Kyudo is Japanese archery. It is literally the "way of the bow", a martial art of great skill and devoted practice. Whenever archery began in Japan is, for certain, unknown. No historical records exist in the time that archery must have been going on. In fact, molded metal images depicting a Japanese use of an asymmetrical bow date as early as 330bc. A Chinese document, written in the third century, tells of the people in Japan using a bow that was short on the bottom and long on the top. It was this time frame when the bow was used in war as well as for hunting.
As the samurai, or military class, took over power at the end of the eleventh century, the need for archery training grew by leaps and bounds. The first archery schools were founded, including mounted archery for use of the martial art on horseback. By the time the 15th century rolled around, footman archery revolutionized the military skill. By the middle of the 16th century, the use of the bow in war ended. Even though the bow was typically faster, more accurate, and farther reaching than other projectile weapons, the learning curve was extremely steep. In fact, an entire samurai archery group was wiped out in one battle by a bunch of farmers.
Kyudo is practiced mostly as sport, but the ideas of ethical and spiritual development guide the practice. Marksmanship is the sought after state, but most competitors are looking to have the most correct form: an expansion that gives a natural release. When the technique is perfect, the arrow will hit the target dead on without fail. It's not simply about emptying the mind and uniting the spirit with the shot, it's also about competitive examination of one's skill amidst difficult situations that can bring about Zen.