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Seikyu Kai Enjoys Opportunities to Demonstrate Kyudo to the Public

Several events in the past few months have given Seikyu Kai various opportunities to demonstrate kyudo to the public, both within the JCCC and outside. These opportunities allow us to share the art of kyudo with many people who may not have encountered it before and also to promote the martial arts program at the JCCC.

On January 29, 2012, Seikyu Kai was invited to perform a demonstration at the Kagami Biraki party of the well-established Chito-Ryu (karate) Association of Ontario, at Senator O’Connor College auditorium in North York. Kagami biraki literally means the opening of the mirror. The mirror is one of the three important symbols (along with the sword and the jewel) present in the creation myth of Japan. Sometime in the 15th century, kagami biraki became part of the samurai tradition. Mirrors are traditionally round, and in modern times, the kagami is the wooden lid of a sake barrel. Cracking this lid and consuming the sake is often part of auspicious occasions, such as the opening of a business or in martial arts dojos, the first practice of the new year (hatsugeiko).

Mie Takahashi (renshi, 5-dan) and Masaya Kawano (3-dan) performed the kyudo demonstration in kimono. Other performers included The Nagata Shachu taiko ensemble and the Chito-ryu karate and Niten Ichi Ryu kenjutsu groups. The final piece featured a karate demonstration of a form known as suiken (酔拳) that features a highly skilled practitioner who mimics being drunk, using swaying, stumbling, and falling as techniques to both throw off opponents and grab, strike or pin opponents to the ground. The sake cask was duly smashed open, and its contents shared by one and all (because this was a family event, the sake had been replaced with water).

Kyudo classes held during Haru Matsuri and Sakura Ball also provided opportunities to share kyudo with the public. Chairs were set up in the dojo and attendees of the events were invited into the dojo to observe. Several Seikyu Kai members were on hand to answer any questions. We were excited to have George Takei make a brief appearance prior to the Sakura Ball dinner. Mr. Takei was offered the opportunity to try kyudo but, unfortunately, had to decline due to the busy schedule. Seikyu Kai looks forward to more chances to share kyudo with the public in the future.

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On the Path to Fruition

It is hard to believe that my year of studying in Canada has already come to an end. My time here as a student has been great, especially the experience of volunteering with Seikyu Kai, the JCCC kyudo club. I will always treasure the time I spent training together with members of Seikyu Kai.

I never imagined that I would be able to practice kyudo, a martial art that I thought was peculiar to Japan, in Canada. Kyudo is difficult to teach, even in my mother tongue, so at first, I was nervous that I would not be able to give instruction with my poor English. Even now, I remember how difficult it was at the beginning to even give a few words of advice. But I was encouraged by the kindness of the Seikyu Kai members who would listen patiently. With this encouragement and the support of my fellow instructors, my fears turned to confidence and eventually I was able to actively provide instruction to the students. Through this teaching experience, I was exposed to colloquial English that you cannot learn in language school and I think my English is better because of this. Also the time spent with members during social activities outside of the dojo helped me to gain a deeper understanding of Canadian culture. I am very grateful that our shared practice of kyudo led me to this great opportunity.

I started kyudo six years ago in high school. In the midst of our every day strict training under my former teacher I came across this word, ketsujitsu, fruition, meaning a favourable outcome as a direct result of hard work. The favourable outcomes for Seikyu Kai members at the grading examination at last summer’s kyudo seminar in Minnesota are truly examples of fruition. I applaud their efforts. Although I am sad that I will no longer be able to practice kyudo as a member of Seikyu Kai, I hope to continue my kyudo training when I return to Japan, so that we can continue together on the path to fruition. I look forward to the day that we can meet again as practitioners of kyudo. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude and hope for even greater successes for Seikyu Kai in the years to come.

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Kyudo and Kyuto

Once upon a time, there was a little Canadian bear named Kyuto. This is the story of how Kyuto came to be and how he travelled to Japan to live with one of our kyudo volunteers, Izumi.

At the JCCC there were a group of kyudoka who met once a week to practice kyudo. They were known as the Seikyu Kai and they had been truly blessed by the presence of many volunteers who had come to teach them kyudo. The volunteers from Japan had come to Toronto for various reasons like working or studying but each found their way to Seikyu Kai to teach the way of the bow and create bonds and friendships along the way. When it was time for the volunteers to return to their home across the sea, Seikyu Kai would always be sure to bid them a fond farewell; sending them strength and warm wishes through ceremonial shooting, group pictures, a farewell meal, and a parting gift to remember their time in Toronto with Seikyu Kai.

Once such volunteer was named Izumi, whose warm and friendly nature was known to the members of the club as well as her love of all things kawaii (cute). When it was Izumi's turn to return to Japan, Seikyu Kai members worked to find a memorable parting gift.

It was decided that Seikyu Kai would give Izumi a little bear. The Seikyu Kai came together to decide on everything from the colour of his fur, his stuffing, implanting a tiny heart and the Toronto Maple Leafs outfit he would be sporting. The last thing needed to bring the tiniest member of Seikyu Kai to life was a name. Seikyu Kai decided that the other volunteers would contribute their ideas for names and the members would vote. In the end our little friend was named Kyuto (); a combination of the words (kyu)do and (To)ronto in English and the combination of (bow) and (city) in Japanese, it sounds like the word "cute".

Kyuto-kun was adopted by Izumi on the day he was presented to her by Seikyu Kai, with his passport and a deck of cards already prepared for the long plane ride back to Japan. We know that Kyuto is doing well in his new home and that in his own quiet way he is representing Seikyu-kai in the land that gave birth to kyudo.

The End

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Our Dream Dojo - Gingerbread house competition

As a woman born and raised in the traditional social hierarchy of Japan, learning kyudo in the multicultural society of Canada is a very refreshing experience. We all focus on the future and share ideas on how to work together as members of the JCCC Kyudo club, Seikyu-kai. Our future is to make the kyudo program at the JCCC the best in Canada and it was symbolized in Seikyu-kai’s entry for this year’s Gingerbread House competition at the JCCC.

Normally, kyudo is practiced in a special shooting area (dojo), where students are able to shoot at a target 28 meters away. At the JCCC, space limitations restrict kyudo practices to shooting at close range targets (makiwara) two meters away. The Seikyu-kai is actively working towards its dream of having a proper dojo in Toronto, so that students can better experience all that Kyudo can offer.

We all agreed that our entry for the competition would be modeled on a real kyudo dojo to symbolize our "Dream Dojo". At the same time, it was a good opportunity to increase awareness about our group and goals. Of course, we were hoping to win first prize as well. We worked tirelessly to get the details right, including making the targets and arrows look like the real versions. We even named the five archers in our candy covered dojo, after some of the members of Seikyu-kai. Time flew by as we enjoyed our time working and laughing. I felt a great sense of accomplishment looking at our completed dojo.

The next day our dream dojo won third place. The many compliments we received made me – and the rest of Seikyu-kai - feel proud of what we were able to accomplish as a team. We are already planning for next year’s entry, something that I feel demonstrates the positive attitude of Seikyu-kai members. My first gingerbread dojo building experience was a sweet success!

Learning an ancient Japanese martial art, with limited equipment and space, is no easy matter. But, rather than shying away from the challenge, the Seikyu-kai has made kyudo at the JCCC the largest such group in Canada. Through our devotion to the spiritual, physical and technical aspects of kyudo, I believe we can become caring members of the community who respect and understand the differences among the diversity of cultures and personalities. Please continue to support us, as we work together to make Toronto a hub for spreading the joys of kyudo to others.

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Seikyu Kai, JCCC Kyudo, is not just a once a week martial arts class but a community. We are a community which supports each other through the struggles of, not only, learning kyudo but through tough times in life. The bonds that we share helped us through the difficulties we faced in the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear power plant disasters which hit the Tohoku region of Japan in March of 2011.

My Japanese community is Iwaki Fukushima, a mere one hour express train ride from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. I came back to Canada in 2010 after spending 3 years there as an English teacher. On the Saturday after the disaster I, along with the other members of Seikyu Kai, had our thoughts focussed on family and friends in Japan and those who had loved ones in the affected areas. While our minds may not have been completely focussed on kyudo that day we did use the spiritual aspect of kyudo as a way to bond our strength together.

Being thousands of kilometres away from Japan made us feel helpless but we, as a community, sent our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families before we started our class and performed ceremonial shooting to send our strength to those who needed it most. I could felt the strength of our community, our bond, and how that strength could be felt by those in Japan. Within the following week Seikyu Kai and the Vancouver members of the KAC (Kyudo Association of Canada) banded together to raise money to send to the people affected by the disasters in Japan, through All Nippon Kyudo Federation (ANKF).

Seikyu Kai is constantly growing with new members and volunteers joining all the time. We, the existing members and volunteers, welcome those who would not only like to learn about kyudo but those who are interested in sharing the bonds that we have as a community.

Originally appeared in the April 2011 JCCC Newsletter

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