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2023 VKA Seminar with Gregory Stewart

Kyudo in Victoria, Australia

Kyudo in Melbourne, Victoria had been quiet in the last few years due to COVID. Home to one of the cities with the most lockdowns, this impeded on Kyudo training for 2 years across 2020 - 2021. When not in lockdown, restrictions applied and many sporting associations or gatherings could not take place. Activity returned near the end of 2021, and regular training were able to resume from 2022.


Victoria had lost many members during the inactive years by up to 33%. However, the state welcomed 2 new clubs, Odoguma Kyudo Melbourne and United UNI Kyudo Club, during 2023 in a resurgence of activity. This new lease of life brought with it a notable increase in members, where as at the time of the seminar Victoria had 65 members, an impressive increase of 20% in comparison to 2020 pre-COVID and currently represents close to half of the members in Australia. As at the time of this writing, Victorian members have further increased to 71.


The stretches of low activity means that the state is in a good position to hold more events, which was one of VKA's goals of the year. The last state wide seminar held in Melbourne by a shogo* ranked instructor had been back in 2018. As Australia has no sensei with shogo rank to speak of its own, outside of the IKYF (International Kyudo Federation) seminars held overseas, domestic seminars with international guests are a way to gain access to higher level teachings and keep our Kyudo knowledge current.


Following a successful seminar with Gregory Stewart sensei hosted by Sydney Kyudo Kai (SKK) in New South Wales, Australia last year, VKA was keen to invite Gregory-sensei back to Australia for another seminar, and was very thankful of his acceptance willing to make the long trip down from Hokkaido again.


It was with great pleasure that VKA was able to host a state seminar with 35 attendees per day (38 individual members across both days), open to all members of the Australian Kyudo Association (AKA). This included 29 members from Victoria (12 from Melbourne Kyudo Kai (MKK), and 17 from Odoguma Kyudo Melbourne (OKM), 8 members from SKK, and 1 member from West Australian Kyudo Association (WAKA).


About the Instructor

Image © 2023 Eric Chau. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Eric Chau.


Originally from Australia and currently residing in Hokkaido, Japan since 2005, Gregory Stewart is a Renshi 6 Dan with 17 years of experience in Kyudo, and 15 years in Yabusame**. Living in a small city called Obihiro, there is a large public kyudojo as part of a larger sport and recreation park located in a forest called Obihiro no Mori in which he trains in.


Giving an insight into the Obihiro no Mori kyudojo as described by Gregory-sensei, it's noted that Hokkaido’s senior instructor, Masahiro Takada (Hanshi 8 Dan) and his wife Yasuko (Kyoshi 6 Dan) are the senior members of this dojo. A few years ago, when Takeshi Shibata (Hanshi 9 Dan) was the chairman of the ANKF (All Nippon Kyudo Federation), Takada-sensei was selected to be one of the vice-chairmen. During that busy time, he handed over his duties as kaicho of the Obihiro Kyudo Association to Takumi Matsushita (Kyoshi 6-dan), who remains in charge to this day. In addition to the several very experienced and knowledgeable instructors, there are also four Renshi 6 Dans, and seven Renshi 5 Dans.


This seminar was the 6th Kyudo seminar led by Gregory-sensei in Australia.



The Preparation

Image © 2023 Eric Chau. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Eric Chau.


As Victoria's membership base grew, we aim to elevate our events to a higher standard than before in order to accommodate the growing Kyudo scene, and of course, to be able to give all members a great time and conducive atmosphere for learning Kyudo.


The seminar was organised by VKA with volunteers from both MKK and OKM to form the core logistical team. We are grateful for all the members' assistance before, during and after the seminar to ensure the event was running smoothly. A number of venues were contacted and considered, and at one point one of the venues had a booking error and had to drop our booking. However, there was a silver lining and although it was not on the weekend that was originally preferred, Monash University at the Clayton campus came through with the ideal space.

Image © 2023 Calista Wu. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Calista Wu.


The Recreation Hall boasts a double basketball court at an impressive size of approx. 45mx36m, and was one of the largest venue Victoria had hired for a local seminar. Tables and chairs were provided by the venue, and dojo equipment from both MKK and OKM were utilised and shared for the state event. The space was comfortable and spacious that allowed attendees to spread out, with a balcony looking into the courts allowing for spectators and outside guests. The facility included change rooms with showers for attendees, and a handy cafe at the reception of Monash Sports centre. Due to the venue restrictions, we were not able to cater lunch for seminar attendees, but there were plenty of great lunch options available on campus that were open over the weekend.


Once the venue was confirmed, registration opened to any AKA members with over 6 months of Kyudo experience. The event was popular and all spots were taken within 3 weeks.



Day 1


Opening Ceremony

The seminar was opened by the main coordinator and VKA's secretary, Calista Wu, at 11am with a welcome to country and an introduction to the seminar guests, Gregory Stewart sensei and his assistant Hui-Ai Lee (4 Dan), who also used to be an AKA member based in Melbourne before her move to Obihiro a few years ago.

Image © 2023 Eric Chau. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Eric Chau.



Yawatashi Sharei 矢渡し射礼

The seminar opened with a Yawatashi sharei and was performed by Gregory Stewart as ite, with Miyuki Chiba (4 Dan) as dai ichi kaizoe and Kaoru Shimada (3 Dan) as dai ni kaizoe from MKK to open the seminar. Yawatashi is usually performed by the highest-ranking teachers or by the responsible person of the hosting organisation at the opening of each public Kyudo event such as grade (dan) tests, tournaments and seminars, dependent on the event. This ceremony is intended to ensure the well-being of the participants and the auspicious progress of the events.


The Yawatashi sharei is where the ite shoots solo with the assistance of two kaizoe. Dai ichi kaizoe remains behind the archer in readiness to assist the archer at all time, and dai ni kaizoe waits in sonkyo at the azuchi to the left of the mato to retrieve each arrow that the archer shoots. Once both arrows have been collected, dai ni kaizoe will meet back with dai ichi kaizoe and pass them the arrows to be returned to the archer. The sharei was beautifully done, and despite the lack of practice opportunities and time pressure, Miyuki and Kaoru came through and did a fantastic job as kaizoe. We thank them for their hard work in performing the sharei with Gregory-sensei.

Expand for full image. All images © 2023 Eric Chau. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Eric Chau.



Seminar Lecture, Taihai, Shooting Instruction and Free-shooting

After the Yawatashi opening, the attendees carried out a round of taihai in 7 groups of five, with the last group performing tasuki and hadanugi in kimono, observed by Gregory-sensei. Though in true Melbourne fashion, the attendees were starting to feel the cold and had to don on jackets while waiting for their turn. Unfortunately, the court's air conditioning was on full blast and was non-adjustable. Besides the arctic temperature, the atmosphere was focused with good cheer, and attendees were able to mingle with Kyudo members not from their own club and do some mitorigeiko. Gregory-sensei then gives feedback over lecture after the taihai, and covered some common areas of improvement and requested topics from attendees - tenouchi being the most popular topic requested.

Expand for full image. All images © 2023 Eric Chau. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Eric Chau.


After the lecture, the seminar took a lunch break. The Monash Sports centre was close to the food court area of the campus, with many food options available on the campus such as Guzman y Gomez and Paparich for some Mexican and Malaysian fare on site and open for business. After 1 hour, attendees filed back into the hall for the second half of the day. The seminar commenced back with individual shooting instruction from Gregory-sensei with the assistance of Hui-Ai. Attendees lined up to shoot 4 of the mato, with the last mato reserved for free-shooting.


The seminar concluded at 6pm. As the space was booked until the venue closes at 8.30pm, attendees were free to stay for some free-shooting to take advantage of the large space before re-joining the group for dinner.

Expand for full image. All images © 2023 Eric Chau. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Eric Chau.



Dinner

Dinner was partly subsidised by the VKA, held at the Notting Hill Hotel not far from Monash University for some good Aussie pub fare with an open bar from 7.30pm and concluded late close to midnight. There were 30-35 attendees enjoying the indoor courtyard space away from chill of the Melbournian winter. The vibe was cheerful (getting cheerier with each drink) and relaxed after a long day of hard work.


A surprise trivia session was hosted by Ian Khoo and Rina Kouch from OKM during dinner to test our knowledge from what was taught during the seminar, along with some other questions that only eagle-eyed members would get correct! Some contentious scores later, the winner was revealed to be Rachel Fisher from OKM, followed closely by a 3-way tie with teams Tim and Luke (OKM), Gregory and Hui-Ai, and Kris and Da (OKM).

Image © 2023 Calista Wu. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Calista Wu.


Test your knowledge here and give it a go yourself here!

(Disclaimer: For fun only! Quiz link valid until 10 November 2023)


Image (left) © 2023 Erell Delesvaux. Image (right) © 2023 Rina Kouch. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owners, Erell Delesvaux and Rina Kouch.



Day 2


Hitotsumato Sharei 一つ的射礼

Hitotsumato sharei was performed by Gregory Stewart, Hui-Ai Lee, and Rachel Fisher (3 Dan) from OKM as ite to open the second day of the seminar.


The Hitotsumato sharei is where several ite shoots at a single mato rotating in a triangle formation, most commonly performed with 3 ite. The sequence is such that once the first archer has shot, they would move back to honza position and kneel down to wait, meanwhile the second archer would stand up and move to the mato to shoot. Once the second archer has shot, the first and third archer would stand up at the same time, and as the third archer moves forward to the mato, the first archer would cut across diagonally to shai of the third archer where they were sitting, and the second archer would step backwards to kneel at the position where the first archer had just vacated.


It was not an easy sharei to perform, however you would be forgiven for thinking that as the group made it look effortless and beautiful to watch. Rachel did an incredible job as one of the ite in the sharei, and we thank her to be able to perform this together with Hui-Ai and Gregory-sensei.

Expand for full image. All images © 2023 Eric Chau. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Eric Chau.



Seminar Lecture, Taihai and Shooting Instruction

Similar to Day 1, the attendees carried out a round of taihai in 7 groups of five, with one of the groups performing tasuki and hadanugi in kimono. Now that there had been a day of observation by Gregory-sensei from the first day, the attendees received more feedback and instruction during the taihai. Once everyone had gone through a round of taihai practice, lecture on yatsugae no dosa and other feedback were delivered by Gregory-sensei. This was then followed with further individual shooting instruction from Gregory-sensei and Hui-Ai before the seminar took a lunch break.

Expand for full image. All images © 2023 Eric Chau. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Eric Chau.


After the break, the seminar commenced back with the attendees split into 2 groups. Half the group practiced taihai with Hui-Ai in detail, in particular focusing on the entry and exit to tighten up the form, and the other half with Gregory-sensei for further shooting instruction. Conscious of the time for our interstate friends that would need to catch a flight back home at the conclusion of the seminar, a brief break was called to take some group photos to commemorate the occasion. For the last section of the day, the groups were then swapped around for taihai practice and shooting instruction before the conclusion of the seminar.

Expand for full image. All images © 2023 Eric Chau. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Eric Chau.



Closing Ceremony

The seminar was closed by Calista Wu, at 5:15pm with special thanks to the volunteers (listed below), the seminar attendees, and to Gregory Stewart sensei and his assistant Hui-Ai Lee. It was especially appreciated that Hui-Ai essentially acted as another instructor when she was a guest, and was a big help and key player in supporting the seminar with her knowledge.

Expand for full image. All images © 2023 Eric Chau. All rights reserved and unless otherwise noted, may not be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Eric Chau.


Special Thanks

  • Seminar logistical team: Calista Wu, VKA Secretary (OKM); Rachel Fisher (OKM); Da Fang (OKM); Diego Leiva (MKK); James Kwok (MKK)

  • VKA Committee: Michael Maher, President (MKK); Daniel Berry, VP (MKK); Alfa Chang, Treasurer (OKM)

  • Thanks to our spectators turn volunteers in assisting with yatori when required: Rhiane, Leona and Matt

  • Photographer: Eric Chau. Massive thanks to Eric as he took over 2,000 photos and edited them all. The photos are then reviewed and curated by Calista to filter down the number of photos. Watch this space as a gallery of other photos that didn't make it into the post will be displayed for attendees to request copies of themselves for personal use only and not to be shared on other associations' accounts other than VKA. Images are otherwise not to be copied, downloaded, blogged, distributed, or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of owner, Eric Chau. For any enquiries, contact VKA via at vic.kyudo.assoc@gmail.com.

This was only a brief look into our seminar experience of 2023. We look forward to continue bringing great events in the future. For everything else, you just had to be there!



Footnotes

*There are three levels of Shogo: Hanshi (Master), Kyoshi (Teacher) and Renshi (Instructor). Shogo are granted on assessment to members who display proficiency resulting from their intensive study and training, and who have shown remarkable achievements in Kyudo. To hold Renshi, a minimum of 5 Dan is needed. To hold Kyoshi, Renshi is required, and similarly for Hanshi, Kyoshi is required.

Source: https://www.ikyf.org/rule.html


**Yabusame (流鏑馬) is a type of mounted archery on horseback in Japanese archery using Kyudo bow.


Encountered a Kyudo term you're not familiar with? Check out Sweden's Issha Kyudo Kai's comprehensive glossary of terms here.

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