Yumi Bow vs. English Longbow – Which One Is Better?

Here we discuss the Yumi bow vs. English longbow debate. So, by the time you finish this article, you will have a clear answer to the question Yumi vs. English longbow, which one is better?

So strap yourself in and let’s begin. Below you can see the key takeaways from the entire article.

On Average the differences between the Longbow and the Yumi are:

  • Yumi is larger than the Longbow
  • Longbow has a greater effective distance
  • Yumi is made from bamboo, longbows from yew wood

The table below also demonstrates the key differences between the two bows.

Yumi BowEnglish Longbow
Sizeup to 6 feet 8″ and higher6 feet and higher
Range200 metersup to 300 meters
What it is made fromlaminated bamboo, wood, and leatheryew wood and hemp/flax
The original purposeto inflict damage on the battlefieldto inflict damage on the battlefield
A table showing the differences between a yumi bow and a longbow

Here you saw a brief overview of what this article is about. Now, this is where you and I get into the nitty-gritty of the yumi bow vs. English longbow debate. Let’s go.

What Is a Yumi and What Is A Longbow?

Before you get into details, let’s revise what is a yumi and what is a longbow.

Yumi Or The Japanese Bow

Yumi is a Japanese word for a bow. In modern times Yumi is a term referring to large asymmetrical bows used by practitioners of Kyudo art.

In simpler terms. Yumi is a bow used by people who practice Kyudo. Which is a Japanese style of archery, that puts great emphasis on ritualized movements and spiritual development of the Kyudoka (Kyudo practitioner).

As you can see this is a simplified explanation. Now for the Longbow.

The English Longbow

The English Longbow is a selfbow that was widely in use in the British Isles for thousands of years. Its defining characteristic was that it produced a lot of power and that it was often as tall as the archer if not taller.

The Size – Yumi Bow vs. English Longbow

Yumi (or the Japanese bow) is longer than an average Longbow. Historically speaking an average Yumi is 2 meters (6 feet 8″) in length, while an average longbow is around 6 feet (1.8 meters) long. The main reason for these long dimensions is the purpose behind each bow. And because shorter selfbows were in some cases more prone to cracking.

You can see the Yumi is longer, but the size isn’t everything here.

As you will see shortly.

The Range – Yumi Bow vs. English Longbow

You might think since Yumi is longer than an average longbow that it has better range than a longbow. Well, not quite.

The Longbow is far better when it comes to range. In optimal conditions, a well-designed Yumi with a proper arrow can fire at a range of 200 yards, while a high-poundage longbow can send an arrow up to 300 yards away.

There is some speculation that medieval longbows had a range way beyond just 300 yards. Both the Yumi and the Longbow have their origins in warfare where there is a difference between an effective range and a real range.

An archer could send an arrow in an arch more than 200 meters away but at the end of that trajectory, something weird happens. You might find this hard to believe. But …

The arrows lose their piercing power. And if the enemy wore any kind of metal armor that rendered the arrows ineffective. So, while the range of the Yumi and the Longbow during wartime was immense the effective range was much shorter. They had an effective range for both was much shorter.

Arrows that were fired with a smaller arc had more piercing power. This came in handy if the enemy wore armor.

Modern-day Ranges

In modern times Yumi bows are shot at ranges of 30 to 90 meters. So even if a Yumi with a properly weighted arrow can reach great distances. It is rarely if ever fired at larger distances. You can see more on shooting with Kyudo in modern times by clicking here.

When it comes to the longbow, however …

The same applies. Modern longbows have smaller draw weights than their medieval counterparts and are normally shot up to distances of 80 meters or less. While it is possible to fire an arrow at longer distances it becomes impractical since at these ranges accuracy becomes a problem.

Now that you saw the differences in ranges between yumi and the longbow, let’s go to the next segment. Which is what were they made of?

What They Are Made Of – Yumi Bow vs. English Longbow

The Japanese Yumi was made from laminating bamboo, wood, and leather. The Yumi bowstring or “tsuru” is made out of hemp. While the modern versions are made from synthetic materials.

On the other hand, a longbow was made from yew wood. Which was relatively commonplace in Europe. This might surprise you but the bowstring was made from hemp as well, sometimes from flax.

So, these bows had at least 1 thing in common in how they were built.

The Original Purpose – Yumi Bow vs. English Longbow

As I’ve touched on earlier, the original purpose of a Yumi and the Longbow is very similar. They were both used during the war as a primary ranged weapon. While the longbow had a competitor in Europe in the form of a crossbow, the Japanese stuck with bows until they adapted to gunpowder weapons.

In modern times however they are used by archers around the world in competitions and as a hobby. While the modern compound and recurve bows tend to be more efficient, there are plenty of archers that prefer to shoot old school with a longbow.

I have never seen a Yumi being used at a local archery range. It has become synonymous with Kyudo and is used exclusively in Kyudo. The Kyudo practitioners go through rigorous training before they are handed a real Yumi. You can see more in my article on the differences between Kyudo and modern-day Archery if you click here.

Important Distinction In How The Yumi And The Longbow Are Shot

You will love this one. You know the normal bow is shot by gripping the center of the bow with your non-dominant hand? Well, with the Yumi not so much.

The bow is not gripped at its center but further down the line. Here is what I mean.

Kyudoka drawing a Yumi

The Yumi does not get gripped at the center but further down. The rough rule is, that you divide the bow into thirds and you grip it at the lower third. So you have 2/3 of the bow above your hand and the other third below your hand.

So why is this? Why are Japanese bows asymmetrical? Why not hold them in the center and fire them like that? Well, let’s find out.

Why Are Japanese Bows Asymmetrical?

Japanese bows are asymmetrical because the Yumi bow was originally shot from horseback and firing the Japanese bow asymmetrical allowed the horse archer to quickly move his bow from one side to another. From right to left and vice versa.

In Conclusion

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this article. Hopefully, you learned a thing or two about the topic of Yumi bow vs. English Longbow. If you wish you can continue learning about the differences between bows by checking out this article on the differences between European bows and bows from Native Americans.

You can also continue comparing bows by taking a look at my article comparing Composite bows to Longbows. To see which ones are better go here.

Take care

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