The Way of the Bow:
Three Seconds and Twenty Years Later (Part 1)
by Guy Hince and Nancy Tam
These three seconds changed my life forever. I (Guy) was 12 years old, living in a small town in Québec, watching a black and white film titled Seven Samurai. It was a Japanese movie with English subtitles! I only spoke French and was very intrigued by the story of the samurai who were protecting the farmers from the bandits. Three hours passed and I was lost in my own world. Near the end of the movie the bandits are making their last desperate charge, and under a torrential rain and in slippery mud, the older samurai took a yumi (Japanese bow) and drew it, keeping it in full Kai (draw) and then released and shot the arrow. The moment lasted three seconds, it took my breath away and I told myself, “I want to do that!” Later, I learned it was called Kyujutsu (the art of archery).
I always kept this image in my mind and searched for a teacher of this Japanese archery practice. I became an archer in the traditional North American way and practiced that style for many years. Twenty years later, after learning more about the Japanese culture and martial arts, my Sifu (Tai Chi teacher) told me about an ad for a Kyudo seminar in Vermont, USA. He knew that I was doing Tai Chi but that my heart was looking for Kyudo, “the way of the bow.” In the spring of 1985, I drove to Karmê Chöling, a Buddhist retreat centre in Vermont, to finally experience my lifetime quest.
I received my introduction to Kyudo (first shot) from instructors that were supervised by a Master, Kanjuro Shibata XX Sensei. He was a samurai descended from a known lineage of samurai warriors and “Oniyumichi” (bow-makers for the Emperor of Japan). I learned from Sensei for the next 10 years and we came to know one another quite well. This was one of the most exciting and enlightening periods in my life.
Kyudo brings me calm, peacefulness, and relaxation. As I concentrate while doing this form of “meditation in action,” it brings me into the moment, to the present. As soon as I’m done the practice, I can’t wait for the next one. Sensei said: “In Kyudo practice, quickly good is not so good. Ten years. One step.” So we have to practice, practice, and practice… To see a video of Sensei being interviewed and a Kyudo demonstration, go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GlpQWSizM0.
Soon after doing my first shot, I met Gilbert St. Laurent, who was the director of “La fédération Québéquoise de tir à l’arc” (Quebec Archery Federation) at the time. We made posters about Kyudo and three other Montréalers showed interest! So all five of us drove together to attend a Kyudo weekend intensive in the summer of 1985. Later on, Gilbert and I formed Kyudo Québec and we held several seminars in Montréal led by Kyudo instructors from Boulder, Colorado. In 1991, we incorporated Kyudo Québec as a nonprofit organization with about 10–12 practitioners. I made many requests to have Sensei come to Montréal to teach Kyudo, and after seven years, he agreed to come! In 1992, Kyudo Québec organized a beginner’s introduction program in Montréal led by Sensei, and at that seminar, I was honoured to become the first Kyudo instructor in Québec. When I received my instructor qualifications, Sensei also gave me the name of our Kyudojo; it was Enko which means elegant, beautiful, sexy tiger.
In 1994, I decided to leave Québec and to “follow the scent of a woman named Nancy” and moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Before I left, in a short ceremony, I presented Marcel Charron, the most senior Kyudo practitioner, with a ceremonial arrow, passing onto him and Jean-Pierre Poggi (another dedicated senior practitioner) the ongoing care and responsibilities of the Kyudojo. A few years later, under their joint leadership, the Kyudojo was renamed Suiko Kyudojo (Suiko means water tiger to symbolize the water around Montréal Island); see the website at www.kyudoquebec.org/en/kyudo.html.
Kyudo—The Way of The Bow
“The archer lifts his bamboo bow, he draws it back slowly, relaxed, he holds the arrow just long enough to allow the shot to mature, and a perfect balance occurs: with heightened awareness the archer lets go and opens up, becoming one with the bow, the arrow, and the target. The impact is heard but the shot continues beyond. Without aiming, the archer aimed at himself. Without looking to reach the target, the archer has reached himself.”—Kyudo Québec
So you might be wondering. Who is this Nancy person? We actually have a kind of “Kyudo love story thing…” In the early 1990s, Nancy was living in Montreal and was introduced to Tibetan Buddhism, and she saw a tiny newsprint photo of a man dressed all in black, standing at the edge of a cliff on a windy day in full Kai (full bow draw). In that moment, she was filled with awe and curiosity and asked, What is that? I want to do that! A senior Buddhist student said, “That is Kyudo and there’s a seminar at Karmê Chöling in a few months.” She was all in! When Nancy tells people about her first shot experience, she compares it to taking her first breath; she felt as though she had just been born. Like her heart and lungs were about to burst as she cried out the “cutting sound” of Kirigoi; it was as if the arrow was being shot out from her chest. As she was leaving the seminar, she discovered there was another Montréaler at the seminar and that he headed up a Kyudojo in Montréal where she could continue her personal practice, and that was me! (Part 2 to be continued in the January/February 2018 WHOLifE).
Kyudo Info/Demo Evenings (free) in Saskatoon: Nov. 23 and Nov. 30 from 7:00 pm–9:00 pm. They will be held at Brainsport’s Community Room (2nd floor), 616-10th St. E. (www.brainsport.ca/community-room.html). Please contact Guy at: email@example.com to reserve your seat in advance as seating is limited. (Note: these presentations are open to those who are 18 years or older.)
Guy Hince is a Kyudo instructor, artist/artisan, knife and bowmaker, and specializes in custom sewing and fabrication. He also handcrafts his Caljoba line of natural skincare products made with calendula flowers he grows. He loves wind and speed, being in nature, playing guitar, and is an animal lover especially attuned to dogs, cats, goats, and llamas.
Nancy Tam is a Kyudo practitioner and has a holistic counselling practice focusing on an integrative totality approach to health and wellness through working with the body, mind, heart, and spirit connection. She has a deep respect and heart connection with homeopathy and enjoys working with energetic patterns/archetypes, the unfolding tao, and dreams. She also teaches about non-violent communication (NVC) as developed by Marshall Rosenberg, as well as other holistic wellness topics, including healing the sacred feminine.
Guy and Nancy will be facilitating a four-day Beginner’s Kyudo Intensive next year in Saskatoon. Part 1 will be held on January 20–21 followed by 3 months of weekly practice and then Part 2 will be held June 2–3. Contact Guy at: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to register.