Excerpted from Rick Beal’s Zen Archery.


Whenever we talk about a style of kyudo, Sensei has told me many times, “kyudo is kyudo”. However, all the Japanese ‘Do’ arts follow ancient principles, and these have evolved over time as well to be quite amazing. Our tradition is more than just kyudo, and includes a variety of other practices. Each of these follows the same principles.

One such set of principles was set down in Kikkawa-ryu. The principles of Kikkawa-ryu were written down by one teacher as the words of his teacher’s, teacher’s, teacher’s, teacher… passed down from generation to generation and finally written down. The book was kept secret until the writer passed away, then on the 100th anniversary of the death of the original teacher the book was made public. In our school we rely on these principles as well.

The 4 Principles of Kikkawa-ryu:

  1. Wa = Harmony
  2. Kei = Respect
  3. Sei = Purity
  4. Jaku = Tranquility

Sensei once called our way of calligraphy as Hitsu-Zen-Do or the meditative way of the brush. So perhaps it can also be applied to our way of shooting as well Sha-Zen-Do, the meditative way of the bow.

In Zen we also have 7 Principles, and these are applied in the teaching of our school as well.

  1. Fukinsei = Assymetry
  2. Kanso = Simplicity
  3. Koko = Austerity
  4. Shizen = To be ourselves or Natural
  5. Datsuzoku = Other Worldly; that which is beyond the senses
  6. Yugen = Subtlety or Mystery
  7. Seijaku = Quiet and Lonely; sometimes translated as Quiet or Silent (the jaku here is the same one used in Kikkawa-ryu as Tranquility, but by itself we usually say Lonely.

There are several other key concepts as well. Most of these have no good translation, but need to be ‘tasted’ in the practice. Once we taste what it is like, we no longer need the translation, in fact we see the words (especially translated words don’t fit exactly). Some of these are:

Wabi Sabi = which we also use the characters for Quiet and Lonely; though some schools use Rustic or Aged for Sabi… actually we do too, sometimes… humm. Anyhow they are the same sound but two different kanji.

That’s interesting to me, the same thing happens on our translation for Sho Gyo in the Ha Sho Do. Sho Gyo… The Sho is most commonly translated as ‘right’ but since this implies right and wrong we usually use upright instead (the connotations in upright fits pretty well into many of the multilayered meanings of the word. For Sho-Gyo this is usually translate as ‘Action or Activity’; but there is another kanji that is sometimes used that means ‘Practice or Walking’. This is the kanji we usually use in our tradition, but when talking we sometimes say in means Action or Activity; in some sense they are related, and it is a translation.