Archery is a wonderfully rich activity. Some people approach archery as an exercise in accurate results. Precise arrow placement is everything that they work toward. Others are interested in the graceful beauty of the act of shooting the arrow. They focus on making the flight of the arrow smooth with a delicate arcing trajectory. Some others work to prepare practical skills for hunting. Developing deadly power and speed is their end goal. Many archers mix these areas of interest to create their own unique blend to achieve what they want from this sport.
Whatever the archer’s approach or focus, the sport is demanding. A shooter needs to develop mechanically precise actions and extreme concentration. These skills are built through repetitive practice. Many practice hours are needed in order to achieve fulfilling and consistent results.
The seemingly simple act of shooting is extraordinarily demanding. Subtle unintended changes from one shot to the next can ruin consistency and aggravate the shooter to no end. The frustration that archery heaps onto novice shooters can build strong character. Mastery is not something that comes easily in any activity. Mastering archery, well… I only know how hard the road toward that is.
Some Ki Rei Shinkan Aikido dojo members discovered many of our peers have a common interest in Archery. A group of us decide to get together once or twice each week to practice our shooting skills. We built a 25 yard indoor range offering us a secure place to shoot safely. No formal archery classes are offered at our dojo. Instead, archery club members convene to work on improving their skill or simply enjoy the joy of the shooting art. Some coaching is available for novices less familiar with the sport.
What has archery to do with Aikido? In My Opinion…
Different martial arts converge and intersect in many ways. Archery and Aikido are no different. A well executed shot requires many qualities that exist in the foundation of well executed Aikido techniques.
Physically for example, centering and maintaining solid posture throughout the draw, the aim, and the release of an arrow is as essential to shooting just as it is essential to performing every aikido technique well. Initiating a move in aikido and initiating a shot in archery each require establishing a solid stance from the start. A proper draw requires the archer to ‘extend’ rather than simply pulling the bow string back into position. It is not only a matter of muscling the string back by flexing arm muscles. It is more proper to extend power through the arms to move the bow limbs and the string apart from each other. That extension allows the archer to stay relaxed during the aiming and releasing process.
Holding the arrow comfortably while aiming is best done using aikido’s unbendable arm principles. This offers the archer a way to remain relaxed regardless of the tension applied between the string and bowlimbs.
Every well executed archery shot and well executed aikido throw requires proper centering of both mind and body. Releasing the arrow applies the same type of extension used during the completion of a solid aikido kokyunage, or most every aikido projection throw. Both require a solid kokyu-like use of breath power to drive power into the release of the arrow toward the target or release of the uke toward the mat.
Upon releasing the arrow, the archer needs to apply zanshin-like follow through in order to physically maintain stability and unbroken concentration.
Each shot can help the martial artist build powerful technique and skill to later apply during an aikido throw.
The cross-over between these two arts is special to me. I have been practicing both of them for so many years that each defines a large part of who I am. I believe that the arts themselves demand actions that are fundamentally common to both not just from me but from all who participate.