Shooting for Fun

This post is inspired by a quote given in the comments section in the last post from the author of one of my favorite blogs, Rick Matz at

It goes as follows:

When an archer is shooting for fun
He has all his skill.

If he shoots for a brass buckle
He is already nervous.

If he shoots for a prize of gold
He goes blind

Or sees two targets –
He is out of his mind.

His skill has not changed,
But the prize divides him.

He cares
He thinks more of winning
Than of shooting –
And the need to win
Drains him of power.

~Chuang Tz

I’m not sure how much dear Chuang Tz pulled a bow and arrow, but his words hit right at the center of what I’ve been experiencing lately.

We can have skill and determination, but those two alone can be perverted to tiny shooting.

Focusing only on hitting the target we are divided, and weakened.

Technically, my teacher tells me to not worry about hitting the target at all. Shoot for good form and shooting itself, and you will definitely hit the target. I’ve found this to be true. I have never thought, “Alright this time I’m just gonna hit the target no matter what” and actually hit the target. Maybe I have, but I definitely would have been disgusted with the form, and so don’t remember it.

Generally, I suppose the great medicine and motivation for it all is as Chuang Tz says,


When an archer is shooting for fun
He has all his skill.

If we can enjoy shooting, I bet we’ll hit the target at our full potential. If not, then who cares cause we’re having fun. But like I said, if you’re having fun I bet you’re hitting the target as much as you ever had.

A lot of the time I follow this backwards; I have fun when I hit the target … but that’s a bit late, isn’t it?

But “fun” is kind of a weird topic in kyudo. Or maybe it’s just me.

If someone asked me to describe kyudo, I probably wouldn’t put “fun” at the top of the list. Kyudo is interesting, challenging, invigorating, torturing … and maybe a few more words down the line, fun. I’ve always kind of thought that fun can be a side-effect of shooting, but definitely not the driving force. However, such a disregard for fun may leave ourselves open to less agreeable feelings.

If “fun” isn’t important then what is?

Being “great”?

Hitting the target?


Being “strong”?

I see problems in all of these.

Shooting for “fun”, though?

That may not be such a bad idea.

I searched to no avail for a quote I remember reading from Awa Kenzo on this subject, but the gist of it was,

What a joy it is to be able to wake up and shoot the bow and arrow everday.

We can shoot the bow and arrow everyday. Each arrow can take about 60 seconds, and in each shot we can experience great joy and expression. We can fully express ourselves in the shot of an arrow, it can be beautiful, and it can be fun.

When shooting without that element of fun, something is missing.

Shooting the bow an arrow is like making a big puzzle, and fun is one of the most important pieces.

Thanks Rick.


4 thoughts on “Shooting for Fun

  1. I think that if you replace the English word “fun” by 楽しい, you get it right. Kyudo must be 楽しい to be great kyudo and it is very much more delicate than “fun”. 楽しい carries the notions of lightness, naiveté, detachment, enjoyment without concern.

    1. I also feel like using the Japanese can illicit more from the imagination at times. Being able to learn Japanese along with the bow, or any art for that matter, can certainly widen the experience. Thanks for the words.

  2. A kung fu “uncle” says we are not here training for fun, you want fun go to the gym! Training is not about fun. I disagree ( in silence) with this. We are not training for war it is the “nature” of Americans in a peace environment to want to have “fun”. We work for money, to live to support our “fun”, pleasures.

    Does not the element of Shinsa, ranks, tests, achievments remove or at least diminish the “fun” or tanoshimi 楽しい element? Those systems which are looked down on by certain “purist” in The Kyudo Renmei, have removed the rank, Shinsa element, they shoot for fun, enlightenment. It is easy to shoot for fun, no prize other than fun. It is easy, there are no attachments.

    It is harder to shoot for fun when there is the element of attachment, achivment, more , much more of a challenge. Perhaps the true challenge is shooting with a lack of attachment for fun or gain.

    I once heard, or was told something about doing Zazen, when you sit for the goal of enlightment, or calmness of mind, you already move further away from it. One should do Zen ( kyudo, shoot) only because one can.

    🙂 i am dealing with my own thoughts and issues , writtings about my up coming shinsa, attachments, form, correctiings…

    We are at the same level, in the same mind space.

    Perhaps the same frustration…seeking the “truth”


    1. To me it’s kind of felt like a koan, this statement that seems to contradict itself. It has these two opposite sides and there are parties who will defend each side completely, dismissing the other. People try and reason it out, but it’s not something you can reason, and so we only manipulate the words to make our own artificial piece. There is kyudo without attachment, alone in the dojo, and then there are shinsa and taikai in front of everyone. Thank you for the great words! I guess we’re all just in the process of figuring it out. If there is one thing though about all of this that I’m interested or following, it’s just like you said, “seeking truth.” Ganbarou:)

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