Hanshi is the highest rank I’m aware of in the kyudo world, and there’s one in the dojo I practice at.
When we go through the ranks we usually start at kyu, a kind of pre-level rank, and then move through the dan, which are common in other Japanese arts and usually referred to as levels of black belt. After 5th dan, you can get renshi, then 6th dan, then kyoshi, then 7th dan, then 8th dan, and then hanshi. From there one can continue on to 9th dan, etc. The titles of renshi, kyoshi, and hanshi are to designate official teachers. Kyoshi 6th dan is a substantial rank of teacher, of which I know many, but after that I only know a handful. As for hanshi, the one in Nakatsu is the only one I’ve ever personally met.
When I first told my kyudo teacher in Toyama that I was moving to Nakatsu, Oita, the first thing he did was look in this kind of telephone book-like guide of dojos around Japan to get information about Nakatsu. When he saw that there was a hanshi in Nakatsu his eyes widened and told me I have to do kyudo in Nakatsu no matter what. He told me to get along with the hanshi as best as possible and learn as much as I can from him.
Now I’ve been here in Nakatsu doing kyudo for a year and a half, and I haven’t seen the hanshi as much as I expected, but the times we have met have been invaluable. He is extremely nice, has a great relaxed presence, and of course is really fricken good at kyudo. I feel as though just being around him in the dojo teaches me a lot about the bow. He comes early in the evenings before the majority of archers practice, stays for a while as people trickle in, and then heads out in the early evening. Unfortunately this is the most difficult time for me to go to practice, thus our meetings are sparse, but like I said, very influential.
A few of the times I’ve met him he’s taken extra time to teach me specific techniques, and in the next few posts I would like to focus on each of them. My best, most simple shooting comes from the tips he gave me, and perhaps they can be of similar help to other archers on the path. They will roughly go as follows:
1.) Two Golden Rules of Kyudo
2.) Straight Thumb, Relaxed Fingers
3.) Shooting with the Back of the Shoulders
4.) No-mind in the Full Draw