Hassetsu: The Eight Movements of Kyudo

Is there a correct method for firing an arrow? Jessica Gerrity explains that Kyudo involves eight essential movements, known as hassetsu. These movements cover different positions, from how you start to when you release the arrow, and they're important for hitting the target accurately.

Hitting the target with precision

Nick: I think I mentioned to you in my notes, I watched the documentary called ‘One Shot One Life’, that explored several aspects of Kyudo; even touching on its connection to Chinese archery, and Confucianism, and that was really fascinating.

But there's this wonderful NHK video of you explaining, I guess what we’d call the eight movements of Kyudo, which is hassetsu. So it might be hard for our listeners to visualize. But would you like to briefly touch on those eight movements and why they're important and how they make the practice of Kyudo what it is?

Jessica: So it is eight movements. So we can say they’re like the kata. If someone who's familiar with karate or other martial arts, other martial arts have kata as well. So you have these different positions from starting until releasing the arrow, and then the end, the way your position is at the end of your shooting and bringing the ball back down.

So in essence, it's one movement. However, to break it down, it's eight kata. But inside those kata, there are several other small things that need to be done. So the eight movements or the hassetsu are necessary in my school of archery, to be able to pass grading, and to be able to shoot the ball, you need to be doing these eight kata in the correct sequence in order to shoot the arrow.

So if these kata are correct, without going into big details about each of them, if they're correct, and performed technically correct, you'll hit the target with your arrow. So if you have a bit of an unbalance somewhere, and Kyudo is about a millimeter, if you're off in some direction with your hands or your body, then that translates to a 10 centimeter or more difference in the arrow placement at the target, which is 28 meters away.

So it's just very tiny micro movements that make these huge changes over where the arrow shoots. So the hassetsu are necessary to be performed correctly in order to have the correct technique and also to get the arrow to fly correctly.