The Samurai followed a principle called Kyu-Ba-So-Ken (Bow-Horse-Lance-Sword) and Kyujutsu is a form of Japanese archery from this principle. Kyu means "bow", and Jutsu means "method of", so essentially Kyujutsu is the technique of fighting with the bow. It has been around for many centuries and was used in many battles amongst the various warring clans of feudal Japan, and at one point in history it was the primary weapon of the samurai class.
Kyujutsu is not to be confused with Kyudo which is derived from Kyujutsu and is a sport in the way of Kyujutsu. Also, in Kyudo hitting the target is not the goal, in Kyujutsu, every hit matters.
The bow, Yumi in Japanese, has a long history of different uses, in war, hunting, ceremonial events, and court games. The Yumi bow is over two metres in length and asymmetrical in shape with the grip (ngiri) located above the bottom third portion of the bow (motto hazu). The yumi is constructed today using the same methods as used centuries ago, primarily with bamboo and wood but can and are also made using todays more modern materials too (e.g. Carbonfibre).
The string on the bow (tsuri) was traditionally made from natural fibres e.g. hemp or horsehair and arrayed in different ways for multiple uses, but today can also be made using more modern synthetic fibres, like Dacron.
The arrows, known as 'Ya', are very long compared to the arrows in western archery, and traditionally made of bamboo, although now, we use metal shafts. Again traditionally, the heads were either just sharpened to a point or were joined with metal, bone, or even horn heads and there were many different styles of arrow heads for different uses. The heads we use now are modern metal bullet point heads (which do not make the arrows any less effective) to help reduce damage to the target(s).
During practice the Kyujutsu archer shoots at the different points located on a target (O-Mato), at ranges between 10-15 metres indoors, and anywhere between 30-60 metres plus outside.
We also shoot in formation too thus allowing the student to understand and practice the drills used by the military archers in Japan. The archer also trains to fire from a number of different positions including standing, kneeling, and firing from behind cover. Fast paced movement is also an integral part of the training so shooting whilst on the move is another skill the archery learns. The use of Japanese commands are used by everyone throughout the class giving the students greater knowledge of the terminology associated with Kyujutsu and helps maintain a sense of feeling for the authentic nature of the art, but most importantly helps keep everyone safe, as all must, and do, follow the commands without question. Just like the soldiers during that time.
Classes involve practice in proper ettiquette, Japanese introductions, warms-up, learning about bow craft and historical knowledge as well as practice in the shooting of the bow in the style of the Yamabushi-Ryu. Students also take part in the setting up and preparation of the dojo and then after, checking, cleaning and clearing away, noting (if needed) any problems or repairs required, so everything is ready for the next session as a show of dedication and respect.
This is a rare chance to learn an extremely addictive martial art and one of only two official Yamabushi-Ryu registered classes in the whole of the UK, with fully qualified instructors. Addtionally, annual seminars take place in the UK, Ireland and Europe throughout the year, which students are encouraged to partake in these events, so throughout the Kyujutsu journey the student can learn and experience the full depth of this amazing style. Gradings take place annually and allow you, along with the seminars and classes, to further your skills and learn even more all whilst under the tutelage of the Yamabushi-Ryu in Herne, Germany.