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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Martial Arts Cards - 2: Kyudo

Here's another Dunkin Martial Arts card - #19. This is, as evidenced by the headline, the second such presentation in this blog.  

Printed in Spain, the Dunkin cards of Martial Arts were put out in either the late 1970s or very early 1980s. It had a series off 88 cards describing various martial arts from around the world. The cards are backed with descriptions of a martial art in English, French and German. There is very little data on these cards to be found anywhere on the Internet, I often wonder just how many of these cards exist nowadays.

Here's one on Kyu-Jitsu - or what I actually know it as, Kyu-do. It is Japanese archery. Check out the bow in the picture... do you see how bloody large it is?

I did kyu-do for three years while in Japan. It's a tough discipline enough, but combine that with astigmatism and you'll wonder how I never killed anyone with one of my blurry attempts to hit a target.

Because I was so big - relative to the average Japanese person, they gave me a kyu-do bow that had a very strong pull to it. It meant I had to be very strong to pull the bowstring back... and even stronger to hold it for 20 seconds or more while I slowed my breathing down and got my aim before releasing it towards the target a far distance away. I'm guessing 100 feet... but I could be way off - much like my shooting.  

Often my body would be vibrating in pain while I held that tough bow in position... and then, when I reached that perfect moment - everything would just stop... no pain... no vibration... no sound... no nothing... and then I would release the arrow in a fit of zen...

It was one tough sport... I think it is way more difficult than the western version of archery that uses the graphite short bows.  

Kyu-do is supposed to be a relaxing sport... and for that instant of release akin to an orgasm, it was... but then, since my crappy vision and crappier skill made hitting the target an infrequent event, I would get frustrated. Except for volleyball and basketball, I had never been so frustrated with a sport in my life!

I would have quit after the first week, because I had always been pretty damn good at any sport I tried from the get-go... but here in Japan, I was afraid of disappointing my office boss, and friend, Kanemaru-san (Mister Kanemaru), who when I first arrived was looking for a way for us to bond.

He spoke next to no English, and I, zero Japanese... but dammit... if he was going to try and be my friend, I was not going to fail him even if it meant I failed at a sport.

The reverse of the card is seen in the second image, but I shall repeat it here for you:

Japanese Martial Arts
Archery with an asymmetrical bow. This technique requires unusual training, concentration and strength due to the bow's asymmetry. Very out-standing is the way the bow is flexed with the thumb while a new arrow is readied to be shot. 

That last sentence is meant to describe the image in the inset... and I never understood the sentence or the art until I experienced it myself. You'll notice that the hand holding the arrow (which lightly touches the side of the face when held, is notched and held with a gloved hand.

My glove was special. It covered my thumb, index and middle fingers. It was a most unusual style, I was told... but it was what they had to lend to me at the Ohtawara Kyudo Club... and I didn't know any better to know it wasn't the common style. Apparently, most gloves cover only the thumb and index-finger. The image in the card also shows a cloth wrapped around the wrist of the glove. While that is indeed correct, mine was not tied in a know.

I had a clip, similar to a men's tie clip - it's in the image above. It has a bow and a pair of arrows on it... and I'm guessing that the other image is the the basket to hold the arrows (old school). I had a modern leather tube.

It was all pretty fancy, I'm told... but nothing was too good or odd for this gaijin (foreigner) doing the ancient Japanese martial art of Kyu-do.

Remember... it is always better to look good than to feel good. See the image at the very top? I had to wear that full outfit every time I practiced. Every single time. And man, I made it look awesome. Too bad I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with an arrow.

By Andrew Joseph  

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