GUEST BLOG BY SUE LYTOLLIS
The first public Kyudojo in New Zealand opened on 27 September at the Hutt Minoh Friendship House Spring Festival. It is managed by the Wellington Kyudo Club.
New Zealand now has an official 28m Kyudo shooting range complete with wooden shooting platform and a tidy wooden path to reach spent arrows. The Hutt Minoh Kyudojo now has 10 members with ages ranging from 10 to over 60.
"We enjoy the beautiful surroundings of our dojo, a place to rest our minds and practice the beauty of Kyudo in New Zealand," says Ms Okazaki.
Celebrating this historic event were founder Satsuki Okazaki from Kyoto, nidan having learnt Kyudo for 17 years. In 2003 Satsuki came to New Zealand and started Kyudo practice at the Randwick Archery club. In August 2004 Satsuki was asked to perform Kyudo at a Budo event hosted by the Hutt Minoh Friendship house and this began a strong relationship with this house and it's beautiful grounds. Soon the club had moved to the grounds of this Friendship house and members of the club were growing.
Ms Okazaki recalled the Japanese Ambassador to New Zealand, His excellency Mr Saito seeing a demonstration the club gave at an event in Hutt city in 2005. "He sent our club a letter of congratulations and gave us a bottle of Sake, it meant a lot," says Ms Okazaki. She said in the early days, the Japan Information and Cultural Centre provided a great deal of support to her club, too.
The club may not have been formed without the persistent requests from Ms Okazaki's first student. He was an American man called Olatunji who had dreamed of doing Kyudo since he was much younger and had seen a Kyudojo in America. Mr Olatunji moved to NZ and while taking Archery at the Randwick Club saw Ms Okazaki doing Kyudo. "Ola san saw me at the Randwick club and kept asking me to teach him, but as a typical Japanese bushi (martial artist) with only nidan (second level black belt grade) I kept refusing," says Ms Okazaki. "Then he asked me to buy him a bow and his equipment. When it arrived he then said, well now I have it, please teach me how to use it!"
Mr Olatunji, who is currently the Director of the NZ Acupuncture School has also grown in his study of Kyudo to reach 4th dan black belt, now he is the highest graded Kydosha (practitioner of Kyudo) in Wellington and the President of this Dojo.
From these humble beginnings and the support of other kiwi Martial Artists who encouraged Ms Okazaki to teach local people what she knew, this Kyudo club has blossomed. So it was serindipidous that it was under the blossoms of the beautiful Spring festival that this historic event took place.
Post Scriptum: The Hutt Minoh House Friendship Trust has supported the establishment of this dojo through a grant to the Wellington Kyudo Club who have constructed it (with input from Hutt City Council) and continue to manage it.