Hitting the bull’s eye: About Japanese Archery in Vienna
For more than a few years, there has been a wonderful way to get in touch with Japanese culture and practicing it in Vienna: kyūdō. One can translate kyūdō with “the way of the bow” and it describes shooting an arrow with a bow, two meters in length, at a black and white target called mato. The target is positioned 28 meters in front of the archer. Traditionally, the bow was made out of bamboo, today fiberglass or carbon is used as well.
In old Japan, archery was not only a tool for wartime but was also used during ceremonies at the imperial court. Therefore, many schools and shooting techniques can be found throughout the past centuries and so it is no wonder that even today different styles of kyūdō can be found in Japan. Although they differ in form, Japanese archery describes the art which embodies the spirit of budō. Budō can be translated as “martial arts” and is connected with the term bushidō, the “way of the warrior.” The main point in drawing the bow is therefore to train one’s body and mind continuously. This is much more important than actually hitting the target. The person’s own focus, to train “yourself” is what makes kyūdō “the way of the bow.”
Today, in Austria kyūdō is not only practiced in Vienna but also in cities like Graz, Linz or Salzburg. What is more, there is an active exchange with professors of Japanese universities which already started in the eighties. Every year there are seminars in Austria, where Japanese teachers train with European archers, meanwhile Japanese students have the opportunity to visit Vienna during a field trip. Thus, over time the friendship between Japan and Austria deepened over the practice of archery, and even today the relationship between both countries is a very active one in regard to kyūdō.
But how did Japanese archery find its way to Austria in the first place? By asking this question, Elena Koblizek is going to give more insight into the Austrian kyūdō history and its situation today.
Text: Elena Koblizek
Translation: Adam Greguš, Leonie Krösslhuber
Studying her master in Japanese Studies at University of Vienna, exchange year at Hosei University in Tokyo 2017/18, practices japanese archery in Vienna for three years.