居合道(いあいど)

Posted on August 09, 2017 | genkijacs

We will continue our Japanese 武道 series with a brief introduction of the art called 居合道 (居合道).

※Disclaimer: we do not claim to be experts at any of the martial arts we will be exploring on this blog. This information is to be taken as a guide only.


Etymology

居合道 as the name is a peculiar one as it doesn’t really give us any idea of what the whole martial art is all about. Unlike 剣道 and 弓道discussed in previous posts, where the meanings correspond to the activity: i.e. the way of the sword and the way of the bow respectively, 居合道 does not have a clear meaning. 居 (い、キョ)literally means: to reside; to be; to exist and 合(あい)means: to fit; to join; to meet. So where does the name actually come from? Well according to some sources it comes from the phrase: 常に居て、急に合わす(つねにいて、きゅうにあわす)。It can roughly be translated to mean: One can act (meet the opponent) quickly if constantly present. So we can roughly translate 居合道 to mean: The way of constant vigilance.

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History

It is a relatively young martial art. Although the practice of drawing the sword has been a part of 剣術(けんじゅつ)and some of the first records of 居合術(いあいじゅつ)can be found all the way back to 1500s, the actual term 居合道 was introduced by 中山 博道 (なかやま・はくどう) in 1932 and an entirely separate martial art was born. It was then recognised by the 大日本武徳会(だいにっぽぶどくかい)or All Japan Society of Martial Virtue, an organisation established at the end of the 19th century with a goal of promoting: culture, world peace and harmony through the rigour of practicing martial arts.

After WWII Japan was occupied by the allied forces and the practice of martial arts was halted until 1950s. However, shortly after the turn of the decade All Japan Kendo and All Japan Iaido Federations were established, and the practices of these martial arts were resumed.

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The Practice

居合道 is generally practiced by performing choreographed moves called 型(かた)and they are executed in a very deliberate fashion. The purpose of these moves is not in learning how to defeat an opponent or winning a competition, but rather in learning of how to better oneself as a physical and a spiritual being. One might argue that it is closely related to meditation and there is some truth to that. 居合道encourages a practitioner to strive to developing a no-mind or 無心 (むしん)state of being, where one can react to everything without a moment of hesitation.

A beginner practitioner would start with using a 木刀(ぼくとう)or 木剣(ぼっけん)literally meaning wooden sword/blade, but eventually would move on to using a so called 居合刀(いあいとう)- a dull bladed sword made specifically for the purpose of practicing 居合道。 
Many schools of 居合道actively encourage their students to practice 剣道to remind a practitioner about the fighting aspect of wielding a sword.

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Competition 試合(しあい)

居合道 competitions are a little different to other, competitive martial arts. Instead of fighting, two 居合道家(いあいどうか) perform prescribed 型(かた)forms in unison, next to each other. They are judged on: form, timing, intention, spirit etc.

Grades

Like in many other 武道, 居合道 ranks are broken down into 級(きゅう)grades and once a practitioner achieves 一級(いっきゅう)they would be eligible to start testing for 段(だん)grades. Depending on the school there could be up to 10 段grades.

The Uniform

During practices 居合道家tend to wear wide traditional trousers and 袴(はかま)a loose durable top called 稽古着(けいこ着)as well as a belt sash called 帯(おび). Depending on the school the colour of the uniform may differ, but generally 道着(どうぎ)tends to be blue, white or black.

Words used in this article:
居合道(いあいど) Aikido
武道 (ぶどう) Martial Arts
剣道(けんどう) Kendo (Way of the Sword)
弓道 (きゅうどう) Kyudo (Way of the Bow)
剣術(けんじゅつ) Kenjutsu (Art of the Sword)
居合術(いあいじゅつ) Iaijutsu (The Art of Iai)
大日本武徳会(だいにっぽぶどくかい) All Japan Society of Martial Virtue
無心 (むしん) A state of no mind
木刀(ぼくとう) Wooden sword
木剣(ぼっけん) Wooden blade
居合刀(いあいとう) A sword with a dull edge
試合(しあい) Competition
型(かた) Kata Form
級(きゅう) Kyu grade (Equivalent to the belt system)
一級(いっきゅう) 1st Kyu (Equivalent to the brown belt)
段(だん) Dan Grade
袴(はかま) Wide traditional Japanese trousers
稽古着(けいこ着) Loose traditional Japanese top
帯(おび) Traditional Japanese sash
道着(どうぎ) lit. Cloth of the way (Practice clothing)

Study Travel Magazine - Star Awards 2017

Posted on July 30, 2017 | genkijacs

After having won the very prestigious Study World Travel Magazine Award in 2016, GenkiJACS has been shortlisted for it once again for the 9th year in a row! We have been going from strength to strength for the past year, and take this nomination as a sign of our continued growth and improvement.

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We would like to express our gratitude to everyone who has voted for us this year and promise to keep going, providing you with our best service and spreading our love for the Japanese language throughout the world.

Please visit http://www.studytravel.network/star-awards/ to find out more about the awards.


博多祇園山笠(はかたぎおんやまかさ)Hakata Gion Yamakasa

Posted on July 20, 2017 | genkijacs

山笠 is a two-week long festival celebrated in Hakata, Fukuoka from the 1st to the 15th of July, culminating in a race of exclusively men carrying massive 1-tonne floats called 舁き山(かきやま). It is an incredibly old festival dating back some 750 years, honouring a Buddhist priest named Shouichi Kokushi who was known to be carried on a platform through the streets of Hakata scattering water to purify and banish evil spirits who were thought to be responsible for the plague ravaging the city.

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In the past, the floats were much taller than they are now, but because of the introduction of power lines in the Meiji Period, the practice had to be adjusted as they kept getting caught in the wires. These floats are called 飾り山(かざりやま)and they now serve as decorations for the festivities. They can be seen around the city during the festival and are put on display at 櫛田神社(くしだじんじゃ)during the rest of the year.

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The race starts incredibly early, and most spectators tend to stay up all night to get the best spots available. At 4:59 AM the race commences and will not stop until the last of the seven 山笠 teams arrives safely to their destination about 5km later. It takes each team around 30 minutes to finish the race. It is a Herculean effort, and the participants are doused with water to cool them down as they run through the streets of Fukuoka.

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There are some fascinating traditions associated with the festival. One of them is the practice of abstaining from eating cucumbers. It supposed to be observed by the participants of the race only, but some residents of Fukuoka choose to follow this tradition as well. It is said to be because the crest of 櫛田神社looks like a cucumber cut in half.

Enjoy the Festival Season.

Special Lesson: Mr Ishii (石井さん)

Posted on July 06, 2017 | genkijacs

As mentioned in one of our previous posts, we had a special visit from Mr Ishii (石井さん) the former Head of JR Kyushu, one of the main train companies of Japan.

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Though born in Hiroshima in 1932, his family had soon moved to Tokyo, where he had received his education and eventually graduated from Tokyo University with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was then employed by JNR (Japanese National Railways later Japan Railways) and the rest, as they say, is history.

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GenkiJACS students had a rare opportunity to talk to Mr Ishii, asking all about his experiences growing up in the pre/post-war Japan and his journey to becoming the head of JR Kyushu in 1987. He was very happy to meet our students and answered every single question in detail and with the diligence we could only expect from a person who has dedicated most of his working life to making Japanese railways work the way they do.

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Thank you very much 石井さん!

Student visa course - now with 50% more study!

Posted on June 30, 2017 | genkijacs

お元気ですか?

It has been quite some time since Genki Japanese & Language School (JACS) opened its doors in 2004. At that time we were much smaller, but determined to be different to everyone else.
We have been sharing Japanese Language and Culture with our students for the past 13 years and we have also been learning from every single one of you, and for that we are incredibly thankful.

We pride ourselves in teaching communicative Japanese for everyday life, rather than academic Japanese for higher education. We don’t want to isolate you (our students) from the rest of the world in the Ivory Tower of learning, but rather encourage you to go out there and discover Japan; her culture, quirks, peculiarities and people. Learn Japan not just Japanese.

To make sure that your learning is effective and fun we keep our classes small, timetables flexible, have top notch teachers (seriously aren’t they great?) and we pretty much guarantee to have a class at the right level for you. Not to mention our special classes and guests, culture and pop classes, weekly events, and the list goes on.

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The results speak for themselves: GenkiJACS is accredited both nationally and internationally, and was shortlisted by popular vote every year from 2009 to 2015 as one of the world's top language schools (not just Japanese schools). In 2016 we have finally won!

The NEWS!!!

GenkiJACS' one year Japanese student visa course has been running successfully for a couple of years now, and it seems the government has decided to trust our Japanese school a little bit more too, because they just agreed to let our student visa students extend their study for an extra 6 months. So now you can study Japanese with GenkiJACS on a student visa for up to 18 months! We're updating our website to reflect this new information, but we wanted to get the details out as soon as possible. Here are those details:

Cost: 1,390,000 yen for 18 months

Our one-year student visa course costs 990,000 yen for 40 weeks. So the extra 6 months/20 weeks costs only 400,000 yen extra. That's a 38% discount off normal tuition costs, by far our biggest discount ever!

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Requirements:

Just the same as for our one-year student visa course. Please note that one very important requirement is that your Japanese ability level is not too high, because if it is, there won't be a class for your 6-month extension!

Application method:

Apply for our one-year student visa course as normal. Then, during your first year, just tell us you'd like to extend to 18 months, and we'll make the arrangements.
One of the main benefits of this extension is that it lets you graduate from GenkiJACS in March, even if you started in October. This can be important because the academic year in Japan starts in April, and many Japanese colleges and universities still only allow entry then. In addition, many companies do the main part of their hiring in March. So if you're planning to go on to a Japanese college, or to work in Japan, this change can make your schedule much more sensible.

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If you have any questions about our student visa programs, or anything else, always feel free to contact the best Japanese language school in Japan!
Learning is a journey and there is no end on the horizon, but we can move towards it one step at a time.

Genkily yours ← (please ignore. )

Martial Arts Series 4 - Aikido

Posted on June 25, 2017 | genkijacs

Today we will be looking into one of the more recently developed martial arts or武道(ぶどう)of Japan.

※Disclaimer: we do not claim to be experts at any of the martial arts we will be exploring on this blog. This information is to be taken as a guide only.


Brief History


合気道 was created in 1920s! That’s right, 合気道 is less than a hundred years old. It was developed by 植芝盛平(うえしば・もりへい)who was influenced by a much older Japanese 武道 school called 大東流合気術(だいとうりゅうあいきじゅつ). The school was a predecessor to a number of martial arts and the current version of 合気道 is one of them. The older version was called 合気柔術(あいきじゅうじゅつ). It combined various `soft` and `hard` techniques of fighting.

Additionally 植芝先生(うえしばせんせい)was also influenced by the Shinto religion, which promotes peace, harmony and compassion towards others. So 合気道 became a `soft` martial art where instead of harming an opponent, the energy of the attack is redirected and used to resolve conflict without harming anyone. The ultimate pursuit of an 合気道 practitioner is not to become technically perfect or even in their physical development, but in working towards improving her/himself as a person.

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The Practice

As in many of the martial arts, the practice of 合気道 can only be done in pairs. An attacker or 受け(うけ)and a receiver or 取り(とり) will typically perform practiced movements together in order to learn different aspects of one or another technique. There are a great number of throwing and falling techniques a practitioner has to be introduced to and master before moving on to the `multiple attacker` practice.

There are slight variations in the way each particular school of 合気道 approaches the basic teachings of 植芝先生, but they all follow the same principles which makes 合気道 an ever evolving 武道 that appeals to millions of people world-wide.

合気道着 (あいきどうぎ)- uniform

As in other Japanese Martial Arts, a practitioner of 合気道 will normally progress through the 級(きゅう)grades before being tested for the so-called 初段(しょだん)level. At 級 level they wear a white tunic and loose pants, with a colored belt according to their level, very similar to the standard karate uniform. When they reach 段 level a pair of black, wide trousers or 袴(はかま) may be permitted to be worn by the 1st Dan practitioner, though this may vary on a school-by-school basis.

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大会(たいかい)

Because 合気道 promotes peace and harmony, most schools do not support the idea of competitions. That being said, there are some branches of 合気道that do hold competitive events. Their argument is: competing is not the same as fighting, but just another way of learning about oneself.

If you would like to find out more about this particular martial art, please follow some of the links below:

• https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aikido
• http://www.blackbeltmag.com/daily/traditional-martial-arts-training/aikijujutsu/daito-ryu-aikijujutsu-vs-aikido/
• http://www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/

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Words used in this Article:

• 合気道(あいきどう)→ Aikido
• 武道(ぶどう)→ Martial Arts
• 合気柔術 (あいきじゅうじゅつ)→ Aikijutsu
• 受け(うけ)→ An Attacker (In this instance this particular word has a number of meanings)
• 取り(とり)→ A Defender (as above in this instance)
• 合気道着 (あいきどうぎ)→ Aikido Uniform
• 級(きゅう)→ Level or Grade
• 初段(しょだん)→ First Dan Grade
• 袴(はかま)→ Wide trousers
• 大会(たいかい)→ Competition

A better, more Genki school

Posted on June 20, 2017 | genkijacs

One of the very special things about GenkiJACS compared to other Japanese schools is that we're always actively improving. This month alone, we've added projectors and a digital teaching system to all our Fukuoka classrooms, added a reading library in our Fukuoka lounge, and replaced most of the desks and chairs with much more comfortable ones.

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But today we want to highlight another special thing we do: bringing in guest teachers for special lessons. Since we began offering long-term student visa courses a couple of years ago, we've tried to bring in guest teachers every so often, to give students a bit of extra excitement. In recent weeks, we've had special lessons from some very exciting people:

1. A former sumo wrestler!
Mr. Takahashi Keiji (高橋圭二) came to school to talk about his former life as a sumo wrestler, how he got into the sport, his training regimen, and how eventually he got out. He has since been running a restaurant in Fukuoka called Hakata Tomoki 博多とも喜 (はかたともき). Mr Takahashi also treated our students to Chanko-Nabe (ちゃんこ鍋), the main dish of sumo wrestlers!

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2. A famous TV chef!

Ms. Mako Araki, who appears regularly on the NHK show "はっけんTV", and on RKB's "たべごころ", taught our students how to make some of the most basic and most important of Japan foods, including miso soup and onigiri. After all the cooking was done, our students had a chance to ask her about her journey to becoming a master chef. Ever since she was little, she has been striving to create beautiful and delicious dishes, and the students witnessed her passion for the craft of cooking first-hand! Fun fact: Mako-San`s favourite dish is Tamagoyaki 卵焼き(たまごやき).

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3. The former president of JR Kyushu!
That's right, in a couple of weeks, Mr. Ishii (石井), the former head of JR Kyushu, one of the main train companies of Japan, will visit the school to tell students all about his former job, and about the business world in Japan. It should be extremely informative! We will make sure to update you as soon as we can!

These lessons are an incredibly rare opportunity for our students to meet Japanese people from very different walks of life, learn using real Japanese, and hear about experiences they otherwise might never come across. It's just one more way that Genki Japanese School is different from and, dare we say it, better than most other schools!

Listening Practice Advice for Beginner/Pre-Intermediate Level Learners

Posted on June 19, 2017 | genkijacs

Studying Japanese is fun, but it is also hard. As we strive to make it as easy as possible for you, here is a little introductory article of how to start practicing your listening skills in Japanese.

Unlike with reading and writing practice, listening is not as easily accessible to those not residing in Japan. Listening to your textbook’s audio files is fun, but only to a point. So let us look at some of the learning materials to get you started. You may find them useful as well as entertaining.

NHK Easy News
It is free and they provide you with a great variety of topics and even keep you up to date with the current events. The language is aimed at a beginner/pre-intermediate level learner and every article has an audio file attached to it.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/easy/

NHK World Lessons
Another NHK-run website providing Japanese lessons. You will be following Anna, an international student, in Japan. The Lesson Structure is easy to follow and there are hours of audio files to keep you engaged. Click on the link below and see if it is something you may be interested in.
https://www.nhk.or.jp/lesson/english/learn/list/1.html

JapanesePod101
If you like practicing your listening on the go then the world of podcasts is for you. JapanesePod101 gives you a good way to start listening, learning and improving your Japanese. You can download the free episodes and use your phone to listen to their casual yet culturally relevant content wherever you are. There are also printable materials and other learning supporting tools on their web page, check it out.
https://www.japanesepod101.com/

Have a look and a listen, and keep an eye on this page as we will be posting more on the topic in the future.

Martial arts series 3 - karate

Posted on June 12, 2017 | genkijacs

空手 (からて)空手 or 空手道 (からてど)means the Way of the Empty Hand. It is named that way because traditionally no 空手家 (からてか)or Karate practitioner would use weapons to fight. Another reason for it to be named so is the fact that it was originally written 唐手(からて)or the hand of the Tang Dynasty of China and due to Japan's history this had to be changed.

The art from itself originated in (沖縄)Okinawa in the early stages of its development, which arguably can be traced back all the way to 1300s. But unsurprisingly, it is incredibly difficult find out the real origin of the art form in this era. The reason why there is no real use of weapons in Okinawan 空手, according to the popular belief, is that after the ban on weapons in the 1600s, people were encouraged to learn how defend themselves using just their hands as a weapon.

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There were three distinct styles of 空手and they are believed to have originated from 首里手(しゅりて), 那覇手(なはて)、and 泊手(とまりて)。The styles were named after the cities they were mostly practiced at.

At the turn of 20th century 空手 was allowed to be introduced to public schools in Okinawa. One school that adopted the practise early on in 1902 is 糸洲安恒 (いとすあんこう) school.

船越義珍(ふなこしぎちん), one of Itosu's students, further expanded the art form to the rest of Japan. He is also credited to changing the older name of 唐手 into 空手 as we know it today in order for it to be accepted into the 大日本武徳会(だいにっぽんぶとくかい)or Japanese Martial Arts Association, which was introduced in one of the previous blog posts. These and many other changes have lead 空手 to become accepted as a traditional 武道 (ぶどう)or Martial Art by the Japanese.

Practice

Different styles of 空手 all have various 基本 (きほん)or foundation movements and 型 (かた)which is, like in many martial arts, a set of movements codifying them into a pattern. It is supposed to simulate a defensive and offensive situation. There is also a sparring part of 空手 between two practitioners called 組手(くみて)and it can be seen during a normal practice as well as during competitions.

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Belt System

There are slight variations of belt systems in 空手 but generally if you are beginner, you are expected to wear a while belt or 帯 (おび). As you progress through the ranks you will attain: Red, Yellow, Orange, Blue/Green. Purple, Brown and finally Black. One thing to note is that Black belt has a number of so called 段 (だん)grades that are there to mark the skill of a 空手家 as they progress further.

空手 Now

These days 空手 is practiced as a sport and a martial art all over the world and is even recognised by the Olympic Committee. There are many 空手 organisations and discussing them in detail goes beyond anything that we can realistically discuss on this blog. Millions of people are practicing one or another style of 空手 throughout the world.

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If you are interested in discovering more for yourself, please do check some of the links below. Some of the information was taken from these pages and they are worth a read.

http://www.historyoffighting.com/karate.php
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karate
https://www.wkf.net/
http://jka.or.jp/en/

Vocabulary Covered (Excluding Cities and Names):
空手 (からて)→ Karate, Empty Hand
空手家 (からてか)→ Karate Practitioner
唐手(からて)→ Karate`s Old Name. Meaning the Hand of Tang Dynasty
基本 (きほん)→ Basics, Fundamental Movements
型 (かた)→ Practiced Movement Patterns
組手(くみて)→ Sparring
帯 (おび)→ Obi or a Belt
段 (だん)→ Dan grades will follow after a practitioner attained Black Belt Level.


Martial arts series 2 - archery

Posted on June 05, 2017 | genkijacs

Continuing our series of martial arts, today we will be briefly introducing the subtle and relatively calm art of Japanese archery or 弓道(きゅうどう, "kyuudou"), which literally means the way of the bow. Much like the previously discussed 剣道(けんどう), this particular art form came from the warrior culture of Japan.

※Disclaimer: we do not claim to be experts at any of the martial arts we will be exploring on this blog. This information is to be taken as a guide only.

A bit of history

The bow has been in use in Japan for millennia, with some mentions of this particular tool dating back more than two thousand years. With this it can only be expected that this particular weapon was used in warfare. The bow that the warriors were using was and is called 弓(ゆみ, "yumi").

During the warring period in Japan, the art of the bow or 弓術 (きゅうじゅつ, "kyuujutsu") became a very important part of Samurai training, using 弓 especially while on a horseback. Much like during any time of any conflict, constant warfare during the warring states in Japan, 弓 and 弓術 saw a rapid development, and at that time numerous schools of archery were established.

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As to be expected, when the Portuguese brought matchlock rifles to Japan, the decline of the 弓 began and eventually the newly developed Japanese-style rifles were used in most conflicts in Japan and the bow became obsolete. However during the Edo period when the Tokugawa Shogunate held the power over Japan, the all-out warfare was practically stopped. At this point the Bushi 武士(ぶし) or the warrior class, otherwise referred to as 侍(さむらい), found themselves to be holding more administrative roles in the government and consequently fighting less and less. As a result the practice of archery came to hold more of a ritualistic meaning, slowly integrating the ideas of Zen Buddhism where the inner world of the practitioner was sometimes considered more important than the fact that arrow might not hit the target. Though the views on this differ from school to school.

The development of 弓道 continued uninterrupted until another big step in Japanese history: the Meiji Restoration/Revolution 明治維新(めいじいしん) when the samurai class was banned and as such the number of Martial Arts 武道(ぶどう) practitioners fell significantly. Though according to the International Kyudo Federation, after the establishment of 大日本武徳会 (だいにっぽんぶとくかい)or Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society the practice of 弓道 was encouraged along with other 武道 styles up until the end of WW2.

But shortly after the WW2 the practice of 弓道 was revived and even became a regular extracurricular activity in Japanese schools, alongside with other forms of marital arts.

This brings us to now.

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Practice and Equipment

The principals of modern 弓道 are well established and codified and the same can be said about the equipment that is used in the practice.

The bow 弓 (ゆみ)stands way taller than the person wielding it, which makes it one of the longest bows in the world. It is traditionally made out bamboo and requires a lot of maintenance work. Obviously these days the 弓 can be made out of alternative materials. One remarkable thing about using the Japanese bow, is that unlike it`s counterparts from all over the world, the use of the Japanese bow is asymmetrical which means that the arrow is not placed in the middle of the shaft before release, but rather around 1/3 up the shaft from the bottom nock.

The arrow 矢(や). Also traditionally made of bamboo and requires a lot of maintenance work. It is very similar to arrows that most you have seen before.

The glove 弓掛 (ゆがけ). As expected this particular glove is worn by the practitioner in order to make the drawing of the bow string or 弦 (つる)easier and less stressful for the hand of the archer. The gloves are made of tanned hide and held together by glue and stitching. There are three different types of 弓掛: 三掛(みつがけ)、四掛(よつがけ)and 諸掛(もろがけ). These roughly mean three, four and five finger gloves though there are other variations to choose from.

Traditionally, while practicing 弓道 practitioners tend to wear 弓道着 (きゅどうぎ)a white top and black wide trousers called 稽古着 (けいこぎ)and 袴 (はかま)respectively. However, on more formal occasions, they tend to wear 和服 (わふく)a more formal style of traditional Japanese clothing.

Competition 大会

Competitions in 弓道 are very formal and involve a lot of rules regarding etiquette 礼儀 (れいぎ)very similar to the practice of this martial art. However, unlike the everyday practice goals, where the practitioner is not necessarily hitting the target, but rather working towards achieving the state of oneness with the arrow and the bow. During the competition it is the fact that they hit the target that counts, very similar to archery competitions around the world.

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Words Used in this Article

弓道 (きゅうどう)→Japanese archery
弓(ゆみ.)→Bow
矢(や)→Arrow
弦 (つる)→Bow String
弓掛 (ゆがけ)→The Glove
弓術 (きゅうじゅつ)→The art of the Bow
江戸時代(えどじだい)→Edo Period
徳川時代(とくがわじだい)→Tokugawa Shogunate
武士(ぶし)→Bushi (warrior)
侍(さむらい)→Samurai
明治維新(めいじいしん)→Meiji Restoration/Revolution
武道(ぶどう)→Martial Arts
大日本武徳会(だいにっぽんとくかい)→Organization to promote martial arts.
弓道着 (きゅどうぎ)→Clothing worn during Kyudo practice
稽古着 (けいこぎ)→Practice Clothing
袴 (はかま) →Wide Trousers
和服 (わふく)→Traditional Japanese clothing

For more information check the International Kyudo Federation Web page