Teachings from a Hanshi

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

Stay tuned.


6 thoughts on “Teachings from a Hanshi

  1. In the aikido organization that I used to belong to, at 6th dan, the person could teach all of the named techniques and could answer any technical question and was given the title shihan.

    At 8th dan, one was considered a full master of the art.

    At 9th dan, one would be considered a hanshi or as explained to me, “model person.”

    1. Sounds really similar, except I’ve never of shihan used in kyudo. One big difference I’ve found between kyudo and aikido is the speed at which you can get dans. I’ve gotten my 3dan in three years, which seems impossible from everything I experienced. In the dojo I used to do aikido at it was said that 2.5 years was fast for a shodan. I guess towards the end it evens out more with the higher ranks. Thanks for the comment!

  2. The Seminars in the States are always run by Hanshi. The upper ranks ( Renshi) all fall over themselves to please them. I have heard, the Renshi, and Go-dans get scolded, for their, let’s say less than perfection in Shooting.

    My first Sensei in Japan was a Hanshi. He was like the one at your Dojo, very kind and helpful. It was an honor to work with him. Even more so as a visitor he gave me a private lesson and attention. He passed away a couple of years ago, my up coming Shinsa is at his Dojo, I hope to honor his teachings and spirit by passing there. Still even just making it to this Shinsa, I feel will please him.
    Mata ne, shoot well. Thanks for the tips. _/|\_

    1. It sounds like he would be very pleased at your next test. I hope he would bless your effort and scold your technique! Unless it’s perfect of course 🙂 Thank you for the words!

      1. I recall when i returned from the States and told him i was NiDan, he was very pleased. He gave me encourage about San-dan and YonDan. I am sure that even my testing there for Yondan pleases his spirit. I feel it is somewhat fate to be testing there at my beginning dojo, even if not this time, I have another two chances that I know of to be successful there…yosh!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s