo. We can understand this if we look at an analogous case in Aikido. Today, in Japan, generally, there is little or no mention of Aikido's spiritual aspects, and most practitioners do in fact only practice for a sense of exercise and/or pleasure -- with not even secular concern of self-defense being primary or popular. This social fact does not lead us to suggest that Aikido has no base for a practical spirituality and especially that it never did. In fact, or rather, it may suggest that Japan has lost its way (pun intended). In the same manner, once we allow a Way its intended universality, and we accept the legitimacy and importance of cultural transportation in that universality, Germany may not be the place that has been led astray from Japanese legitimate culture. It may be the new place at which to study Kyudo at a deeper level -- one deeper than exercise and pleasure.

3. If one looks for connections in the manner that a reporter would, which is quite different from the manner in which a historian of culture would, one is likely to find support for nearly any position, as nearly any position is plagued by the limitations of its application. Culturally, the issue is not whether Awa liked Zen or practiced Zen or whether he was not a member of any religious tradition or some other tradition other than Zen, etc. Culturally, one is dealing primarily with the nature of a discourse that is supporting both thought and practice. Key to this discourse is the thought that comes out of what are called the wisdom sutras of Buddhism. These sutras are of course central to all Mahayana schools of Buddhism, but it is the Zen tradition that applied this discourse in several ways that are key to the underlying culture at work in the notions of martial arts being thought of as Ways. Zen did this in several different manners, depending upon the period in question.

Some key periods of contact are: the Muromachi period -- where Zen's discourse on emptiness (which is what the wisdom sutras are centered upon) made a connection between formal Zen training and secular high-culture, etc.; the Tokugawa period -- where the earlier ideas on emptiness were further refined and also underwent more dissemination outside of high culture (e.g. to economy, state-subject identity, etc.); the Meiji to WWII period -- where emptiness was linked to Imperial interests and the newly formed modern Japanese state; and the post-WWII period where scholars and thinkers saw in Zen's understanding of emptiness a chance of regaining some international prestige upon a grand scale following the defeat of WWII.

A cultural historian interested in epistemology and/or discursive practices is going to look at the history of the concept of emptiness, and when one does, it is certainly not an overstatement to suggest that Zen is relevant to arts like Kyudo. For example, at a discursive level, one can see the concept of emptiness in all of the following works: the Heart Sutra, the writings of Muso Soseki on gardening, Takuan's "Fudochishinmyoroku," Awa's writings, and Yoshida's writings, the religious experience of Awa -- which is more in keeping with what Zen folks during the pre-WWII period were saying about the concept of selflessness as it relates to awakening than it is to Kukai's experience; etc. At the level of culture, at the level of discourse, these things are all related. The relationships between these things exist -- even when the subjects themselves are unaware of them and/or when they suggest something to the contrary. Hence it may very well be the case that Awa didn't approve of Zen unconditionally, or that he never trained with a Zen priest, but it is equally true that he is making use of a Zen cultural discourse.

4. Herrigal is not guilty of the crime of seeing what he wants to see. Neither can he be accused of putting the cart before the horse. First, Herrigal did not go to Japan to seek Zen. The truth is that Japanese intellectuals, for many many reasons, were re-working earlier Zen positions (from the Muromachi period) during the early 20th century. It is they, both in and outside of Zen, and both in and outside of martial arts, that were offering to the world a "new" understanding of Zen's role in Japanese history -- cementing its future role as well. In that reworking of earlier ideas, and in their attempt to speak to the larger world, these same people drew comparisons to the works of Christian mystics like Eckhart, etc. Herrigal did not make up this connection as a German who knew nothing of Japanese culture. Japanese intellectuals wishing to participate in the growing international scene made the comparisons for reasons of understanding their own culture more fully and then presenting that to the outside world via the growing universal discourse on religion and psychology.

5. The evidence attempting to refute Herrigal's take on the target in darkness is lacking in its power to refute.

First: Let us note that the author is trying to counter Herrigal's quoting of what Awa said with an explanation that Awa gave to a second non-present party (at the least or around) ten years after the fact. Even if hearsay could carry some weight, the relevant information would be what Awa said he said that night -- not how Awa understood that second shot. Nowhere are we told what Awa said he said to Herrigal that night.

Second: Let us note that Herrigal was to some degree governed by the legitimacy of his experience -- meaning, you can't fake mysticism and you wouldn't want to. Remember, he came to Japan seeking an experience he could not obtain in Germany. If he was willing to fake and/or "create" an experience, he would have done it Germany. Moreover, Herrigal was governed by the customs of his scientific training. Hence, he had a priority on accuracy, objectivity, etc. Again, Herrigal is not set to manufacture things. On the other hand, the author's points of refutation come from hearsay and they come, at the earliest, nearly a decade after the fact. Let us also note that as likely as it is for a German trained scholar during the early 20th century to give a priority to accuracy and objectivity, it is very unlikely that an aging Japanese man when queried about an event that happened a long time ago is going to say something like, "Yes, I was demonstrating how enlightened I am." The response, "Oh, it was just coincidence," is totally supported by the cultural norms governing that later conversation (e.g. humility, etc.). It is totally unlikely that such a man at such a time in his life would say anything other than that -- as unlikely that Herrigal would overcome his own cultural conditioning as start falling prey to manufacturing falsehoods or radical interpretations.

Third: Let us also note that the author first states that Awa was already an eccentric in regards to the rest of Kyudo practitioners. To suggest that he was making a point different from what Herrigal was saying, and that he was not trying to say anything different from any other Kyudo practitioner, seems to contradict this earlier position of eccentricity. Obviously, Awa was trying to say something different -- hence the different set up that night. His point could not have been about "coincidences happen," even if that was his later description to others as an aged man. Moreover, if one accepts Herrigal's interpretation, it is not even relative that the second arrow struck the first -- the point was to see that one could hit without aiming as he was attempting earlier in the day. Neither mysticism, nor Zen, nor Awa's point or Herrigal's understanding, are located in the second arrow striking each other. They are located in point of moving out of one's on way while training in a Way.

Fourth: We should not so heavily stress the language barrier, since Herrigal at the time of the event had at least five years of in-country cultural exposure to the language by that time. Whatever his skill level might have been, one is not necessarily looking at someone that cannot communicate at all. Moreover, let us know that Awa's first condition for taking Herrigal on as a student was that an interpreter be present. By the time of the event, even Awa must have no longer felt the need for an interpreter since it was he that suggested that they meet alone later that evening. This as well leads to the probability that Herrigal, by this time, was not so burdened by a language barrier.

6. The "it shoots" refutation actually (ironically) stems from the author's own usage of poor translations of Herrigal's work in German to Japanese. The argument is a dead argument.

7. The author's main source for Awa's thought and practice is constantly saying that Awa used Zen terms and ideas in his practice -- which is his main refutation of Herrigal's understanding of Awa's ideas.

8. Chances are that Herrigal, reading a lot of the Zen-oriented intellectuals that were writing during the time in question, and practicing the exercises that go with such ideas (i.e. the reconcilation of the subject/object dichotomy), probably had a better access to the thought of Awa (who was probably reading those folks as well) than Yamada does to the thought of Awa (because he is coming from a different slant and making use or rather not making use of the specialized language of that time and practice).

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site - www.senshincenter.com - for articles and videos.

Troll Basher
12th July 2005, 11:59
Having read all the above posts I found them to be very “scholastic” and informative.
I have read the book in question; I have lived in a Zen temple here in Japan. I am by no means a priest, nor would I care to be one.
I can’t help but think of certain martial arts maxims I have heard or read over the years.
For example: “Ken Zen Ichi” and “The Way is in training” etc… I don’t think these are just pithy sayings to put on a T-Shirt…..they actually have some weight.
Conversely there is a saying in Chinese that also is of interest “Dao ke dao feichang dao”…loosely translated means “If it seems like the way then it can’t possible be the way”

12th July 2005, 22:55
Hi All,

Tracy just told me this post I made a while back at AikiWeb.com was pasted here.

To that I just wanted to add that some folks are addressing some real issues here. In particular, I think anyone that is serious about any Japanese martial art cannot help but to get a little peeved when some beginner comes in wanting to substitute philosophical speculation for actual practice. No doubt, the works of D.T. Suzuki, Herrigel, Watts, and others, have worked as catalysts for these types of frustrations often felt by many an instructor.

However, there is more to the issue here. Because many an instructor him/herself had to “purify” these misconceptions from their own body/mind (since many were themselves influenced at one time by these works), many instructors are less than tolerant toward the viewpoints of these authors. In this way, one tends to jump back and forth between a frustration and a kind of unreconciled guilt or shame. Somewhere in between all of this is an effort, sometimes justified but sometimes not, to simply smash all of these “resources” and to instead offer something, anything, that can be posited as diametrically opposed. As a result, many a baby has been thrown out with the bath water. For me, this is how I understand the current debate over practice and philosophy/theory in regards to Yamada’s critique.

From my perspective, Yamada’s critique was not ready for publication. While there were some good points for raising questions, those questions should have led him more to studying the role the book has played for some in Kyudo – as opposed to the reasons why the book should play no role for any. In my opinion, the reason the critique was able to stand as much as it did was that it was on a book that (in my experience) no one reads as a resource in the Academy. No one I know would read “Zen and the Art of Archery” in order to understand Zen philosophy, the history of Zen, Buddhist discourse, the history of Budo, or the social and/or cultural place of Kyudo in Japan today. The only place I have ever seen that book being part of someone’s bibliography is in a freshman or sophomore attempt at meeting the writing requirement for the general education course Religious Studies 25 (Zen). Even then, it is often only by a student that did not bother showing up to class and/or to section like they were supposed to.

When one combines a critique that probably was published too early in its maturation with an attempt by instructors who are (perhaps rightly) trying to head something off before it starts, one is very likely to throw out the baby with the bathwater. In the end, things are very likely to be mis-attributed. For example, it is not Zen to posit speculation and/or theory in the face of actual practice. As such a thing would not be Budo, it would also not be Zen. If one spends time doing zazen, one knows real fast how central practice is to Zen – how it cannot for one second be replaced by, substituted for, or prioritized under theory. Any “student” that would come to Kyudo, or any Budo for that matter, and attempt to forfeit training (i.e. actual practice) for Zen-esque speculation is a student that would be lost on both sides of this supposed debate. Hence, why my call to read Yamada cautiously is not a call in support of those that want to prioritize theory over practice. In my opinion, theory and practice are two wheels of a cart.

Jeff Hamacher
31st July 2005, 20:52
my experience, limited though it may be, with Japanese martial arts, tea, and Zen, suggests that Earl's (much earlier) posts about enjoying each human activity in their "self-so-ness", to borrow a term from Watts, is right on the money.

my tea teacher was fond of saying that people practise tea for a variety of reasons. to argue that tea has one singular purpose is to devalue all other legitimate reasons for practising. in particular, he told me that people who see tea as an exclusively Zen practice deny themselves the chance to appreciate other facets of tea.

Watts also wrote quite clearly that, for the Zen practitioner, one sat for the sake of sitting, not for the express purpose of reaching enlightenment. the sitting position is an effective training expedient, but it possesses no intrinsic "spiritual" value. similarly, i practised tea, aikido, and jojutsu for the sake of practising. it seems to me that living in the Eternal Now has a lot more to do with concentrating your whole energy on each activity you perform rather than weighing each activity down with the desire to experience "enlightenment", like trying to catch your own shadow. whatever reservations David has about Watts as a Zen commentator, Watts strikes me as a reliable source of insights, even from what Watts calls his third perspective, neither awestruck Zen nor rigourously scientific.

IIRC, the late Kisshomaru-doshu said of aikido, "The purpose of training is, at the end of your life, to be able to look back and say, 'I trained'." trained sincerely, trained openmindedly, trained as though your life were at stake ... that, to me is the heart of martial arts. if it is Zen, then it needs no discussion, for the Way that can be spoken is other than a permanent Way.

8th February 2006, 13:14
Hello everyone,

I've been reading this thread briefly and am going to re-read it to take in what some of you have said in a better manner, but there are some things I would like to discuss.

Firstly, the book "Zen in the art of archery" was never meant to be a guide for Kyudo, infact, Herrigel himself stated (or perhaps it was in the introduction by the person who translated it into english) that the book was about his experiences wtih Zen INSIDE the amazing art of Japanese archery. I find this interesting as Herrigel also states that his intention on removing as much information about his instructor and the setting they practiced in was to focus on the aspects of zen he experienced while undertaking archery. This leads me to believe that Herrigel, though extreme in a lot of cases when talking about all things related to Zen, had absolutely no intention of giving enough information for people to form an idea of any form of Kyudo practice. This was further reinforced when, at the end of the book he discusses sword masters (I think this was his weakest part, personally).

Secondly, the concepts discussed in the text, the no mind if you will, are something I have, as a martial arts practioiner (Yes, it happens to be a Japanse martial art) have personally experienced. From the writings in the book I was further able to understand what I was personally going through, to help me personally expand my horizons. Now, not being an expert in Zen, it's hard for me to talk about this as if it was Zen, but I do think what he experienced was "real" and you could say untainted by preconvieved notions. I take this from when he discusses his frustrations on drawing the bow correctly. Trying to understand it, before doing it is rather unnatural. You don't get your license without driving a car first, you have lessons in doing with someone who can guide you, much like a martial teacher. Now, for someone not having a guide to draw on, about Zen, and about general spiritual awakenings in martial arts, it might be offbase but not totally incorrect to see one as the other, which leads me to my next point.

The setting of time when Herrigel had written first his article and second his book, were when he himself states there was little to no writings on Zen in the west. I think of him as a pioneer of sorts. Being a person who likes to theorize things (as much stated in this thread) I'm sure he would be reading as much as he could about Zen, and trying to understand what he was experiencing and seeing it as Zen. Is it not Zen? I personally cannot answer, because I as previously stated am not experienced in Zen. However, during training, and experiecning things Herrigel talks about such as not anticipating.. Having someone about to punch you, and just being, as the punch moves you move, not because you're thinking "oh it's a punch i have to move over there" but you just move. You are just a part of the moment, of an evaded punch, then you apply what striking technique or lock or further evasion, depending on the situation. That is a simular experiene I see as was written by Herrigel. For the time it was written, I think he did an excellent job on describing these spiritual awakenings (sorry to get a bit off topic.).

All of this brings me to ask some questions (and also search for the answers, of course). Are those spiritual revelations apart of Zen in some way? I'm not saying that they are exclusive to Zen, that kind of "awakening" seems to me to be a part of Japanese martial arts that I have experienced, but does that make them NOT zen? I don't think so. They can be both, at the same time, totally purely can't they? I believe they can. Does that mean when you practice Kyudo (or whatever martial art is it that you do, that has these kinds of spiritual revelations) you are also practicing Zen? maybe in some way. Are these experiences of losing the smaller mind of trying to control what you're doing exclusive to Zen? No. Does that mean when you practice Zen, you're practicing a martial art? of course not :)

I hope some good discussion continues,

Grant Williams.

johan smits
16th February 2006, 14:51
Just a few words on an otherwise uninspired afternoon at the office:

"Everything is Zen"

I feel this is rather pretentious. The worldview of a minority sect but is applies to all of us. What do I say to everything! Ooh dear. I wonder why the Zennies do not see "directly" into their own true nature (being rather pretentious). But then this is all beyond me I am sure.

Oh yes and Earl Hartman does not know anything about kyudo, yeah....


Johan Smits

Michael Hodge
16th March 2006, 20:09
The worldview of a minority sect but is applies to all of us. What do I say to everything!

Quite the opposite. "It" exists prior to all worldviews, and at the same time forms the basis of all worldviews. That makes it both the source of every worldview and the substance of all worldviews. The infinite excludes nothing.

But then this is all beyond me I am sure.

Beyond what?

Michael Hodge

11th April 2006, 19:14
Well after many years I reread this post mainly because the CD version of Zen in the Art of Archery has been published and after wearing out my copy on cassette 3 years ago... I will say the narration by Ralph Blum is absolutely perfect...

I will say again it is more about the student teacher connection... As it was Herrigal who made his teacher what he is... A well talked about master on ebudo...

: )

but here is another response debunking Herrigal for your entertainment and reading pleasure:


Tracy Reasoner

Awa Kenzo

(C) 2005 by Richard Katz

I've been shooting a bow since I was twelve, and I had read Eugene Herrigel's book "Zen in the Art of Archery" when I was in my twenties, about thirty years ago.

I've never been bowhunting. One time we had a raccoon out in the backyard who was acting irrationally, overturning our pet turtle and wandering around randomly in the daytime. Finally one night he was standing there snarling at me. I went upstairs, got the bow and quiver of arrows, and when I came back, the coon was standing by the turtle, again. I told him to be gone, and he snarled some more, so I shot him; then he charged at me, gallumphing along with the arrow through him, and foaming. Probably rabid, I thought, as I debated whether to turn and run, or nock another arrow and shoot him again. I didn't actually think about it at all; by the time I had thought it through a little bit, the arrow was already notched on the bowstring and I was aiming at the moving raccoon who was hissing at me and dragging along his body with the first arrow through it. The second arrow pinned him to the ground, and he was still.

Something had always bothered me about Herrigel's book: If archery is about hunting and killing, and the Buddha proscribes killing, then how could Zen Buddhism and archery get together?

Maybe this Herrigel character didn't know what the hell he was talking about.

I've been to Japan a few times, but had never actually seen anybody shoot a bow of the type Herrigel had learned how to use, the Japanese longbow. So on my last trip, a few weeks ago, in July 2005, I thought I might check all that out, about Herrigel, and Japanese archery, and Zen in the art of archery.

According to a couple of pages on the web*, Awa Kenzo of Sendai was the archer under whom Eugen Herrigel had studied archery, and whom he was referring to in his book "Zen in the Art of Archery" as his master. One thing about Herrigel's book always seemed out of joint: If archery is a martial art, then why didn't Herrigel come out and mention, proudly, who his master was? That's your lineage, in the martial arts: Who's your master? That's your school. In Japanese the technique of archery is kyujitsu; kyudo is the art of archery, or the way of archery, and your sensei is from some school of archery. Whatever you want to call it, in English, kyudo is a martial art, and always referred to as the oldest martial art.

I had been to half a dozen bookshops in Kyoto looking for anything written by or about Awa Kenzo. In Kyoto, bookshops seem to specialize according to the district they are located in. A bookshop in the textiles district had stacks of books with cloth patterns, yearbooks of kimono pictures, and even books with swatches of dyed silk. A bookshop in the antiques district had books with pictures and text about old furniture and scrolls. I went into one bookstore near a stationery store that had philosophy books, mostly about Buddhism. Nothing by or about Awa. The booksellers were surprisingly definitive about it; "No, nothing," was the usual reply, when I inquired, in my ungrammatical Japanese, "Hon-ga Awa Kenzo chosha-no arimasu-ka? Dozo." I went to the big Kinokuniya bookshop, and the computerized search didn't have anything for me either. Neither did Maruzen. Dead end.

A friend of mine who is a college president in Shiga, Tanaka Hirokazu, said to go to the Kyoto Prefectural Library. My wife and I went there, but it was a Monday, and the library was, of all things, closed. My wife lectures at a graduate school in Kyoto, and is more familiar with the town than I am. Based on a suggestion from the police, she suggested to me that we go to the Budo Center, just a stone's throw from the Prefectural Library. The Kyoto Budo Center turned out to have a pavilion for sumo, a building for judo, and an archery range for kyudo.

I have been to a few archery ranges in the USA, but it never occurred to me that at this Japanese range there would be a gallery to sit and watch the archers. So my wife and I stood around at first, for a few minutes, ignorant but polite, looking fairly awkward. Then a man in a robe came over to us, asked me to take off my hat, and instructed us to go through the door over there and take a seat, in the gallery. There were a half dozen archers practicing. The fellow who had seated us came over to the gallery after a few rounds, and told us that his master, who was the white haired archer just over there, was a fifth degree black belt, the highest level of anyone living. We watched him, and the others, for another half hour or so.

Watching archery practice is at best about as interesting as watching paint dry, unless you are an archer, and even then it's a stretch. Watching this master was just fascinating though. I had no interest in exactly what he was doing; I'll never shoot one of those bows, so the details of how to shoot one aren't of any practical use to me. But make no mistake, this was a lesson in how to shoot, from a master. This guy was smooth; and that breath he took just before he raised the bow was not something he was thinking about, particularly.

It seemed like there was a break in the shooting, so we left the gallery and went back to the atrium and started putting on our shoes. Our host asked if everything had been okay, and we thanked him, and got ready to go. Just before leaving, I asked him, "Do you know of Awa Kenzo? The archer?"

He replied, "Awa Kenzo? You know Awa Kenzo? Come with me."

He led us over to the area, where novices stand a few feet from their straw targets to practice their shot, before they can take to the range. He pointed upward, to a picture of an archer, mounted up twelve feet or so, near the eaves. "That is Awa Kenzo," he said.

I took my hat off, turned fully toward the picture of Awa dressed in a robe and releasing an arrow, and bowed pretty deeply.

As we were walking out the front of the building, I asked our host, "Did Awa write anything, anything I could read?"

"No," he said. "There is nothing. And that German fellow, is a bad, very bad influence."

We bowed to each other, and my wife and I left.

Richard Katz, July 2005, Richmond, California, USA. Richard808 AT gmail dot com

Ron Tisdale
11th April 2006, 20:18
Thank you Tracy, that was indeed a pleasure.


Earl Hartman
4th May 2006, 02:57
I find myself somewhat baffled by Mr. Valdez's comments. They are very long and it is not entirely clear to me what he is trying to say. I get the general impression, however, that he supports Herrigel's thesis over Yamada's.

It is true that as a general concept the idea of "nothingness" "the Void" or "emptiness" or whatever you want to call it may have long existed in Japanese culture and that it probably formed a part of the general zeitgeist. That is a very different thing that saying, as Herrigel does, that the practice of kyujutsu/kyudo is a specifically Zen practice.

Simply put, Herrigel was wrong. Herrigel gives the impression that kyudo is practiced in Japan specifically as a Zen Buddhist practice and that through it one can achieve a specifically Zen Buddhist enlightenment experience. It is not. The way in which it was discussed may have made use of Buddhistic terms and ideas, and it appears that there was a fad in the Taisho Period to do just that. But kyudo is not Zen Buddhism.

I do not accept the contention that the ultimate goal of kyudo is the attainment of "emptiness" whatever that may be. The ultimate goal of kyudo is to become good at kyudo. As Urakami Sensei said:

The purpose of the Way of Shooting is...to strike the target following the Ho (the Law, i.e., the Law of Shooting, or the Shaho).

That is, the attainment of skill in shooting is the objective.

Herrigel very specifically said that the attainment of skill and accuracy is not an important consideration and that technique is secondary. He was entirely incorrect.

Again, Urakami Sensei:

"Therefore, everyone who wants to shoot a bow must make their intentions true, set their spirit to rights, and make the form of the shooting correct by following the proper standards."

That is, proper technique is the absolute first requirement. What happens when one can do this?

"When the form of the shooting is correct, your joints will be properly aligned, the power of your muscles will be properly balanced, your draw length will settle in accordance with your physique, your mind will become settled and distractions will cease to trouble you, your body and limbs will be filled with vitality, you and the bow will become one, your mind and body will be firm and resolute and the bow unwavering, and the entire arrow will fill with power and quicken with life. In this way you must wait for all of these separate elements to unite into one and for the release to come of itself. If you shoot the arrow in this way, you will never miss the target by thinking too much."

Thus, the achievement of the state of uniting with one's bow, which leads to the kind of accuracy of which Awa was capable, is ONLY the result of proper technique, which in turn creates the proper frame of mind. There can be no kyudo "spirit" without correct kyudo technique. These two things cannot be separated. Yet, Herrigel, with his dualistic Western mind, attempted to do precisely that. Again, he was utterly mistaken.

"This is not just mosha guchu (a shot done in a haphazard way strikes the target accidentally) but hosha hitchu (a shot done in accordance with the Law never misses)."

To the archer, it may appear that an arrow shot in this way strikes the target by accident, much as Awa's second arrow struck his first. But it is not an accident. It was a true shot. Awa said that he did not intend to hit his first arrow with his second, that is, he did not consciously aim at it. But it is not so strange. it happens more frequently than one might think. The great disservice Herrigel did was to present this as some sort of magic trick that Awa could achieve by doing a kind of archery that cared nothing for technique or aiming, but relied only on Herrigel's made-up concept of "It" (aka "The Force"). Wrong, wrong, wrong.

What is really going on in this state of uniting with one's bow and how does one finally achieve it? Urakami Sensei:

"The essential thing is to just dispel all doubt and ego and awaken to the as-it-isness of Nature, to not lapse into thinking and discrimination, to leave the realm of intention and thought behind, and, like an object reflected in a bright mirror or the moon reflected on the surface of the water, to calm the eyes of the mind in the realm of munen muso (no intention, no thought) and to strive to shoot the arrow according to the Law."

The archer does not simply pick up a bow, not worry about technique, breathe deeply, blank out and hope that "It" will take over. No, no, a thousand times no. He strives to "shoot the arrow according to the Law", that is, he forgets everything except executing proper technique to the absolute exclusion of everything else. In this process, the archer will lose a concsious sense of himself as he concentrates with all his might on achieving the proper state. In this state, it appears that things happen on their own. But it is not something outside the archer; he creates it himself. When he achieves this state the shot will appear to come of its own. But it is the archer's creation. And to repeat: attaining this state of mind CANNOT happen unless one is first a master of technique. Yet, Herrigel stated that technique mattered not at all. Only a fool could say something like that.

In any case, I don't understand why Mr. Valdez seems so attached to Herrigel's thesis. He especially seems to have trouble with "The Target In Darkness" episode. Herrigel is on record as stating that his Japanese language skills were weak to the point of non-existence. Yamada proves decisively, based on the statements of Herrigel's own interpreter that Awa's lectures were abstruse to the point of incomprehensibility and that he often could not translate them correctly. Yet Mr. Valdez seems to think that Herrigel understood Awa that night and that it was only modesty that prevented Awa from telling his own senior disciple Anzawa the truth. This seems absurd, frankly. If Herrigel's views on "It" were correct, why did Awa not teach "It" to any of his other disciples?

I have been practing kyudo for more than 30 years, 11 of them in Japan. No one ever mentioned "It" to me even once. And Yamada's paper clearly indicates the immense difficulty that Herrigel's translators had with rendering Herrigel's "It" into comprehensible Japanese.

Mr. Valdez seems to believe strongly that Zen exercised a decisive influence on the developement of kyudo. Can he produce some evidence for this? None of my senseis ever talked to me about Zen or meditation.

Also, kyudo was indeed practiced for pleasure during the Meiji Period. After the dissolution of the feudal domains, archery teachers, having lost their employment, were down on their luck. Many opened training halls were they would allow people to play around at shooting for a fee. Town shooting halls were sometimes located in or near the red light districts and were frequented by gamblers who place bets on shooting contests. Archery (perhaps such archery would not be considered "kyudo" by purists) was in a sorry state after the Meiji restoration, and it took a while for it to regain its standing as an art in which reputable people engaged.

Also, Mr. Valdez says, inexplicably, that Herrigel dio not go to Japan searching for Zen. Yet Herrigel said that was precisely the reason he wanted to go there, to experience Japan's "living Buddhism". I do not understand how Mr. Valdez could have missed such a plain statement.

Finally, someone upthread said that Herrigel did not intend his book to be an introduction to kyudo. That may be true. The title makes it plain that he was not really interested in kyudo, only in the Zen that it might contain. That is precisely why he was unable to understand what kyudo really is. But Westerners who read it take it as an introduction to kyudo, unfortunately. I cannot count the number of times where people have come up to me and said "Zen archery? That's that archery where you don't have to hit the target, right?"

All Herrigel's fault.

johan smits
4th May 2006, 07:25
Mr. Hodge,

Reading your comment makes me understand it all. "It" exists prior to everything. That makes it the source of everything and the substance of all.
The infinite excludes nothing.

"Beyond me" but then this is not possible, since if I am part of the substance of all. I would be saying beyond the infinite and off course beyond the infinite is not a possiblitly. Wouldn't that mean that "me" doesn't exist? And if "me" doesn't exist "us" don't exist. That is quite interesting.
Perhaps we do not exist.

But then I wonder why a lot of groups are so very busy explaining us all.
Without wanting to hurt anyone's feelings I do think religion and worldviews are invented because we people need some form of plaster for the scratches we receive during life. Aah and we need direction, to guide us since the responsability for it all is too much for us.
In a (maybe) strange way we do keep trying to explain our presence here instead of just accepting it and be good during our lives.
Now whether the Pope explains, or a zenpriest, a witchdocter or Herrigel for that matter, it is all the same, they "know" nothing. In Herrigel's case that becomes obvious reading this thread. They are just trying to implant their worldview on us - and we scared and lonely as we think we are embrace them.

We're a bunch of cowards.

Now you have to excuse me, I guess it's time for my pills.


Johan Smits

16th May 2006, 04:54
That is precisely why he was unable to understand what kyudo really is.

Mr. Hartman,

I would be interested to hear "what kyudo really is".

Tracy Reasoner

16th May 2006, 09:45
Well, I'm not Mr. Hartman, but I have read his post, and it seems he told us in plain language exactly what kyudo is all about:

I do not accept the contention that the ultimate goal of kyudo is the attainment of "emptiness" whatever that may be. The ultimate goal of kyudo is to become good at kyudo. As Urakami Sensei said:

The purpose of the Way of Shooting is...to strike the target following the Ho (the Law, i.e., the Law of Shooting, or the Shaho).

That is, the attainment of skill in shooting is the objective.

Can't get much more concrete than that.

Earl Hartman
16th May 2006, 18:02

What Brendan said.

But if you want to look into it further, go here:


After you have read this, let me know if you have any other questions.

Earl Hartman
16th May 2006, 18:48

This should help too:


17th May 2006, 13:35
Well, I'm not Mr. Hartman, but I have read his post, and it seems he told us in plain language exactly what kyudo is all about:

I do not accept the contention that the ultimate goal of kyudo is the attainment of "emptiness" whatever that may be. The ultimate goal of kyudo is to become good at kyudo. As Urakami Sensei said:

The purpose of the Way of Shooting is...to strike the target following the Ho (the Law, i.e., the Law of Shooting, or the Shaho).

That is, the attainment of skill in shooting is the objective.

Can't get much more concrete than that.

So with that said Kyudo has been reduced to just being good at kyudo nothing more and nothing less. Similar to american bowling. Interesting.

johan smits
17th May 2006, 13:52

There are similarities between kyudo and bowling you are right but actually you can fill in a lot of different activities. I see very different advantages practicing kyudo has above practicing bowling and I am not a kyudoka.

With all respect, what is it you want then? Meaning what is it you are looking for?


Johan Smits

17th May 2006, 16:26
So with that said Kyudo has been reduced to just being good at kyudo nothing more and nothing less. Similar to american bowling. Interesting.
While I'd hate to speak for Mr. Hartman (lest he beat me), one could argue that all budo in general is specifically for the purpose of improving skill-sets.

When practicing kumitachi as shitachi, trying to not be killed by one's senior or teacher is the order of the day; when uchitachi, leading shitachi through while pushing his/her ability. There is a high level of ('meditative') awareness required, but no amount of navel-gazing by itself does the trick, shugyo does. It is hard to imagine that this is not the case for kyudo as well...

Be well,

Earl Hartman
17th May 2006, 17:06

I don't want to sound uncharitable, but until you read the Onuma and DeProspero book I linked to upthread, I really think you should keep your mouth shut. You asked me what kyudo is; I told you to read the best book about it that exists in the English language. But all you can do is indulge in snark.

Do you actually practice any martial (or any other kind of) art? Or do you just read, talk, and think (oh, sorry, "meditate") about it? Would you ask a violinist "What does it all mean?" and then get all huffy if the violinist just said "I really like music"? Do you want this violinist to say instead "I don't care about technique or what the music sounds like; through the austere discipline of the Way of the Violin I am searching for Truth, the Void and Enlightenment. The music has nothing to do with it"? Pretty stupid, right?

Yet if an archer says "I want to become skillful at archery" all you can do is smirk.

You Zen people give me a pain. You clearly have no understanding of what it takes to become really good at anything, and, even worse, you seem to think that the attempt to excel in an art is worthy of nothing but derision.

If you're not really interested in finding out what kyudo is, do us all a favor and just shut up about it.

Joseph Svinth
18th May 2006, 04:45
Earl --

Are we feeling curmudgeonly today?

By the way, have you read Prof. Bodiford's opinion on the topic?

Says he, in "Religion and Spiritual Development: Japan," in _Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia_, ed. by Thomas A. Green (ABC-CLIO, 2001):

"Significantly, though, this first account [by Herrigel} did not equate archery with Zen. Herrigel's views changed once he read Suzuki's 1938 account of Zen and bushido. In 1948 Herrigel wrote a new book (translated into English as _Zen in the Art of Archery_) in which, in addition to extensive quotations from Suzuki, Herrigel described Awa's teachings as a Zen practice that has remained the same for centuries. Nothing could be further from the truth. In 1920 Awa had founded a new religion called Daishakyodo (literally, 'way of the great doctrine of shooting'). In his book Herrigel refers to Awa's religion as the 'Great Doctrine' and identifies it with Zen. Awa did not. Awa had no training in Zen and did not approve of Zen practice..."

18th May 2006, 08:09

Do you actually practice any martial (or any other kind of) art? Or do you just read, talk, and think (oh, sorry, "meditate") about it? Would you ask a violinist "What does it all mean?" and then get all huffy if the violinist just said "I really like music"? Do you want this violinist to say instead "I don't care about technique or what the music sounds like; through the austere discipline of the Way of the Violin I am searching for Truth, the Void and Enlightenment. The music has nothing to do with it"? Pretty stupid, right?

Yet if an archer says "I want to become skillful at archery" all you can do is smirk.

You Zen people give me a pain. You clearly have no understanding of what it takes to become really good at anything, and, even worse, you seem to think that the attempt to excel in an art is worthy of nothing but derision.

If you're not really interested in finding out what kyudo is, do us all a favor and just shut up about it.

Dear Mr. Hartman,

People like you are exactly the reason I rarely post. In fact, the only reason to respond is for the benefit of others reading this board. Yes I study martial arts. I am a sandan in aikido if you would like to know. My dojo home page is www.hawaiikiaikido.org click the Maui link as I am from the shunshinkan dojo. You can see my name under other instructors.

Now I asked you what it meant because you are pretty pompous about kyudo not being a path to any higher realization but merely something to get good at.

Looking back I first responded to this thread 5 years ago and I will be the first to admit that my original posts although I stand by them are not as clear as they could be. But you on the other hand seem to be dealing out the same old ____.

I did read the link that you provided written by Saito Chobo which was actually very good. But it read more like something Herrigal would write rather then you? This actually was quite shocking as I did not think you felt that way at all about Kyudo.

Now I take it that you did not like my comparing Kyudo to Bowling. Which seems to be how you are describing it. I on the other hand don't think of it that way of any -do martial art.

One of my teachers here on Maui, Shinichi Suzuki Sensei, 8th dan has always emphasized the inner discipline training, breathing, meditation and misogi. Suzuki Sensei has always told us that this is the quickest way to develop oneself. Any good Martial Artist can learn the basics on how to throw and subdue someone. But a great martial artist will be able to inspire and become a better human being not from the techniques but from the inner discipline training. Although he is big on basics and all the locks these are merely the arts ones learns to demonstrate your development and kokyu. Being a dojo expert or kyudo expert has no real benefit in daily life. But learning to relax, connect and move in this oneness is what will make you a better human being. Which isn't this purpose of most -do arts? To be a better human being? From the sounds of it not the kyudo that you practice.

Thank you for the opportunity to express myself.


Tracy Reasoner

Earl Hartman
18th May 2006, 17:12

Didn't you really read what Urakami Sensei said? You have got things backwards.

And the real meaning of what Saito Sensei said is so far from what Herrigel said I find it odd that you could confuse the two. Saito Sensei was obviously someone who really knew what kyudo was. Just from reading what he wrote, I felt that he was a really enlightened man. That is why I translated it. I wanted everyone to read it, no matter what art they practice. It is brilliant, honest and deep, yet ridiculously simple. Yet I never tire of reading it. If you think that is not how I feel about kyudo just because I dislike Herrigel, you have not been reading what I have been saying.

And what did Saito Sensei say? That the target was the only goal one should ever have. Why? Because it is a pure goal. One who aims only at the target will never become corrupted by becoming greedy for what he thinks kyudo can get him. He will only want to become skillful at kyudo. If he sticks to this, he cannot become corrupted. This process will show him who he really is, and how things really work. Is this not what some people call "enlightenment"?

And you say it sounded like what Herrigel wrote? All Herrigel wrote was that the target didn't matter, that where the arrow went was not in the least important. But Saito Sensei said this:

"Among those who practice kyudo, there are those who say that in yumi it is not necessary to hit the target, or that all that is necessary is that your form is good; indeed, there are even those who go so far as to say that form doesn't matter, that spirit is the most important thing. Of course, those who have a twisted spirit are a pain in the neck no matter what they do; and practicing yumi with bad form is not good. However, to have good form (shooting technique) and to not hit the target is against nature. Do not be misled by nonsense. If your shooting form is good, accuracy will surely follow. I want you to not forget that missing the target means that something is wrong.

If you practice yumi diligently, you will gain some kind of spiritual benefit. However, kyujutsu is by its nature a physical activity, so if you want to engage in spiritual training, you will get faster results if you do something like zazen rather than archery."

If you read this closely, you will see that it is nothing if not a withering attack on the "spiritual" kyudo of Awa and Herrigel.There is not just a gap between what Saito Sensei said and what Herrigel said, there is a chasm so deep and vast that it is unbridgeable. They lived in completely different worlds.

I do not practice kyudo to become a better human being. That is arrogant and foolish. The practice of kyudo, however, done correctly with the right spirit, will make one a better human being. That is the difference I have been arguing all along, and it is a very crucial one.

There are a lot of people I have met in martial arts who pride themselves on practicing "the Way", thinking that the very fact that they practice a "Way" makes them superior to people who only practice something as mundane and common as a "sport". It seems to me that people like this understand neither "the Way" nor sports.

The whole point I have been trying to make all along is that the "deeper realization" of kyudo, or what Herrigel would call "enlightenment" or whatever, is needed precisely so that one can achieve skill in kyudo. Without the deeper realization that comes from all of the things you mention (breathing, relaxation, "centerdness", etc.) one simply cannot achieve real skill in kyudo. It is not possible.

Therefore, if one cannot shoot very well, the only explanation is that one has not achieved this state (yet), and that one must keep trying and never give up. Once this state is acheived, however, this realization can benefit one in all areas of one's life. But it can only be achieved in one practices the art for its own sake and not for any ulterior motive like Herrigel did. This is, of course, difficult in the extreme. That is why kyudo is called a Way, after all.

The problem I have with Herrigel and people like him is that they disparage the actual art of kyudo and turn it into something to be used just for their own ends, whatever they may be. Kyudo becomes nothing but a tool to get something they feel is more valuable. They feel that the actual attempt to become really proficient is somehow beneath them, that it is utilitarian and nothing more than "target shooting".

In the very first sentence of his book, Herrigel disparages the art of archery and kicks it to the curb by saying that "at first sight it must seem intolerably degrading for Zen - however the reader may understand this word - to be associated with something so mundane as archery". What was a man who despised the art of archery doing studying it? Such a person disgraces the art of archery simply by picking up a bow.

Again, Urakami Sensei said exactly what was needed to achieve the ultimate in kyudo:

"The essential thing is to just dispel all doubt and ego and awaken to the as-it-isness of Nature, to not lapse into thinking and discrimination, to leave the realm of intention and thought behind, and, like an object reflected in a bright mirror or the moon reflected on the surface of the water, to calm the eyes of the mind in the realm of munen muso (no intention, no thought) and to strive to shoot the arrow according to the Law."

Is this not what you are talking about? Of course kyudo can be a path to a higher realization. But only if you practice it for its own sake.

Ron Tisdale
18th May 2006, 18:03

Your posts (especially this last one) resonate with me on many levels. It's hard for me to imagine your words not applying to any "do" art. Thank you for taking the time to write that.


18th May 2006, 20:26
Conversely, we may say of Mr. Herrigel that his clearly expressed willingness to dispense with means and move directly to ends may tell us more about his character than it does about either the art of the bow or the practice of zen, particularly in light of the choices he made after his brief sojourn in Japan.

Joseph Svinth
18th May 2006, 21:59
Actually, back before WWII, the Japanese considered archery to be more like golf than bowling. More upper crust, not so plebian, you know. See, for example, http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsart_JapanTimesandMail_1299.htm .

Still, E.J. Harrison wrote in The Fighting Spirit of Japan (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1982), 25-26, "there is a right way and a wrong way of holding it [the bow], fitting the arrow, drawing and releasing it. And in this context I can still remember the real distress experienced by the burly proprietor [of the archery range in Yokohama's entertainment district] on those occasions, not infrequent, when some of my foreign companions and I fitted the arrow on the wrong side of the bow and held the bow in the incorrect position. One of these companions, a fellow-journalist on a local foreign paper, now, alas, now no more, was an incorrigible offender in this respect. What added to the enormity of his offences was that in spite of these -- so to speak -- arch heresies, he always got nearer to the bull's-eye than the Japanese habitués who never drew a bow without having conscientiously indulged in a number of preliminary flourishes such as baring their good right arms by throwing back their ample sleeves over their shoulders, raising the bow with a spasmodic gesture, and so forth. It was really heartrending to note the persistency with which they missed after all this elaborate ceremonial; but I think I am right in saying that they themselves would far rather have missed, and the proprietor would far rather have had them miss in proper form than score by such irregular practices as those indulged in by my friend who, with a cigar between his teeth, the bow held horizontally instead of perpendicularly, and the arrow on the wrong side, would wing his shafts into the very centre of the target with a monotonous frequency which afforded him unalloyed satisfaction and the unhappy and orthodox proprietor ineffable disgust."

But again, this is no different from golf, a game Babe Didriksen famously described as the easiest game she ever played -- nobody tried to hit you, nobody threw things at you, and nobody called you names. Instead, all you did was loosen your girdle, and let fly.

Earl Hartman
19th May 2006, 16:52
Good story, Joe. Such a thing must have been quite vexing to the proprietor of the range. Although I would like to know what he meant by "raising the bow with a spasmodic gesture".

It is, however, quite interesting to see how the average Japanese approaches kyudo or any other art. For most of them, absolutely the most important thing is to be seen by others to be doing kyudo properly. As a result, they are concerned with appearances rather than results, and the worst thing is not to miss the target but to be seen to have broken the rules or made a fool of oneself. However, this is only because most of them do not see the underlying truth of the shooting method; they only see it as a set of rules that must be obeyed, because that's just how things are done and since the rules were created by people more exalted and experienced than we are, who are we to question anything? So they do things without understanding why.

Of course, to an Amercian rules are like a red flag to a bull. Any American worth his salt, confronted with a set of rules, will just sneer and say "Oh yeah? Sez who?" This is just as bad in its own way. But that's another discussion.

However, the really good archers, and there are many of them, of course, have gone through that phase and come to a realization that the seemingly arbitrary rules are actually simply the right way to shoot the bow. The fact that most people, being limited in how they see things, do not understand the real nature of the method is not the fault of the method, but the fault of the person.

To wrap this discussion up, I want to go on record as saying that Herrigel's failure lies mainly in his inability to really explain the significance of what he was taught. After many years of practicing kyudo I went back and read ZITAOA again. Much of what he had Awa saying was quite familiar to me. And yet it was maddening to see how thoroughly Herrigel misunderstood what it really meant and the weird meaning he gave it. This is really why I have such a problem with ZITAOA: not because it is totally wrongheaded but because it just close enough to what must really have happened that even though it is wrong it cannot be completely discounted. That is why it has such power to mislead people.

I think Herrigel's failure was mainly for the reasons that I mentioned earlier: his preoccupation with mysticism and his preconceived notion that since everything in Japan was Zen and therefore mystical that kyudo, too, must be a kind of mysticism; the fact that he didn't spend enough time in the trenches to really understand what he was doing; and, finally, his lack of language ability which didn't allow him to really talk with his teacher. Thus, I believe that, as idiosyncratic as Awa may have been, Herrigel's portrait of him is completely inaccurate.

To give one example: my teachers also always told me not to worry about the target. It is one of the most common instructions one can get: "Mato ni torawareru na" ("Do not let the target lead you around by the nose"). So the fact that Awa said this is not at all uncommon or mystical, although it appears to be so because it seems counterintuitive. However, the fact that you should not worry about hitting the target doesn't mean that hitting it is unimportant.

Think about it for a second: What prevents one from hitting the target? Excessive worry about it. Anyone who has ever done anything will understand the truth of this. It's nothing but performance anxiety, which is the main cause of failure in anything. So you are taught to stop worrying about the target not because it doesn't matter if you hit it or not, but precisely so you will be able to hit it. This is only possible on a consistent basis if you stop worrying about it.

There are a lot of other examples in ZITAOA where I can see what Awa really taught Herrigel struggling to fight its way out from under all of the nonsense that Herrigel dumped on top of it. That's why it's so frustrating.

I know. I'll write a book.

johan smits
24th May 2006, 08:00
Mr. Hartman,

After you finished your first book could you write one on Nagao-ryu?
I always enjoyed your posts on that subject very much. Maybe a short compilation with historical photo's and some techniques.


Johan Smits

Brian Owens
24th May 2006, 12:15
...I know. I'll write a book.
I'd like to place my reservation for the 2nd copy now, please. (I assume you'll want the 1st yourself.)

26th June 2006, 19:16
Quick question to those looking at this thread;

I am not a Zen type person.
(although I'm sure I have had my "moments of zen" lol)

I think of myself as more of a Taoist philosophy wise, but in no religious sense.

Are there any others here who would consider there philosophy more Taoist, or is it...

only you Mike, only you... :rolleyes:

30th June 2006, 01:22
This thread has evolved in to all sorts of discussion around Zen, Martial arts and even Buddhism. Two resources which bring much of this together are:

1. The Zen Way to the Martial Arts by Taisen Deshimaru (ISBN 014 0193448): Which is a interview with a zen master on the integration of Zen into martial arts.

2. a video on "Zen and Martial Arts" which can be downloaded on the internet at www.DownloadKarate.com. It talks about how mind set, stability, and zen approaches are linked to Budo.


Earl Hartman
1st July 2006, 00:52

This thread has basically been about how kyudo is NOT Zen.

Just sayin'.

Other martial arts, I don't know. Specifically, I dont know anything about karate, so maybe it's there. But kyudo isn't Zen.

14th July 2006, 21:26
Oh no.

You are talking about that stuff already 5 years.


P Goldsbury
14th July 2006, 23:38
ClydeM and sheepeck,

Please sign your posts with your full name. You agreed to do this when you became members of this forum.

Best wishes,

15th July 2006, 08:02
Petr Juza

Sorry for forgetting.

13th August 2006, 21:34
Just recently I was asked to assist my teacher Suzuki Sensei move his many books to our dojo. Suzuki Sensei is 89 years old and has amassed quite a few books on many subjects.

While sorting through I came across many little pamphlets from Daihonzan Chozen-ji/International Zen Dojo in Honolulu, Hawaii, which was founded in 1979 by Omori Sogen Rotaishi. Most of these pamphlets were on Kyudo and Zen. Doing some research I found this book One Arrow, One Life written in 1988. I have yet to read the book but thought it was relevant to this link. The author studied in Japan with Kyudo Teacher Suhara Osho of Kamakura.

I cut and pasted the following from Amazon.com

One Arrow, One Life: Zen, Archery, Enlightenment
Kenneth Kushner

Book Description:

One Arrow, One Life is the ultimate study of kyudo (the art of traditional Japanese archery) and its relation to the ideals and practice of Zen Buddhism. But it's much more: It also serves perfectly as an informal manual of practice for anyone who wants to bring a living, moving Zen into the activities of everyday life. Beginning with a solid introduction to the foundation techniques of both kyudo and zazen-breathing, posture, and concentration-and quickly moving on to the subtleties of advanced practice, Ken Kushner then ties it all together into a personal testimony of the pervasiveness of Zen in everyday life. For those interested in Zen and moving meditation, kyudo practitioners of all levels, as well as students of the Way of martial arts, this volume, beautifully illustrated with line drawings by Jackson Morisawa, is an indispensable guidebook.

About the Author
Kenneth Kushner began Zen training under Tanouye Tenshin Roshi in 1978. He began serious kyudo training in 1981 and has traveled to Hawaii and Japan for advanced study. He is currently a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a member of the faculty of the Institute of Zen Studies in Honolulu.

Earl Hartman
14th August 2006, 04:21
Suhara Koun is a Rinzai (I think) Zen priest at Enryakiji in Kamakura. He shoots in the style of Awa Kenzo, Herrigel's teacher. Consequently, this is the "Zen kyudo" that he has passed on to Chozenji.

I suppose that if someone wants to make kyudo into a "Zen" practice, he is free to do so. And once he has done it, then I suppose his kyudo is "Zen" kyudo. Once could do the same for Pilates or knitting too, I suppose. The point I have been trying to make, and which Tracy thinks can be disproven by dredging up another book written by a foreigner, is that whatever modern people may try to do to kyudo, it is a verifiable historical fact that specifically trying to make kyudo into a Zen practice is an extremely recent historical occurrence. Traditional kyudo was not, and has never has been, a practice undertaken for the specific purpose of trying to attain "enlightenment". Herrigel tried to make it into that, but he was WRONG. Throughout this entire discussion, nobody has really been able to disprove Prof. Yamada's thesis.

Awa tried to make kyudo into a religion he called "Daishadokyo", which can be translated variously as "Doctrine/Teaching/Church of the Great Way of Shooting". It was definitely Buddhistic, but Awa himslelf is on record as not wholeheartedly approving of Zen. So while he used many cryptic and abstruse Buddhist terms to describe his Shado, he himself did not think that it was Zen.

Herrigel thought it was, but he was entirely mistaken. While I suppose this was his right, and if people want that they are free to follow him or other teachers like him, it is a plain fact that his approach was idiosyncratic and untraditional. The kyudo at Chozenji was specifically and consciously modelled on Herrigel's book, for the express purpose of turning it into "Zen archery" and the organization there states very specifically that their kyudo is a unique institution with no ties to any traditional kyudo organization in Japan. It is entirely self-made, and no one tries to hide that fact. Indeed, it boasts of the fact that it has no lineage and no ties to traditional kyudo in Japan.

One can practice such kyudo if one wants, of course. One should just understand that it is not traditional kyudo. It is an entirely modern creation that has spread simply because of the fact that intellectuals in both Japan and the US who had little or no knowledge of real Zen and even less of real kyudo, mistakenly raised Herrigel to the status of a sage.

And the fact that a Zen priest does kyudo doesn't make it Zen either. If he went to a movie or smoked a cigarette, would it be a "Zen" movie or a "Zen" cigarette?

But, hey, if that's what you want it to be, knock yourself out.

Brian Owens
14th August 2006, 20:46
...And the fact that a Zen priest does kyudo doesn't make it Zen either. If he went to a movie or smoked a cigarette, would it be a "Zen" movie or a "Zen" cigarette?
Maybe, maybe not. ;)

15th August 2006, 01:55
Originally Posted by Earl Hartman
...And the fact that a Zen priest does kyudo doesn't make it Zen either. If he went to a movie or smoked a cigarette, would it be a "Zen" movie or a "Zen" cigarette?

Maybe, maybe not. ;)

As a matter of fact yes The question is "who" is doing the smoking the cigarette or the person.

Brian Owens
15th August 2006, 02:57
...As a matter of fact yes The question is "who" is doing the smoking the cigarette or the person.
Another question would be, is there a seperation -- a duality -- between the person and the cigarette, or are both actually one.

15th August 2006, 05:29
Another question would be, is there a seperation -- a duality -- between the person and the cigarette, or are both actually one.

yes that is what the "who" is supposed to mean. is it a manifestation of oneness or is their separation.

Hence zen can be in anything you do.

Suzuki Roshi once said to a few discples as they were leaving to go to the store. "the most important thing is finding out what the most important thing is" or the path. Any DO art is not stagnate but a living growing art. yes the basics never change but it is the student who stands on the shoulders of the teacher. So to say this is traditional and this is not traditional is likely a matter of opinion. It would be interesting for Mr. Kushner to comment on if he believes the art he teaches is traditional or not.

What does traditional mean? Can you be taught a traditional art by a gaijin? Of course. If your equipment is more modern does it make it non traditional? I would say it depends.

I think the bottom line in all DO arts is oneness does that make it zen? It all depends again on the "Who"

Earl Hartman
15th August 2006, 10:12
Oh, so we're back to the "everything is Zen whether you know it or not, so kyudo is Zen too, but you're too unenlightened to see it" thing? And you complain that I keep harping on the same subject?

I don't believe I have ever met anyone, either in person or via the Internet, who is so obstinate about deliberately and completely missing the point and yet who seems to be so pleased about his own obtuseness. Especially someone who doesn't know anything at all about the art he is discussing. For me, this is one of the most fascinating things about people who think they know Zen. They just love to discuss things they don't know anything about. Do you hear me lecturing you about aikido and telling you how you've got it all wrong? No, because I don't know anything about aikido. I guess Zen is just another name for chutzpah.

If Zen can be found anywhere you look for it, and can, apparently, be anything you want it to be, of what value is it? And since I am doing it anyway, why do I need to pay it any attention whatso-freaking-ever? If it is something that I do naturally without being aware of it, then I'm already enlightened and this whole discussion has no meaning at all. Do you Zen people actually spend your time sitting around talking about stuff like this? The mind boggles.

My point is that traditional kyudo has never been practiced specifically as a way to attain "Zen enlightenment". Prof. Yamada introduced a great deal of proof that this is so and that Herrigel simply got it wrong. And your answer is, basically, that kyudo can be Zen if you want it to be Zen? You'll have to do better than that. But, I suppose this is what you Zen wannabes call a really deep "koan".

This trend to treat kyudo as a "Zen" art is a post-Taisho Period development that was confined to an extremely small faction of people in Japan; and in the West it is entirely due to people like D.T. Suzuki, (who, as far as I know never picked up a bow in his life), and Eugen Herrigel, who misunderstood an unorthodox approach to the art and presented kyudo as Zen even though his OWN TEACHER did not see it as Zen. Doesn't the fact that the "Zen archery" myth has been propogated by two such people, and is not accepted by the vast majority of people who actually practice kyudo in its country of origin, bother you in the slightest? Looking at this situation, you don't think "Hmmmm.....maybe Herrigel got it wrong"?
Oh, right, I forgot. Since everybody except Awa and Herrigel didn't understand Zen and therefore weren't "enlightened" they really didn't understand kyudo at all. My bad.

I mean, seriously, dude. You do aikido, right? If somebody who had had less experience in aikido than you, and who had trained with a teacher known for his crazy ideas, told you that aikido wasn't what you thought it was, would you believe him? Herrigel practiced kyudo for three years with a man who was considered a lunatic by his contemporaries, and couldn't understand a word his teacher said. I've been doing kyudo for almost 35 years, more than 10 of those years in Japan, and I can speak direcly to my teachers without an interpreter. Why should I trust Herrigel over my own direct experience?

Yes, of course, every Do art is not stagnant, the students stand on the shoulders of the teacher, everything is "oneness", blah blah blah, yada yada yada. I mean, could you possibly be more banal? And, of course, a gaijin can teach a traditional art, so long as he knows one. I have never met Professor Kushner, nor have I read his book. He may very well be a very nice man, and it is quite possible that he is a very good archer. Perhaps one day I will be able to meet him and see for myself. However, whether he thinks he is doing a traditional art or not is pretty irrelevant. The founders of Chozenji kyudo state blatantly that their brand of kyudo is a new thing that is not related to any kyudo group in Japan. Therefore, by definition, it cannnot be traditional, even if all of the exterior trappings are perfectly in order.

There is "enlightenment", if you want to call it that, in the Way of the Bow, but it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with Zen. It comes when you finally understand what kyudo really is. So, the issue is not "who" is doing the shooting. It is "what" kyudo is. In kyudo, we say that "the bow does not lie". The proof of the pudding is in the shooting and the conduct of the archer. Someone who knows how to shoot understands kyudo regardless of his opinions about Zen.

You say that the basics never change. Fine. There are certain things that are fundamental to kyudo and if these things are changed, the art loses its soul and becomes something else. The soul of kyudo lies in the union of technique and spirit. These two things are part of one whole thing and they simply cannot be separated. The archer learns the spirit of kyudo through the technique and vice versa. Yet Herrigel preached that technique was of no importance whatsoever and that where the arrow flew was entirely inconsequential.

He was wrong. Period, full stop. There is absolutely no record of any traditional school of kyudo teaching such utter nonsense. Therefore, while I am willing to admit that his "Zen kyudo" might have value for people who want such things, it is not traditional kyudo. I have quoted various traditional teachers to you to support what I say.

But, no, none of this matters. Kyudo must be Zen, and Herrigel must be right. I guess you believe that the world is flat, too. Why do you have so much invested in this idea that budo must be Zen? I would really like to know.

spencer burns
15th August 2006, 18:48

I've been following this thread as it has evolved over the years, and I am left somewhat baffled. I'm willing to agree with every statement of fact you have made regarding Herrigel and the history of kyudo and Zen.

But yet... why are you so angry? Why do you take this so personally?

Herrigal wrote a lovely little book about himself that is indeed meaningless for kyudo. I'm sure that it has given the wrong idea to many many people over the years and that you have been frustrated by guru-seekers coming to your class. It's good that you want to share that article you translated and illuminate Herrigel's misconceptions.

But why is it necessary to repeatedly tell people who want Zen in their kyudo that they are wrong? Your kyudo is not Zen, and that is what is best for you. Historic kyudo was not Zen, but most contemporary kyudo is a long way from mid-Edo kyudo and a far longer way from martial archery anyway.

I find this odd indeed, since there are two kyudo dojos in your backyard of styles that are mixed up with Buddhism. I believe that Muyoshingetsu kyudo's lineage comes from a Zen temple; their kyudo is "deeply spiritual." Shibata Sensei's style has a long-standing affiliation with Shambhala and various Zen centers; this might be a modern adaptation that is not in the kyudo mainstream, but it is his kyudo and his business. Do you feel that they are wrong in what their kyudo is (or do you feel I am wrong in my statements about their kyudo)?

For the record, I practice Shibata's style of kyudo, have never practiced Zen or any other form of Buddhism, and enlightenment is not one of my goals in kyudo.

Ron Tisdale
15th August 2006, 18:56
Earl doesn't seem angry or mad to me...frustrated perhaps, but not angry. And certainly not crazy. :) I think I understand his frustrations...having tried to debunk some myths surrounding aikido in the past. People cling (almost desperately, it seems) to these things.

I don't see Earl taking shots so much as shaking his head in disbelief.


Earl Hartman
15th August 2006, 20:15

I dislike being lectured about kyudo by someone who does not know anything about it, that's all. I have met a lot of people who think they know Zen who display this kind of shameless arrogance, and it really, really bothers me. I can only assume that there is something in Zen that makes people this way, so I am suspicious of it. However, the people who act like this are almost all foreigners who have little or no actual traditional Zen training, so perhaps it is the people, not the thing itself.

If you have followed this thread, you should be able to see that nowhere have I said that kyudo is not "deeply spiritual". It is, very much so. What annoys me is people who see "spiritual" and think "Aha! Zen!"

My entire point all along has been that the real spirit of kyudo is understood only when the practitioner devotes himself entirely to doing his absolute best to become the best archer he can possibly be. Understanding kyudo happens when the archer molds himself to the demands of kyudo rather than trying to use kyudo for some purpose he has brought with him. So long as he does this, he will understand the spirit of kyudo, regardless of the level of skill he may eventually attain.

I am aware of Muyoshingetsu Ryu kyudo in the Bay Area. I assume that you are referring to Bob Fisher. I have never met him. However, as you point out, Muyoshingetsu Ryu kyudo is a fairly recent development, historically speaking. Of course, a devout Buddhist will probably see kyudo in a Buddhistic way, since his religion informs his life. This is his prerogative, I suppose. But it is not necessary or intrinsic to kyudo. It is something that the practitioner adds to it. Viewing kyudo as a metaphor for a Buddhist or "Zen" world view and then going back and restructuring kyudo so that it conforms to, and becomes an becomes an expression of and a way to understand, that view is a very new thing. I suppose that this might have value for some people. It just does not interest me, that's all.

And, yes, I cannot count the number of people who, having read Herrigel's book, come to me for "guru seeking". It is a vexing state of affairs, and, as can be seen by Tracy's insistence on the validity of Herrigel's view, in spite of the fact that he has no real interest in kyudo at all, the twisted roots of this problem run very deep indeed. Overall, Herrigel's book is a bane, not a boon.

Kyudo/kyujutsu used to just be archery. The soul of archery lies in the shot itself, not in any meaning that the archer tries to give it. Archery by itself is more than enough for me. I do not need all of these other extraneous trappings that distract me from trying to understand the soul of archery. I believe that as an archer it is my duty to try to understand archery itself. Consequently, Zen and enlightenment, in and of themselves, do not interest me in the slightest, nor were they uppermost in the minds of traditional archers. That's all I have been trying to say. Yes, the kyudo of today is not what it once was. But divorcing kyudo from its original purpose takes us away from the spirit of real kyudo rather than bringing us closer to it. Even today, when our lives do not hang in the balance on the battlefield, we should not lose sight of kyudo's original nature.

I am aware that Shibata Sensei is affiliated with the Shambala Center. I do not understand what relationship kyudo should have with Tibetan Buddhism, but, as you say, Shibata Sensei can do whatever he wants with his own kyudo. I met him once, and he let me know in no uncertain terms that he holds the All Japan Kyudo Federation in low esteem, and takes pride in the fact that he does not associate himself or his organization with it. This is his privilege, of course.

It is my understanding that he frowns upon his students associating with us. This is unfortunate. I assume that you know and train with Lucy Halverston; she used to visit us every now and again, and she and her husband are nice people. Please give them my regards when you see them next.

Joshua Lerner
15th August 2006, 22:07
But yet... why are you so angry? Why do you take this so personally?

He's not angry. This is just another form of archery practice for him - aiming at inaccuracies and shooting them down.

Which means that kyudo has permeated his whole life and personality. Which is just so very Zen!

[ducks and covers]

Earl Hartman
15th August 2006, 23:46

You.....you mean....I've hit myself with my own arrow?!?!?

Or is it that I and the Target have become One?

No, no, wait a minute...it's that there is no separation between the Bow, the Archer, the Arrow and the Target, right?

No, that's not it, either. Damn. Hold on a minute, it'll come to me.......

Oh, right, how stupid of me.

I have transcended all Duality and beome One with the Universe and the Artless Art!

Yeah, that's it. That's the ticket.

spencer burns
16th August 2006, 01:40
Thinking about it, I'm not really sure what my point was this morning. It was some odd concept of agreeing with information but not tone. I think that on some level I was expressing a frustration that in as small a realm as Western kyudo there seem to be sectarian divisions of what is "correct" or "incorrect." As you said, any discouragement of styles associating is unfortunate, and ultimately would seem to be counterproductive.

I am not fit comment on what the official line in Shibata's organization is on whether Buddhism is intended to build better kyudo, or kyudo to build better Buddhism, or if they should stay independent. Certainly it is noteworthy that most of the major seminars occur within retreats to Zen or Shambhala centers. But every individual I've met practices for the sake of practice.

Anyway, I apologize if I came off as rude (an easy pitfall in this medium to be sure). I will indeed give your regards to Lucy.

16th August 2006, 03:20
The "expert" Mr. Hartman hitting himself with his own arrow would be a site to see. But then again kids it is all good and fun until someone loses an eye.

I was neither lecturing the "expert" nor trying to convince him. There is no debate with experts they are always right you you are always wrong if you oppose their thinking. In spiral dynamics his like are considered a blue meme. But that is a whole different can of worms.

Since this is Meditation forum and not a Kyudo Forum I will stick to the zen theme with a quote from Suzuki Roshi "in the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few."


Earl Hartman
16th August 2006, 04:49
Ah, yes, the "s**t eating grin" emoticon. Now I know we've come to the end of the line on this discussion, and that Tracy really has nothing left to say except a "Zen" parting shot, which, of course, by its very nature cannot be answered, since it is, after all, Zen, and we all know that Zen cannot be answered with something as mundane and one-dimensional as mere words.

While I have some experience in kyudo, I do not consider myself an expert. When I am able to achieve "Chu Kan Kyu" (Hit, Pierce, Forever) I will perhaps be forgiven if I consider myself one.

However, I certainly know more about kyudo than anyone else who has participated in this discussion, most especially Mr. Reasoner, who, like D.T. Suzuki, apparently likes to bloviate about things in which he has no first-hand experience.

Throughout this discussion, my main point has been not that it is necessarily forbidden to make kyudo into a "Zen" practice if someone wants to do that; it has only been to explain that this is very recent and extremely limited phenomenon in Japan, that it has no basis in traditional kyudo doctrine, and that it was spread in the West by a person who demonstrably misunderstood what he was being taught. As I have said, no one, least of all Mr. Reasoner, has been able to refute these facts, which Prof. Yamada documemented quite thoroughly. All he has been able to say "kyudo is as Zen as you want it to be". This is quite meaningless. For some reason, Mr. Reasoner seems to strongly feel that kyudo simply must be Zen. I do not understand this, since he has no interest in actually practicing kyudo himself, but I suppose there is no explaining monomania.

However, how does Mr. Reasoner know that my mind is closed when it comes to kyudo? Since he knows nothing about kyudo, he has no way of knowing this. If he considers my mind closed just because my experience has proven that Herrigel was wrong about kyudo being a form of Zen meditation, I suppose I am guilty as charged. However, insisting that kyudo is what it is and is not what it is not does not strike me as being closed minded. It strikes me as being realistic.

Of course, to a person who is completely ignorant of something, that thing can be anything at all. However, I don't think this is Suzuki Roshi's "Beginner's Mind"; it is just plain, old-fashioned benighted ignorance. "Beginner's Mind" is not the same as "Anything Goes". "Beginner's Mind" means to see a thing in its "as it isness" and to not make it into something it is not. Yet it is Mr. Reasoner who continues to insist that kyudo is Zen. And I'm the one who doesn't have "Beginner's Mind"? Please. Once a person realizes that the world is a sphere rather than being a flat plate like he originally thought, would one say that he had "Beginner's Mind" if he said "well, the world still might be flat, you know"? No, one would think that he was an utter idiot who should be committed.

But, I've got news for Mr. Reasoner: every shot is a new shot, and the possibilities for each shot are endless. If he meditates on this long enough perhaps the Bodhi tree will fall on his head and give him a "Katz! ".


You did not come off as rude, and so there is no need to apologize to me. As far as I could tell from my meeting with him and some of the literature of his that I have read, Shibata Sensei looks down on standard ANKF kyudo as a debased sport, and so he does not want his students to be polluted by it. In addition to that, the style of kyudo that Shibata Sensei practices is something all his own, so far as I can tell, and so it would only make sense for him to want to keep his teaching separate. When styles differ, it is impossible for them to be taught together. This is entirely in keeping with traditional Japanese practice, so Shibata Sensei's attitude is quite traditional in that sense. According to what I have read, it is a branch of the Bishu Chikurin style, although he does it somewhat differently than other archers of that style that I have seen. In any case, Shibata Sensei has chosen not to affiliate with the ANKF, the organization to which I belong, so trying to meld the two different styles would be counter productive for both groups, impossible, really. But there's no reason we shouldn't be able to go out for a beer, I suppose.

As I understand it, he was invited to this country by the Tibetan Buddhist organization in Boulder, Colorado, to teach proper manners to the monks, since the head teacher (Rinpoche?) felt that they had become lazy or something. Needless to say, of course, there is no organic relationship between Japanese kyudo and Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibetan Buddhist organization seems to act as his patron. Or, at least that's what it looks like to an outsider. Also, the Chikurin style was founded by a Shingon Buddhist priest named Chikurinbo Josei, so this school may very well have more Buddhist influence than other schools. Before Tracy goes "Aha!", however, it must be borne in mind that Chikurinbo was a Shingon priest, not a Zen priest. Not the same thing at all. I have only met one Shingon (or was he Tendai? can't remember) priest in my life, and he really seemed to dislike Zen quite intensely.

16th August 2006, 05:30
[QUOTE=Earl Hartman]Ah, yes, the "s**t eating grin" emoticon. Now I know we've come to the end of the line on this discussion...

Indeed :rolleyes: remember never lose your sense of humor... :D

However, today I did receive an email from author Kenneth Kushner. tracking his email down from the internet. He advised the following:

"I am aware of the article and, to a degree the controversy, although I do not participate in e-budo. I am on my way out of my house now to catch a plane to China. I will get back to you when I am back in town. Thank you for your interest." - Kenneth Kushner

I would be interested on his perspective.

16th August 2006, 19:10
The "expert" Mr. Hartman hitting himself with his own arrow would be a site to see.
Did you mean 'sight' (site is a whole other kettle of fish).

Be well,

16th August 2006, 19:52
As a new member, I have read these pages with relish. I admire Master Tracy for her stamina and unbending belief in "The Way," and Master Earl for his prolific unbending belief in his Way as the only Way. There is no doubt you have both been validated by your writings.

I read Zen in the Art of Archery well before I even thought about studying martial arts. It was required reading for a conducting course I was taking when I studied music in college. What I got from it (and please bear in mind this was from the perspective of a 20-something year old college student who was all eyes and ears about spirituality and how to acquire it through drugs) was that Zen was a spiritual state, and that state can be achieved through any art. Regardless of what Herrigel intended, I really believe, although I have no doubt both Masters Tracy and Earl would vehemently disagree with me, that the point of the book was not that you required a Zen state to achieve mastery in archery, but that studying the art of archery would enable you to acquire a Zen state of mind. Just as studying conducting would enable you to acquire a Zen state of mind. To me, that meant you achieved an altered state of consciousness, without smoking a joint first.

Wonder of wonders. And I did experience it through the art of conducting.

Now, I am using "Zen" as a generic term, because I am definitely not a student of Zen (although I did explore its foundations, I also determined it was not for me). I am a student and teacher of energy. And when you think about the energy involved in becoming a Master Archer, or a Master of Aikido, or a Master of Zen, Tai-Chi or any martial or healing art form, then you must reach a place where you move beyond the physical, to that which makes the physical, which is vital life force -- ki. Sorry, Master Tracy (sisterhood, and all that), but that is where the book fails. There could have been alternative definition to Herrigel's experiences, but because he could not define what transpired with the energy of his studies, he labeled it with what he could define, using a word to encompass that which he could not define: Zen.

But it really was all about energy. I have no doubt Master Earl's study of the art of archery provide him with the qualifications to indeed trash Herrigel's text. I also have no doubt Master Tracy's study of Zen provided her with the qualifications to place the book back on its pedestal. They are both right; and they are both wrong.

Omigosh. How incredibly yin and yang of the two of them.

What a wonderful thread this has been. Thank you for this brilliant discussion of a point that for me has become moot.

Ron Tisdale
16th August 2006, 20:18
Yikes. That should be good for another page or so...

Oh...I believe Tracy is a man...


Earl Hartman
16th August 2006, 20:36
NLMontana says:

"Now, I am using "Zen" as a generic term, but..."

Inadvertently or not, I think she has put her finger on the problem, which is, quite simply, the sloppy use of words.

"Zen" is not, and should not be, a "generic" term. Zen Buddhism, and the practice thereof, is something very specific. When kyudo is called "Zen archery", people in the West, not unreasonably, assume that it is part and parcel of the religious practice of Zen Buddhism, that it was invented by Zen monks specifically as a form of meditation, that it is somehow an outgrowth and a physical representation of Zen Buddhist teachings, that it is concerned wholly with the spirit and disdains the practical; that it is, in sum, an altogether mysterious, arcane, weird mystical Eastern conundrum, wrapped in a riddle and shrouded in an enigma.

It is absolutely none of these things. And Herrigel and D.T. Suzuki are the two people whose work, and the misunderstanding of that work by ignorant people in the West, convinced people that this was so.

It is precisely the use of the term "Zen" as a general rubric to decribe some sort of free-floating spiritual something-or-other, that can be anything anyone wants it to be, that is the reason kyudo is so misunderstood in the West. And it is Herrigel's fault.

It is quite true, as Ms. Montana says, that the study of any art can bring a person to certain plane of realization. The mistake is that people call this "Zen".

Master Urakami Sakae, my teacher's teacher, says that in order to shoot well, one must "awake to the as-it-isness of Nature". That is, one must become "enlightened" as to the way Nature naturally works and how it functions through the shot, which is a complex interaction of the archer, with his physical, mental, and spiritual capacities, and the natural functioning of his equipment. This interaction between the archer and the bow is a natural phenomenon which has its own "nature". When the archer understands this, he will achieve a certain "enlightenment" about the intrinsic nature of his "Way".

My only point has been is that this is not "Zen". It is intrinsic and essential to the art of archery and needs nothing from anything else to be what it is.

16th August 2006, 22:05
Master Urakami Sakae, my teacher's teacher, says that in order to shoot well, one must "awake to the as-it-isness of Nature". That is, one must become "enlightened" as to the way Nature naturally works and how it functions through the shot, which is a complex interaction of the archer, with his physical, mental, and spiritual capacities, and the natural functioning of his equipment. This interaction between the archer and the bow is a natural phenomenon which has its own "nature". When the archer understands this, he will achieve a certain "enlightenment" about the intrinsic nature of his "Way".

My only point has been is that this is not "Zen". It is intrinsic and essential to the art of archery and needs nothing from anything else to be what it is.

Since capital Z-Zen is, by definition, something related to a particular formally organized sect of Japanese Buddhism, anybody using the term to denote anything else obviously doesn't have a clue what they're talking about.

And since lower-case z zen is simply a romanization of a Japanization of a Sinification of a word that we could transliterate into English as dhayana but truth be told is really most beautifully represented in Siddham or Devanagari script, it's not even necessarily Buddhist.

But I hear that Arjuna was a pretty good hand with a bow...


As for the relationship between Shambhala and Kyudo, Kyudo is one of a number of "secular contemplative arts" taught at Shambhala Centers, for the frankly stated purpose of drawing people who are not primarily interested in the immediate pursuit of Buddhist practice into relationship with the Buddhist community that was initially centered on Chogyam Trungpa, who was succeeded by first by Osel Tendzin, and subsequently by his son who is known by the name Sakyong Mipham. Since Shambhala is based on Tibetan Tantric Buddhism and Shibata's group has some relationship with Japanese Tantric Buddhism, maybe they just kind of got along real well.

The only real relationship between Shambhala and Zen is that Trungpa was very taken by oryoki table etiquette.

Earl's suggestion that Shambhala is Shibata's US Patron is very much to the point.

As with Earl's experience, on the few occasions when the matter of Zen Buddhism has come up when I have spoken with a Shingon or Tendai priest, misgivings have been expressed.

The same is true the other way around.

And the Soka Gakkai people I've encountered seem to think everybody but them is going to spend 10,000 kalpas in Avici Hell.

I'd tell the story about a bunch of jaded NY intellectuals oohing and aahing when D.T. Suzuki offered them "treat others as you would have them treat you" as a pearl of buddhist wisdom, but that would be really mean to godforsaken secular cosmopolitans so I think I'll just let it go right there.

Earl Hartman
17th August 2006, 03:26
Actually, that sounds like a good story. I'd like to hear it.

Also, may I ask what you mean by "godforsaken secular cosmopolitans"? Quite a mouthful. And are NY intellectuals different from other intellectuals?

Earl Hartman
17th August 2006, 03:53
Oh, yeah:

Do you mean to say that Shambala uses kyudo as sort of "bait" to try to get people interested in their brand of Tibetan Buddhism? One of my kyudo students, a young woman from Japan who did kyudo in high school, was looking for kyudo in the Bay Area and went to the Shibata group in Berkeley for one practice, but apparently they were required to meditate for a half hour before shooting, and there were gongs and bells and bowing to Shibata Sensei's picture. Kyudo practice in Japan doesn't involve anything like that, and it made her feel that she had stumbled upon a religious cult rather than a kyudo practice group. She never went back. But if that what Shamballa is trying to do, her story makes sense.

I am only relating what she told me. Perhaps Spencer can tell us if this is how things are normally done.

Also, you say that Shibata Sensei's group has a relationship with Japanese Tantric Buddhism. Can you tell us more about this? Never looked into it, myself.

17th August 2006, 06:29
I used to live right down the street from the Shambala center. My room mate at the time, Kevin, was one of your students. Anyway, the center often had flyers both for kyudo and for Tantric Buddhism seminars, which I thought was intersting since I was under the impression that Shambala was out of Japan.

The tantric stuff is interesting to me, specifically the mudras and how they interact with some of the Aunkai material that I have been exploring. I would be (and am) exceptionally curious about how Shibata's group views it. The reason I bring this up is that Kevin has shown/explained to me the use of the upper back and tanden in kyudo. It is interesting to me because in the Akuzawa/Aunkai material, tension in the upper back "cross" is heavily emphasized. I've experimented with seeing how changing the formation of my hands changes the tension in the upper back.

Just to make it clear...I'm not in this for some kind of hippie dippy unity-with-the-universe stuff. I'm interested in this as a means of improving my fighting skills in the full contact stuff I practice.

17th August 2006, 16:30
Actually, that sounds like a good story. I'd like to hear it.

Also, may I ask what you mean by "godforsaken secular cosmopolitans"? Quite a mouthful. And are NY intellectuals different from other intellectuals?

First the Suzuki story as the late Philip Yampolsky at Columbia's Department of East Asian Language and Culture passed it along. Allegedly, it was an after-lecture party in the mid-sixties, on the cusp of the final transition out of the bohemian era and into the hippie era. Many black turtlenecks and hipsters who spoke French, read existentialism (hold the Kierkegaard please), listened to jazz, adopted a typically cynical pose toward everything and everyone, particularly anything or anyone associated with (shhhhhhhhhhhhhh) organized religion of any kind. Of course, in that cultural climate, "organized religion" meant Judaism, Catholicism, or Protestantism. Nothing else was on the map and nobody had heard the word "multiculturalism." So "godforsaken secular cosmopolitans" could also be read simply as "upper west side post wwii europhile snobs."

But D.T. Suzuki was an academic. And he wrote about Zen Buddhism. And those legendary Beats and Columbia Bad Boys Made Good Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac wrote about Zen Buddhism too. And he was.....Oriental!

So someone asks Suzuki what the highest teaching of Buddhism is, and everyone in the room falls dead silent and listens to him with rapt attention and he utters the line, very softly and sincerely with a vapid smile on his face.

And then, everyone in the room oohs, and aahs and nods approvingly, and not a single person among this normally argumentative and contentious bunch asks a followup question or makes a pointed observation and Yampolsky said he just shook his head and muttered under his breath that "if a rabbi or a priest or a minister said the same thing, you people would have chewed him up."

(After Edward Said and the whole hippie thing, we can now clearly identify this behavior as "bliss ninny Orientalism.")

Suzuki subsequently told Yampolsky that his interests had moved beyond Zen and it was his sense that the most complete teachings of Buddhism were found in Pure Land practice, and that is a point of view that is, shall we say, even more of an outlier than his mistaken views about the primacy of Zen Buddhism as a key to Japanese cultural patterning.

It's worth noting that Yampolsky gave us what remains the authoritative translation of the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, so he might know a thing or two about Zen as well, although what that has to do with his turn toward country music in the last few years of his life I have no idea.

For your last question, yes, NY intellectuals are different. They are so convinced that NY is the center of the universe that they are more provincial than their counterparts in other cities or (horrors) those who don't live in cities at all.

17th August 2006, 17:21

It's still going on. I've met plenty of people who slam organized Christianity and Judaism but are perfectly happy to sign up for the latest Buddhist or Hindu based cult. Or Scientology =)

Earl Hartman
17th August 2006, 18:40

Are you talking about Kevin Lo? I haven't seen him for a while, but if you're still in touch with him, say hey for me.

I don't know anything about how Shibata Sensei teaches kyudo, nor do I know anything about his supposed relationship with tantric Buddhism. You'll have to ask him. However, it wouldn't surprise me if there was some relationship between the body mechanics of kyudo and tantric practices. Kyudo technique is based on the natural and balanced action of the body as it applies to shooting a bow, so assuming that physical principles are the same wherever you go, it wouldn't surprise me if there were similarities. My discussions with Western archers has led me to the conclusion that the technical fundamentals of Western archery are the same as those of kyudo, although they are expressed differently because of the difference in equipment. (This is a big "duh", by the way, since once you free yourself from the Herrigerl-inspired smugness that Japanese archery is ineffably differrent from Western archery, it is obvious that the fundamental physics of shooting a bow simply must be the same wherever you go.) However, I don't know the first thing about tantric Buddhism, so I'll have to pass on making any comment on that. And I have absolutely no idea what Akuzawa/Aunkai is at all.

However, kyudo technique is based on a series of crosses, where the vertical and horizontal axes of the body must be maintained at right angles to one another and to the bow. This puts the archer's skeletal structure in a position so that the bow can be pushed properly using the skeletal structure instead of unnecessary muscle power. The position of the joints is maintained by using the extensor muscles with little or no interference from the flexor muscles. This allows the archer to push and pull the bow by expanding his body from the center, an action which brings about a natural release. I assume that Shibata Sensei teaches according to these principles as well.


Pure Land? Good grief. That's just about as far from Zen as you can get.

spencer burns
17th August 2006, 18:50
As far as the Shibata kyudo group in San Francisco/Berkeley goes, the only way that Shambhala is directly part of the class is that we rent space from them in Berkeley (in SF, we use space in the (Shinto) Konko church) and the class gets a mention in their pamphlets. I do not believe that any of the currently active members of the dojo are involved with Shambhala, although some practice Zen. There has never been any sense in the dojo of being part of their organization or being "recruited" (nor would such overtures be well received). None of their ideas (or tantric theories) are present the beginner's level that I have been exposed to. Shibata emphasizes that kyudo is "moving meditiation," but I have never heard anything more esoteric. I have, however, heard all the technical principles that Earl just mentioned.

All or our classes do start with 20 minutes of meditation (with a bell to mark the start and finish). We then do fairly standard bowing at the altar (with a picture of Shibata sensei on it) and the teacher. The bowing is nothing that would seem out of place in an Aikido dojo, but I can see where the Shambhala tapestries, pictures, and whatnot in the room could make it seem more religious than it is. Certainly the class I usually go to, in a concrete basement of the Konko church, doesn't seem religious at all unless you feel that meditation is inherently so.

I've also been to classes at the New York dojo, and the situation seemed similar. My impression is that while the organization started very tight with Shambhala, as it has grown larger it has diversified along with the different instructors. However, I have not been to any of the large National seminars and have only met Shibata once, so I really can't speak much about what goes on outside of Lucy's dojo. Certainly I'm not somebody who has any standing to speak for the organization. For official background read http://www.zenko.org/about.html

Any more senior members of the organization who frequent this board would currently be off at the "Zen Mt." seminar. Perhaps some of them will have more insight (or corrections) to add when they return.

To summarize: it what I have experienced in our dojo, neither Shambhala nor any other religion is central to our practice—meditation is central but non-sectarian. I would expect that some people have used this kyudo as a stepping stone to Buddhism, and we have had Zen practitioners take up the bow, but at least in the kyudo I have seen, religion and practice are not intertwined.

17th August 2006, 21:34
Mr. Hartman, my point was not inadvertent. It was quite deliberate. You just happened to pick up on it.

And Master Tracy, my apologies for the incorrect gender designation.

Sorry for the interruption. Have back at it.

18th August 2006, 05:20
Hi Earl,

Yep, Kevin Lo. I still talk to Kevin pretty regularly, though I don't see much of him.

As to Akuzawa's material, we actually had a long thread about it recently here on E-budo.

There is also an article that one of Akuzawa's students, Rob John, wrote recently. It is available on b u l l s h i d o .com , I can't link it because the stupid swear filter will remove it.

The article is called "Developing efficient martial movement" and you can get there from the main page.

I'm still in the very-much-beginning stages of learning thru imitation of the videos and some written correspondence from Rob. Hopefully I will get to Japan early next year.

The thing that is very interesting is that, at least as it's been explained to me, Akuzawa's exercises are supposed to strengthen the body along the same lines as the "crosses" shown in the kyudo manual:


Kevin sent me the link to that manual and in fact after we both did a show and tell (with him more skillfully than me, clearly) we figured out that we were working on the same stuff.

Specifically, Akuzawa's guys focus on the "cross" in the upper chest.

I can say that the exercises have allowed me to hit harder and be more stable on my feet. Specifically, it has allowed me to train stuff like the one inch punch delivered strictly with upper body. That's not that optimal either...but it most definitely surprised me.

Fascinating stuff.

Ron Tisdale
18th August 2006, 13:54
It's good to see these connections being made. Thanks guys...

21st August 2006, 20:01
not to detract from the subject but I did recently find an interesting article by David Loy on Is Zen Buddhism?


25th August 2006, 21:21
Also, you say that Shibata Sensei's group has a relationship with Japanese Tantric Buddhism. Can you tell us more about this? Never looked into it, myself.


Sorry for the delayed reply to this portion of your query, but I wanted to think about it at some lenght clearly, and choose my words very carefully.

My intent was not to say that Shibata's group has some express relationship with Japanese Tantric Buddhism. But having taken your initial notes about the origin of the school and done some googling, I found one link in particular that was quite interesting.


In reading the description of the Chikurin-ha demonstration there, I was struck by the "family resemblence" between the structure of their demo and the structure of some of the mikkyo ritual practice I've seen.

Three points jumped out at me in reading that description

The archers knelt at honza sitting in seiza with the two assistants sitting behind them. Laying their bows and arrows on the floor beside them, they turned to the judges seat, bowed, then turned back to the targets. Since they were not holding equipment they were able to use both hands on the floor to help push their bodies while sitting in seiza. This pattern of sitting at honza in seiza and placing their bows and arrows on the floor was repeated after every shot. The archer would fire, return to honza, then lay his equipment down and wait until the fifth archer fired and also returned to honza.

This isn't a precise gesture for gesture map, but the above is very reminiscent of the way in which typical mikkyo practices, whether they are being performed with 1, 3, 7, 21, 54, or 108 repetitions, will always be "wrapped" in opening and closing prostrations. Viewed in that way, each movement from standing to seiza would be a truncated prostration.

The five archers advanced to shai and performed a most beautiful maneuver in the kneeling position. The June, 1994 issue of the ANKF Kyudo magazine has a perfect picture of this on the cover. While kneeling at shai, and before raising the bow to the front, the archers thrust their bows straight at the target. This movement is called "nakazumi" and can be done kneeling or standing. The bow arm is fully extended, the upper bowtip pointed to the center of the target. The upper bowtip is then aligned with the left toe, if standing, or the left knee, if kneeling. By extending the line to the right toe, or the inside of the right ankle if kneeling, the archer's ashibumi will be set in a line with the center of the target. Something especially important in a form which forces all but the middle archer to angle their stance toward a single target.

In mikkyo practices, there is generally a scroll, image, or statue which is a central part of the meditation, both in the broad sense of the term and in the case of a solo practitioner, in the narrow physical sense.

Here, as in group mikkyo practices in which a single scroll or sculpture is serving as the focal point of practice for a number of people, each practitioner establishes a centerline from his or her position to the target.

This seems to me a family resemblence in terms of the way practitioners conceive and work with three-dimensional space.

The Bisshu Chikurin school does not use the word sharei, ceremonial shooting, to describe this form, using the word taihai instead. I noticed the archers used sashin satai footwork, advancing with the left foot and also retiring with the left foot, whereas most ANKF forms use sashin utai footwork, advancing with the left foot and retiring with the right.

This third point is more broadly Buddhist, or Buddhistic, in the sense that movement is always initiated from the same foot. It is different in that it is the left foot rather than the right. But violence is a left-hand path activity, not a right-hand path activity.

None of the above can be taken as evidence that kyudo as taught by Shibata Sensei is Buddhist Kyudo or Tantric Buddhist Kyudo in some doctrinal sense, and that's not my point.

However, there seems to be movement patterning in there that would seem very familiar -- and compatible -- to someone practicing Tantric Buddhism, whether Japanese, Chinese, or Tibetan.

So my guess is that Trungpa Rinpoche saw that quality of movement and was rather taken by it -- as he was oryoki dining (along with the more communal nature of Japanese monasticism as compared with the fragmented and feudal nature of Tibetan monasticism), and flower arrangement.

Along these lines, it's worth noting that Shingon is the form of Buddhism practiced by the Imperial Family, that Shibata is the bowyer to the Imperial Family, and that Trungpa Rinpoche also arranged for the construction and consecration of a Shinto Shrine in which the key Imperial Deities Amaterasu Omikami, along with Sarutahiko Okami, Ame-no-uzeme no Mikoto and Toyooke no Okami were enshrined.

I'm sure the necessity of a consecration ceremony with large quantities of high quality sake was part of his motivation, but I think there was something more to it than that.

But whatever his motivations, for most of the practitioners in that line here in the US, it comes down to the fact that they're interested in kyudo, this is what's available in their vicinity, they like the teacher and the group, and the sort of nonsense I'm writing about has little or no relevance to their practice.



Earl Hartman
25th August 2006, 23:37

Thanks. The author of the piece you cited is a member of our group, the Northern California Kyudo Federation.

I have never really bothered to think about whether or not the movements of the shooting ceremony have any connection to Buddhsim, Tantric or otherwise, but I suppose that it wouldn't be particularly odd if general Japanese etiquette practices were related to the movements in religious ceremonies (or vice versa).

However, the lining up of the stance so that the feet are on line to the target is really a practical matter. If you're not properly lined up, it's hard to shoot properly.

I also practice a traditional style of kyudo, the Heki To Ryu (or Heki Ryu Insai-ha), in addition to the modern form. While some might think this heresy, I have found that in almost every instance, the traditional ceremonial shooting etiquette and other elements of the form are better, in the sense that they are more practical. The modern ceremonial form used in kyudo today was adapted from Ogasawara Ryu court practices, since the military schools of archery, of which the Bishu Chikurin-ha is one, did not concentrate that much on ceremonial etiquette, even though they had their own way of doing things. Since the Ogasawara Ryu was the traditional expert on matters of ceremony, protocol, and etiquette, their form was used as a basis for modern kyudo ceremonial fomrs. This made it possible for members of differing schools, all of which had their own way of doing things, to shoot together without getting in each other's way, or making it necessary to choose one school's etiquette over another's, which would have been politically fraught with all sorts of dangers.

26th August 2006, 01:25

Thanks. The author of the piece you cited is a member of our group, the Northern California Kyudo Federation.

I have never really bothered to think about whether or not the movements of the shooting ceremony have any connection to Buddhsim, Tantric or otherwise, but I suppose that it wouldn't be particularly odd if general Japanese etiquette practices were related to the movements in religious ceremonies (or vice versa).

However, the lining up of the stance so that the feet are on line to the target is really a practical matter. If you're not properly lined up, it's hard to shoot properly.


You're quite welcome.

Of course, lining up is practical. One of my aikido teachers talks about lining up all the o's: the toes, the nose, and the elbows. And people sometimes think it's just a stupid little rhyme.

The longer I study Japanese arts, the more struck I am by the progressive realization that a great many elements of etiquette, preparatory exercises, and the like -- the sorts of things that those of us with a typically western focus on immediate pragmatic application often initially see as some sort of odd cultural affectations or quasi-spiritual religious woo-woo that has nothing to do with the badass warrior essence we're REALLY after -- are aimed directly at training the mind-body in, yes, extremely pragmatic essentials that underly successful performance.

But the Japanese method -- across a great many arts -- seems to have a particularly strong orientation toward ways of training that virtually insure that practitioners will do the work and realize these things themselves or not get them at all.

The upside is that once a practitioner has realized one or another of those lesson, he really owns it. The downside you've been dealing with at some length in this thread.....



21st September 2006, 08:06
found on a website and thought it was one of the better explanation. with only a small reference to Herrigal still an overall excellent explanation. Probably the serious practitioner of Kyudo will recgonize who wrote it.

What is Kyudo?

Kyudo, which literally means The Way of the Bow, is considered by many to be the purest of all the martial ways. In the past, the Japanese bow was used for hunting, war, court ceremonies, games, and contests of skill. The original word for Japanese archery was kyujutsu (bow technique) which encompassed the skills and techniques of the warrior archer. Some of the ancient schools, known as ryu, survive today, along with the ancient ceremonies and games, but the days where the Japanese bow was used as a weapon are long past. Modern kyudo is practiced primarily as a method of physical, moral, and spiritual development.
No one knows exactly when the term kyudo came into being but it was not until the late nineteeth century when practice centered almost exclusively around individual practice that the term gained general acceptance. The essence of modern kyudo is said to be synonymous with the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty.
Truth in kyudo is manifested in shooting that is pure and right-minded, where the three elements of attitude, movement, and technique unite in a state of perfect harmony. A true shot in kyudo is not just one that hits the center of the target, but one where the arrow can be said to exist in the target before its release.
Goodness encompasses such qualities as courtesy, compassion, morality, and non-aggression. In kyudo, goodness is shown by displaying proper attitude and behavior in all situations. A good kyudo archer is a person who maintains his or her composure and grace even in times of great stress or conflict.
Beauty both enhances life and stimulates the spirit. In kyudo, truth and goodness, themselves, are considered beautiful. Beauty can also be found in the exquisite grace and artistry of the Japanese bow and the elegance of the traditional archer's attire. It is also present in the refined etiquette that surrounds the kyudo ceremony. Etiquette, which is simply common courtesy and respect for others, is an essential element of kyudo practice.
Much has been written about the philosophical connections of kyudo. Perhaps most known is the book Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. In his book Mr. Herrigel sets forth his experiences with kyudo in the 1930's. It was a beautifully written account that has been translated into many languages, giving people worldwide their first glimpse of the art. Unfortunately, the book was very one-sided in its description of kyudo as a Zen art and is responsible for a lot of the current misconception surrounding the practice of kyudo as a religious activity._While kyudo is not a religion it has been influenced by two schools of Eastern philosophy: The previously mentioned Zen, a form of Buddhism imported from China, and Shintoism, the indigenous faith of Japan. Of the two, the influence of Shintoism is much older. Ritualistic use of the bow and arrows have been a part of Shintoism for over two thousand years. Much of the kyudo ceremony, the attire worn by the archers, and the ritual respect shown for the equipment and shooting place are derived from ancient Shinto practice._The influence of Zen, on the other hand, is more recent, dating back to the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) when the warrior archers adopted Zen as their preferred method of moral training. Zen's influence on kyudo became even greater in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when Japan, as a whole, experienced a period of civil peace. During that time the practice of kyudo took on a definite philosophical leaning. This is the period when sayings like "one shot, one life" and "shooting should be like flowing water" were associated with the teaching of kyudo. Because of its long and varied past, modern Japanese archery will exhibit a wide variety of influences. Today, at any given kyudojo (practice hall), one can find people practicing ancient kyujutsu, ceremonial court games, rituals with religious connections, and contests of skill. The key to understanding kyudo is to keep an open mind and realize that any style of kyudo you see or practice is but a small part of a greater whole, and that each style has its own history and philosophical underpinnings which make them all equally interesting and important.

Brian Owens
21st September 2006, 08:44
...Probably the serious practitioner of Kyudo will recgonize who wrote it.
Dan and/or Jackie DeProspero (sp?), I think.

21st September 2006, 10:28
Correct and here is the link:


in case you wanted to check out their site.

Earl Hartman
21st September 2006, 20:32
Mr. and Mrs. DeProspero are good friends of mine. Mr. DeProspero is the President of the AKR, the American Kyudo Renmei.

While I find little to argue with in this piece, I would like to make a couple of comments.

The concept of "Shin Zen BI", or "Truth Goodness and Beauty", is presented today by the ANKF as the ultimate goal of kyudo but this is, as far as I know, of pretty recent origin. In any case, the devil is in the details: what, exactly, is meant by "Truth Goodness and Beauty"? (One thing it certainly doesn't mean is that kyudo was designed specifically to be pretty or that it must satisfy some sort of arbitrary set of aesthetic rules.) One way to interpret this is that which is True is therefore Good and therefore Beautiful. In plain terms, what this means in kyudo is quite obvious: a True shot is one that is done correctly, according to the true principles of shooting. It is axiomatic that such a shot must strike the target. Goodness and Beauty are inherent in such a shot because the shot conformed to the correct principles. The beauty and goodness of kyudo is strictly a function of the truth of the archer's performace. But it is crucial to understand that a shot that is "only" accurate is not necessarily a "true" shot. However, a true shot must be, by definition, accurate. It is precisely because Herrigel disparaged this obvious truth that his book is so pernicious.

Second, to the best of my knowledge, Awa was the first person to advocate the doctrine of "one shot one life". I do not believe that it goes back to the Kamakura Period. If this idea had that kind of pedigree it would not have provoked the fierce opposition from his peers that it did when he introdcued it.

Anyway, I am glad that Tracy has finally taken my advice and read at least something by the DeProsperos. If he had taken my advice five years ago this entire thread would have been unnecessary. Now he should read their book and then re-read Professor Yamada's essay.

Also, this thread was not started as a forum for educating people about kyudo, which can, like I have said repeatedly, be easily accomplished by reading the things I suggested, which Tracy apparently has finally started to do. It was about debunking Herrigel. Since it seems like Tracy has finally gotten it through his head that Herrigel missed the mark (man, I just kill myself), I think I can say that my work here is done.

21st September 2006, 21:33
Well it really did not change my opinion of Herrigal I think his style or Asawa's style of kyudo is absolutely acceptable if that is the path you choose. I think Yamada's article was absolutely one sided and the polar opposite of Herrigal's book.

I think Mr. and Mrs. DeProspero statement - "The key to understanding kyudo is to keep an open mind and realize that any style of kyudo you see or practice is but a small part of a greater whole, and that each style has its own history and philosophical underpinnings which make them all equally interesting and important."

Is the best yet in this whole lifeless thread.


Earl Hartman
21st September 2006, 23:08
Lifeless thread? I would be more than happy to let it die, but you are the one who keeps exhuming the body and dragging it up to the roof where it will be, you hope, struck by lightning as you bounce around on Google trying to find something, anything, that will prove your preconceived idea that Herrigel was correct.

From the link you provided:

Unfortunately, the book was very one-sided in its description of kyudo as a Zen art and is responsible for a lot of the current misconception surrounding the practice of kyudo as a religious activity.

Is this not clear? Did this completely fail to penetrate? You really need to learn to read between the lines. It would also help if you would familiarize yourself with the concepts ot tatemae and honne. Mr. DeProspero is just trying to be nice.

Also, learning how to spell would be nice too. It is "Herrigel", not "Herrigal" and "Awa", not "Asawa".

Also, and this is absolutely crucial, critiquing Herrigel is NOT the same as disparaging Awa. Some people may have thought that Awa was a few arrows short of a full quiver, but I have seen videos of him shooting and he knew what he was doing. Also, as I said in other places, much of what Herrigel had Awa saying is quite familar to me. Professor Yamada's main point was that Herrigel misunderstood what he was taught and as a result perpetrated a fraud on his readers. This was perhaps inadvertent, but it was a fraud nevertheless. Professor Yamada proved pretty convincingly that Herrigel misunderstood Awa, and not one single person here has been able to show any evidence whatsoever that his thesis is incorrect. His paper is a critique not primarily of Awa but of Herrigel's misinterpretation of Awa. This is a crucial distinction.

Herrigel's book and Professor Yamada's paper are polar opposites? I'm glad you figured that out, Sherlock. I completely missed it.

Also, you still haven't explained to me why this is so important to you. You have no interest in practicing kyudo. If I had started a thread entitled, say, "Ueshiba Sensei Needs To Be Hit With The Clue Stick", I could understand you getting hot under the collar, but this obsession with an art in which you have no intrinsic interest is really puzzling.

22nd September 2006, 01:18
Lock the thread and bury it.

But my comment to you Mr. Hartman is you are perfect just the way you are but you do need some improvement. Your attitude sometimes comes across a bit pompous... and I will leave it at that. But then again maybe it is your intention.


Earl Hartman
22nd September 2006, 01:35
No, I am not pompous. Opinionated certainly, but pompous? No, I dont think so.

A pompous person is someone who blathers on about something of which he knows nothing.

You know, kind of like you when it comes to kyudo.

If you had confined your remarks to something that you know, like aikido, my dudgeon would probably not have reached such heights. But you chose instead to try to "enlighten" me about kyudo when you do not know the first thing about it, have never picked up a bow and have no intention of ever doing so, and only know about kyudo from reading and web browsing. This is, as they say, "like trying to learn to how to swim on a tatami". I will admit that I have little patience with people like that. I would expect the same treatment from you if I tried to lecture you about aikido.

I mean, you're the Zen guy, right? I thought Zen was supposed to value direct experience over book learning. Guess I was wrong.

22nd September 2006, 09:24
actually to define pompous using definition 2 under merriam webster:

"having or exhibiting self-importance : ARROGANT."

other synonoms are imperious, domineering, egotistical, haughty, proud, pretentious, vain... all of which match your tone in writing.

Really does not say you don't know what you are talking about. Because you obviously do have a lot of knowledge on Kyudo. But none in Zen I might add as I of Kyudo.

What I am getting at is you are certainly a perfect man of kyudo or at least most people think so as you do have many followers on this board. But your approach, tone or might I say your kiai is off and fails to connect or penetrate.

I was never trying to tell you about Kyudo I was merely stating - "that Herrigal's book is by know means a manual on kyudo. I believe it is a wonderful story about what can happen when you practice with the truest of sincerety of mind and body" But then again I said that back in 2001.

It all came down to I did not like Mr. Yamada's article I thought it was not really good. You obviously did and you really did not like my opposition from the get go.

many my other posts really were not for you but the others that read the board who may have an interest in what others say besides you or Mr. yamada.

so it ends agreeing to disagree.

good luck and good night.


Earl Hartman
22nd September 2006, 16:51
No, Tracy, this is what you said, and this is what pissed me off:

I would be interested to know what Mr. Yamada's background is. From the sounds of the article it sounds like he is another person who writes without the experience of zen, kyudo or any budo for that matter.

Professor Yamada holds a 5th dan in kyudo and has at least 15 years of experience in the art under one of the more well-known modern masters. And yet, since he had the temerity to disparage the great "Herrigal" you saw fit to assume that he was an ignoramus.

What was that definition of pompous again?

Joseph Svinth
23rd September 2006, 01:35
Moderator hat on.

Cough, cough.

This thread is going downhill quickly.

Should it be locked?

Brian Owens
23rd September 2006, 02:36
...This thread is going downhill quickly.

Should it be locked?
I haven't seen much really new information in quite some time.

It also seems to have very little to do with "Meditation," which is the subject of this subforum.

I say lock it.