Book Review: Kyudo, the art of Zen Archery

27 06 2010

Kyudo the art of Zen Archery, by Hans Joachin Stein

I have read three of the major books in English dealing with Kyudo Philosophy and technique other than the Kyuhon which are

Zen Bow, Zen Arrow

One Arrow, One Life

Illuminated Spirit

all of these are excellent, all gave me a shape of sense of Kyudo philosophy. The mind, the spirit some are out looks of teachers, some more than others touched on technique. Although technique is really more of a hands on thing with a student and teachers guidance, one can still get a view point on technique from reading.

Coming form a  Martial Art background, more so Chinese roots than Japanese and Chan rather than “Zen” I have my own impression of Kyudo the Art and Philosophy, shaped from this foundation and my reasons for study.

These three books supported those ideas not much in actual wording but in spirit and the flow of the mind. I have spoken on many occasions about the riff of some who say Kyudo is not Zen, Kyudo is about Zen, Kyudo is Kyujitsu, Zen has no baring on Kyudo, it is about technique, it about hitting, it is not about hitting, etc ,etc blah blah.

This book says in more scholarly language it is both. Both are equal in one’s development as a Kyudoka, not only are both equal both are NEEDED to be balanced. They are spokes in the same wheel, two sides of the coin, Sun and Moon, Yin and Yang. This book speaks in my langauge of Yin and Yang, Chi, Zen, Kung Fu, Taoism, using quotes not only from Lao Tzu but, Chuang Tzu. The author goes into breath, technique and equipment as well as history of not only Kyudo and Japan but it’s roots in China, Buddism, Taoism. He speaks on the non-duality nature of all aspects of Kyudo; body, mind, spirit and bow. This is an old book and I’m sure some have read it and discounted it, no matter, I liked it and thought it was great from my background knowledge base as a student of Shaolin.

I highly recommend this book to those who wish to understand the balance of all things in one’s Kyudo training, those who wish to use it as meditation, those who see it as purely a martial art, and those who only wish to shoot. It speaks on the Non-dualistic nature of all ways, paths of the Tao.


Part I- Historical Foundations

Part II – Spiritual Foundations

Part III – The Practice of Kyudo

Part IV – The Kyudo Archers Equipment.

From Amazon