Fifty Years of Kyudo in the UK – How it Began.
This year we celebrate 50 years of Kyudo practice in the UK.
Kyudo was first seen in the United Kingdom in 1968 when Anzawa Heijiro sensei visited London. Anzawa sensei was one of the most senior Kyudo teachers of his generation. He had been a student of Awa Kenzo sensei, the subject of ‘Zen in the Art of Archery’, and was on his way to Germany to visit the grave of its author, Eugen Herrigel.
Accompanying Anzawa sensei was another very influential teacher, Onuma Hideharu sensei.
Onuma Sensei, photograph Mike Cundy
Two people who witnessed the original demonstration were inspired to go to Tokyo and study for a short period with Onuma sensei. They were George Ingham and David Chambers. On their return to the UK in 1969, they established the North London and West London Dojos respectively.
George Ingham was a tutor at Hornsey College of Art and gave a Makiwara demonstration at the college to raise interest. I was his first recruit.
George continued through to the early 1980s when he emigrated to Australia and has since passed away. David moved on to other things and the West London Dojo, originally located in Heston, merged with the North London Dojo to form a single London Dojo and was taken over by Liam O’Brien when he returned from Japan in 1975.
Meanwhile, I moved to Japan in 1972 as a post-graduate research student at Kyoto City College of Fine Art. In addition to my academic studies, I pursued my Kyudo training and returned in 1975 having achieved the 4th Dan and established the Meishin Dojo in Kent.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Onuma sensei visited Europe and America regularly. He provided an example of Kyudo at the highest level. He spoke extremely good English, was an excellent communicator and completely committed to developing Kyudo abroad.
In 1975, Liam O’Brien, who had also been living and studying in Japan, returned with the 4th Dan. The same year, a national Kyudo association was established.
In 1980, the UK was one of the founding members of the European Kyudo Federation.
In 1985, O’Brien sensei went back to Japan, returning in 1992 as Renshi 6th Dan. Up to his death in 2015, he provided leadership and guidance of the highest quality to the national association, finishing his career as Kyoshi 8th Dan. His leadership continues through the current chairman, Ray Dolphin sensei.
Since the early days, Kyudo has spread to all corners of the UK with an increasing membership. Our members attend IKYF seminars in Europe and Japan and are able to take grades at regular opportunities and receive teaching of the highest level.
The principles underlying the organisation have always been firmly rooted in the traditions and practices passed down through the All Japan Kyudo Association. The ANKF official Kyudo Manual, translated into English by O’Brien sensei, remains the primary source of knowledge.
The UK federation currently has members from many different nationalities, including Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain and the UK.
Mike Cundy 5 May 2019