Archery vs Kyudo – Which One Is Better For You?

What is the difference between western-style archery and Kyudo? Today you will see how these two disciplines differ.

Yes, they both use the bow, but how they use it, where they use it, and for what purpose they use it differs greatly. By the end of this article, you will have all of the information you need to make an informed decision.

So, strap yourself in, and let’s go.

Archery and the Japanese art of Kyudo differ in 4 key areas. Foremost in their purpose, their equipment, place where you train, and how long it takes to become proficient in the skill.

This table should help you see the differences a little more clearly.

PurposeTo hit as close to the center of the target as possibleTo enjoy and enrich your daily life
EquipmentCompound or recurve bow 25lbs-50lbs draw weightYumi – it is a bow with a draw weight between 25lbs-35lbs
Where You TrainLocal archery range (most of the time)Kyudojo
How Long It Takes To Get GoodYou could get decent in archery within a few months of consistent practice You could get decent in Kyudo within 8 months of consistent practice
The Popularity Of The SportArchery is incredibly popular with more than 20 million archers in the US aloneLess than 500.000 practitioners worldwide

There is also the unusual way kyudokas fire their bow. We will take a look at that in just a moment. But for now, let’s delve a little deeper into the categories mentioned above.

The Purpose Of Kyudo vs. The Purpose Of Archery

The purpose of Kyudo is to “enjoy and enrich your daily life”. Notice there is no mention of hitting the target as precisely as possible? There is a reason for that.

The “Kyudoka” (Kyudo practitioner) is not judged solely on if he hits the target. Alongside that an equal, if not sometimes greater, importance is given on the Kyudokas form. It is imperative that the Kyudoka performed the movements necessary for shooting as well.

The movements the Kyudo archers go through before shooting is called “Hassetsu”. It is what comes before the arrow leaves the bow.

In fact, in Kyudo great importance is given to the movements that are made to fire the arrow and to the state of mind Kyudokas enter while firing the bow. If the Kyudoka misses the target it is the job of the Kyudoka to reflect on his process of movements and aim to do better next time.

This process of calm movements that accompany a relaxed and focused state of mind is something that is desired in Kyudo. Practitioners flock to Kyudo for the very same reason.

The bow is a tool to help them reach that.

Purpose Of Western Archery?

Is to hit as close to the center of the target with safe and proper form.

That is it. Not very complicated. While Kyudokas strive to achieve a certain state of mind with their practice western archers’ goal is to learn to hit the desired target as often as possible.

With that said, while archery is more focused on the end goal, you still learn to quiet your mind and focus on what’s in front of you. You can see what I mean in more detail if you click here to an article on the benefits archery brings you.

Let’s move on to the weird difference between their equipment.

Equipment Used In Kyudo

Most kyudo practitioners use the following pieces of equipment:

  • Yumi (a bow specifically used in kyudo)
  • Ya (arrows used in kyudo)
  • Arm guard (protection for the forearm on the dominant hand in case the bowstring hits it)
  • Yugake (a leather glove designed to protect the fingers of the non-dominant hand)

Archers in Kyudo use a bow called “Yumi” and arrows called “Ya”. Traditionally the bow is made from bamboo, wood, and leather. While the arrows are also made from bamboo. In both the cases of the Yumi and the Ya there are modern versions that use modern materials.

This part though is really impressive.

When fully finished, the bow is 2 meters tall and more than often is taller than the Kyudoka using it.

As you can see in the picture above the bow is taller than the archer. Even more unusual is the fact that the Kyudoka is holding the bow asymmetrically. It is customary to hold the bow on the lower third of the bow.

If you imagine the Yumi divided into three thirds, you will see the archer’s dominant hand is holding the lower third of the bow. This asymmetry is unusual.

Alongside the bow and arrow, Kyudo practitioners often use a leather glove called Yugake to protect their fingers while they draw the bow.

So is the Yumi any good compared to modern-day archery bows?

Is The Yumi A Good Bow?

Yumi is an excellent bow, even when compared to modern-day bows. A modern Yumi bow can fire arrows up to 200 meters. Meaning even with its unusual way of firing it stands shoulder to shoulder with modern archery bows.

Now let us take a look at western-style archery.

Equipment Used In Archery

Most archers rely on 5 vital pieces of equipment:

  • The bow
  • Arrows
  • Leather glove or tab to protect the fingers
  • Armguard to protect the forearm
  • Quiver

In the western style of archery, the arrow is fired from the center of the bow with the arrow being nocked in the center of the bowstring. This allows both of the limbs of the bow to apply the same pressure to the arrow. Allowing the arrow to move straight. Exceptions are when you want to make your arrow turn in mid-air.

Archers typically use 2 bows. The compound bow, and the recurve bow. With an average archery bow, the draw weight ranges between 25lbs and 40lbs.

The more experienced archers go all the way up to 50lbs of draw weight. But beyond that, it just becomes overkill. Something that is just unnecessary.

Where You Train? Kyudo vs. Archery

Archery is practiced in an outdoor or indoor setting at your local archery range. You are placed in an environment in front of a target at a certain distance and you start firing arrows at your target. When all of the arrows are fired from every archer, you collectively walk to your respective targets and collect your arrows.

There are some exceptions like you can go to a 3D range. This means you move through a forest and shoot targets that are shaped like animals. Worth a shot (pun intended).

Where Do You Practice Kyudo?

Kyudo is practiced in a place named Kyudojo. Kyudojos are divided into two groups. The first one is “Kinteki-Dojo” where close-range shots are practiced. The second group of Kyudojos is named Enteki-dojos there Kyudokas practice their long-range shots.

You can see more by clicking here.

The left portion of the picture shows you what the close-range dojo looks like and the right side of the picture shows you what the Enteki (long-range kyudojo) looks like.

How Long Does It Take To Get Good At Kyudo And Archery?

Western archery wins out here for me at least. If you are just starting out with archery you can expect to attend an introductory class at your local archery range, get a few lectures regarding safety procedures, how to hold the bow, how to shoot, etc. and towards the end of the first class, you will be shooting an arrow or two already.

The whole process is rather simple, even kids can get a hand of it. And they often do! Your first bow will most likely be a rental the archery school provides to you.

With that, you are good to go.

How About Kyudo?

Kyudo is a bit different. Remember that the main point is the mental and physical state you reach while firing, the bow is simply an aid to get there.

So it is often the case that Kyudo schools will not let you touch a Yumi Bow for months. At first, you will get to practice the form and the ritual movements that precede the firing of the bow.

The Kyudo practitioner practices the Hassestsu. It’s the eight-step process to fire the bow. You drill this down to a science by repeatedly doing it. And after a few months, you get to fire the Yumi bow.

Here you can see a Kyudo practitioner practicing with a rubber band.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. Kyudo is much more than just firing the bow and arrow. Its a mental and physical discipline designed to enrich your life by helping you develope the right state of mind. By delaying firing the bow, the practicioner is given a chance to experience that instead of worrying how accurate his shots are.
  2. Traditional Yumi bows are expensive. So, if you give an expensive bow to a compelte beginner who doesnt know what they are doing you are bound to get a damaged Yumi bow.

If you are looking to learn how to fire a bow and arrow as quickly as possible, then archery is superior to Kyudo in that regard.

If you are more focused on the mental aspect then give Kyudo a try. See if it’s something you would like.

Which Is More Popular Archery Or Kyudo?

I did a whole article on how popular archery is, which you can see here. But to shorten it considerably, archery has more than 20 million practitioners in the U.S. alone. These range from occasional archers shooting every few weeks to serious archers who practice daily.

On the other hand, Kyudo is much more concentrated. There are around 500.000 practitioners around the world today. The vast majority of them are high-school and university students in Japan who learn the art as part of their school curriculum. You can see a quick rundown if you click here.

So, western archery is much more popular.

In Conclusion

There you have it. A comparison between Archery and Kyudo. So, I hope that based on this article you can see which discipline fits your wants and desires more.

If you are more into the spiritual side of things go for Kyudo if you want to learn how to shoot an arrow towards the target as fast as possible then learning traditional westernized archery is the best way to go.

To see how Archery compares to Golf then go here.

To see an article on Archery vs. Fencing then click here.

Take care

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