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Kyudo Takes Root at the JCCC - Beginnings

When Mie Takahashi arrived in Toronto in July 2007 to study English, the 5th dan kyudoka searched for a place in the city to continue practicing kyudo. She eventually contacted the Kyudo Association of Canada (KAC), based in Vancouver, B.C., and they put her in contact with a woman in Toronto who was interested in learning kyudo. This was the beginning of a chain of events that brought kyudo to the JCCC.

Two packed kyudo workshops led by Mie Takahashi at the JCCC in the summer of 2008 demonstrated that there was a demand for kyudo and paved the way for regular kyudo classes to be held at the JCCC. Shortly after the second workshop the KAC put 5th dan Salvatore Gianfreda from Switzerland in touch with Mie Takahashi. Just months after the workshops, in November, 2008, the first beginners' kyudo class of 20 students began led by two 5th dan instructors.

This first beginner's session started with minimal equipment: enough gomu-yumi, practice "bows" for each student, some old straw tatami mats for targets and three bows from a previous kyudo class held over 10 years ago. More bows were eventually purchased, but the practice of kyudo involves much more than just individual target shooting. Taihai involves five archers entering the dojo, approaching the target and preparing for shooting in harmony, with precise timing and rhythm. At least five targets are necessary to practice taihai. In addition, the standard shooting distance for kyudo is 28 meters - a distance too great for the regular dojo. For a student to have any hope of passing a ranking exam, taihai experience and practice at the 28m (kinteki) distance are crucial.

We were able to achieve both of these important elements with the generous cooperation of JCCC. The club now has 12 targets, and we are in regular contact with the JCCC to arrange times for kinteki shooting in the parking area behind the dojo in nice weather. We would like to thank George Tsushima and Mas Yamashita, who constructed our first set of five stands to hold "makiwara" targets. As a result, we were able to host two successful seminars and invite Carly Born-sensei from the American Kyudo Renmei. Moreover, due to the relentless devotion of the instructor, Mie Takahashi, sixteen members passed their ranking examinations this summer in Minnesota. As we approach the end of another year, it seems an appropriate time to review our history and look forward to what is to come. We hope to continue growing and developing together with the JCCC in the New Year and years to come.

Originally appeared in the December/January 2011-12 JCCC Newsletter

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Kyudo Takes Root at the JCCC - Looking Forward

It is now over three years since kyudo was restarted at the JCCC. The class has grown steadily and the fourth beginner session has now begun. Many members of the regular class are now ranking kyudoka and we are looking forward to further our growth and development.

Several volunteer assistant instructors, mostly visitors from Japan and from various walks of life, help run the kyudo class. When one of our original instructors, Salvatore Gianfreda left for Australia in early 2010, Mie Takahashi actively searched for volunteer kyudo instructors who could share their knowledge while practising English. Although many volunteer instructors have come and gone over the years we are also blessed with long-term additions to the group, such as Yukiko Itokawa, 3rd dan. These assistants have greatly increased the amount of individual attention that each student receives and has truly benefitted our development in kyudo. It has also been a great opportunity to promote friendship through culture, one of the key aims of the JCCC.

Several students in the class took the initiative of starting the Seikyu Kai (正弓会 literally translates to "truthful bow" but the meaning embodies truthfulness, correctness and honesty in life) with the goal of organizing the kyudo class to assist Mie Takahashi with various tasks necessary to help the group continue to advance. These tasks include organizing seminars, communicating with the JCCC and spreading kyudo within the community. We continue to develop an identity as a group within JCCC by creating a new logo, t-shirt and official website. Our group has become large enough that with the cooperation of its dedicated members, equipment set-up and clean-up can be accomplished independently. As each new beginner class has joined the regular group, its members have implemented creative solutions to maximize shooting while keeping safety in mind. The future of our club will depend on our ability to integrate new students in our limited space. We look forward to this challenge.

We are very fortunate to be a part of the strong martial arts program at the JCCC. Through the support of the JCCC we have become the largest kyudo club in Canada. With a growing class of more than 30 students committed to their own development in kyudo and spreading kyudo to others, we believe that kyudo has truly taken root at the JCCC. We look forward to working together with the JCCC to continue learning and sharing Japanese culture in the city of Toronto and beyond.

Originally appeared in the December/January 2011-12 JCCC Newsletter

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Growth of Seikyu Kai

Over the past year the members of Seikyu Kai, JCCC Kyudo, have been witness to an amazing amount of growth in a short period time.

The existence of Seikyui-kai at the JCCC has attracted interest to the marial art through various outlets such as as festivals, demonstrations, TV media and word of mouth. Membership has flourished due to introduction classes, and individuals with prior experience have joined looking for a way to reconnect to the martial art they love so much.

The personal growth of the members is evident from the eager participation in this year's ranking tests, Shinsa, held in Minnesota. Prior to the tests, the JCCC arranged the schedule for Seikyu Kai members to put in extra practices over the summer. The Seikyu Kai members' journeys of personal growth were overwhelmingly successful.

Seikyu Kai has also made leaps adn bounds with the Kyudo Association of Canada (KAC) with appointments of both Mie Takahashi Sensei and Tane Akamatsu to the governing council in the positions of vice president adn secretary respectively. It is with the warmest of hearts that we wish them congratulations adn best of luck in their new positions.

2011 is with us for a few more months. It willl be interesting to see how much Seikyu Kai at the JCCC will grow before the new year is out.

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JCCC Kyudo Seikyu Kai Excels Over the Summer

It has been a busy summer for the Seikyu Kai, JCCC Kyudo, as many of its members participated in not one but two kyudo seminars in the span of one month.

In typical Canadian fashion, we were honoured to receive two guests from south of the border over the Canada Day weekend. Renshi Go-dan Born Carly-sensei and John Born (Yon-dan) from the Minnesota Kyudo Renmei led the two-day seminar at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre with 28 members in attendance.

It was encouraging to see eight students attend their first seminar, some of whom have only been studying kyudo for a few months. We spent a full day practicing the forms and movements of kyudo (taihai) indoors, and, thanks to the efforts of our members, we were also able to spend a full day shooting the full 28-metre range (kinteki) in the JCCC parking lot. In addition to individual and group attention concerning technique, Carly-sensei and John spoke in great detail about the complementing mental and spiritual aspects that are essential components of kyudo. The seminar was not without its entertainment: the JCCC kyudo hosted a dinner followed by an auction that, at times, was quite thrilling.

We are indebted to Carly-sensei and John for the wonderful experience and instruction we received from them and look forward to welcoming them back to Canada in the future.

We had barely a month to practice after the Seikyu Kai seminar before seventeen of our members traveled to Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, to participate in the 2011 American Kyudo Seminar. This marks Toronto Kyudo Association of Canada's members' first participation in an International Kyudo Federation seminar, and we were happy to join with five Vancouver KAC members as well as representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. The participating members — numbering over 135 — were privileged to receive the guidance and wisdom of three Hanshi 8-dan sensei from Japan.

The seminar featured three days of demonstrations, lectures, group practices, and, of course, shooting. It was a unique opportunity to not only learn from outstanding teachers but also to interact with kyudo members from dojos across the continent. An examination was held on the fourth and final day: 2 members received the rank of 1-kyu, 13 received 1-dan (Sho-dan), and one received 3-dan.

While we are proud of all of our members and their performance, we would like to highlight the achievements of two individuals: Yukiko Itokawa won the 2-dan-and-below division of the shooting competition (taikai) held on Tuesday evening, hitting seven out of eight targets — the best individual overall score; Patrick Suen won the Andrew West Award, given to a mu-dan (participants with no previous rank) to encourage others of the same rank to continue kyudo, for his hard work.

We are grateful to the All Nippon Kyudo Federation, the American Kyudo Renmei, and the Minnesota Kyudo Renmei for conducting an excellent seminar and we are already looking forward to next year's event in California. We will now go forward with all of the training and lessons learned over the past few weeks to improve as students of kyudo and as a group.

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Kyudo Demonstration at Ontario Japanese Speech Contest

On March 12, Seikyu Kai had the opportunity to demonstrate kyudo (Japanese archery) to the contestants competing in the 29th Annual Ontario Japanese Speech Contest held at the J.R.R. MacLeod Auditorium at the University of Toronto.

Chris Sora, acting as M.C., enlightened the audience on such topics as the history of kyudo and its particular history with the JCCC, the equipment, and the eight steps (hassetsu) of kyudo. Nanik Sutedjo, Ray Okamoto, and Karen Suzuki were on hand to demonstrate techniques and bring kyudo to life for the audience.

The audience enjoyed the question and answer period of the demonstration very much. They were able to get up close and personal as the demonstrators took the equipment into the audience. Two of the things that particularly interested the audience were the arrow and kake (glove). During the explanation of the equipment, Chris explained that there is a notch on the thumb section of the glove which is where the string goes and that there are two different types of arrows where the feathers are put on differently. Unless you have a chance to look at these features up close, you would never be able to see them. These are some of the small details on the equipment that the audience had a chance to see.

The overall demonstration was informative adn very interactive. Many people took an interest in kyudo after being able to experience some of the aspects of this martial art.

Originally appeared in the August 2011 JCCC Newsletter

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