Kyudo, the way of the bow, also called Ritsuzen or standing zen is one of the oldest budo‘s (martial arts) practiced in Japan. Chinese Confucian ideology believed that a persons characteristics were revealed in their archery and the blend of Japanese shinto-zen along with the bushido code, or way of the warrior, reinforced the practice for centuries to come.

The practice cultivates moral and spiritual development through the act of “correct shooting” which is non-dual with “correct hitting” Correct practice aspires at surpassing oneself with the target and the bow to reach one’s true self. With every draw of the string the ego is removed. The arrow hits the target, the arrow pierces the target and the arrow exists in the target. In kyudo the unique action of expansion (nobiai) results in a natural release. To release oneself completely to the practice is the spiritual goal, achieved by perfection of both the spirit and shooting technique leading to munen musō, “no thoughts, no illusions” As a kyudo practitioner, however, one must make a conscious effort each time they shoot to mentally document not only the technical aspects of their shooting but their emotional response to the shooting as well. In time, a recognizable energetic pattern of karmic behavior will emerge. Kyudo is an art and, as with any art form, personal emotion is reflected in the content of the art. Kyudo is an excellent vehicle for the study of the human character and condition, and it works well in cognition with all of life’s other spiritual routes to the divine.

Kyudo does not actually offer anything to the practitioner that they would not be able to find elsewhere. Here’s how to practice Ritsu-zen (Standing Zen) in the comfort of your home.
Stand with your feet spread slightly wider than the width of your shoulders.  Raise your hands to the front as if you were embracing a tree.  Allow your eyes to rest in front of you but do not stare at one point.  Lift your heels slightly off the ground and bend your knees inward slightly.  Lower your hips a little.  In the beginning, you need stand this way for no more than from ten to fifteen minutes.  As you become more experienced, strive to be able to hold this position for from thirty minutes to one hour.  Once you have assumed the position, do not move your hands, feet, or hips.

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~ by Benjamin Wuest on March 8, 2011.

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