History of Seikyu Kai
Seikyu Kai was founded in November 2008 by Mie Takahashi and Salvatore Gianfreda, at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Center (JCCC) in Toronto. Starting with a class of 20 students, the club began training once a week with basic material provided by the JCCC and bows obtained from Japan by Kei Toyamasa, an assistant instructor.
Initially limited to shooting at stacked tatami mats, the club would later acquire enough synthetic makiwara and stands to allow for full taihai practice. With further workshops bringing the class size to over 30 members, it became clear that even these would not be enough. New makiwara stands, a bow stand, yatate hooks and nets for outdoor kinteki practice were all constructed by Minoru Tanaka in his spare time. By 2011 there would be enough makiwara and dojo space for two groups to practice taihai at the same time. This setup has allowed Seikyu Kai to support a larger class size, a dedicated group that can look forward to the day when kinteki practice space becomes available at the JCCC. For now, each new group of students has enjoyed a couple months of parking lot kinteki on warm summer days.
As we welcomed new members to our ranks, we also had to say goodbye to some dear friends. After a year with us, Gianfreda-san left to continue his studies, and Toyamasa-san would return to Japan for work. Since then, we have had many other kyudoka from Japan visit and join the club for a short while. Moving forward with Takahashi-sensei and assistant Yukiko Itokawa leading us, we continue to work to advance our own knowledge of kyudo as well as expand the art throughout Ontario and Canada.
Currently, Seikyu Kai has many ranked members. The total number of members that we have and their respective ranks are as follows:Renshi, Go-dan (1)
Mie Takahashi (Renshi Go-dan)
What interested you in starting kyudo? I was interested in kyudo, because it did not depend on anything but myself. Unlike tennis and basketball, your success does not depend on the ability of your opponent. The harder I practice, the better I can be. I also like wearing the hakama. =)
Were you part of a school team? What was that like? Yes. I started kyudo with a university club. There is a big league tournament in the fall each year and the members compete over university names. Since I was in an engineering university team, there were a few females and everyone had to good enough to be regular players. This experience gave me concentration. After graduating from university, I was selected to be a member of the Chiba team and competed in the national tournament (kokutai). Since we competed for the prefecture, I was taught by well-known sensei and very much enjoyed it. I think being a member of the team improved me a lot.
Why did you decide to start kyudo again in Canada? When I decided to come to Canada to study English, there was no kyudo group in Toronto. My training could be put on hold while I improved my English. This turned out to be more difficult than I thought, as most of my friends were ESL students and it was difficult for me to start conversations with strangers. By starting the kyudo club, I was forced to speak up, make friends and it allowed me to keep doing what I like.
Yukiko Itokawa (Yon-dan)
What interested you in starting kyudo? I started kyudo in junior high school team and was hooked. When I chose my high school, it was because of the kyudo club. My entire high school life was kyudo. I didn't study much…
Were you part of a school team? What was that like? In junior high and high school, they don't have seminars. You just practice every day. Fortunately, I was chosen for the prefecture team to compete in the national tournament (kokutai) and received instruction from lots of good kyudoka. Occasionally the variety of instruction would be confusing as they all have different ways of explaining things, but once I understood it, I knew what the sensei wanted to say.
Why did you decide to start kyudo again in Canada? I had always planned on continuing kyudo, but in University, the club was inconsistent and a friend wanted me to join the canoe team, so that's why I stopped kyudo. After graduation, my job was really tough and busy so there wasn't time to start up again. Occasionally, I would consider it, but being away from practice, I was no longer able to pull my 13kg bow from high school and could no longer use their facilities to practice. As Satake-sensei told us at the 2011 AKR seminar, it is important to have (1) the right location, (2) good teacher, and (3) motivation to practice and I found all that since moving to Toronto.