In my early twenties, I discovered a book titled Zen in the Art of
Archery . It was written by a German academic, called Eugen Herrigel,
who had studied the Japanese art of ky?d? (ritualised Shint? archery)
between the years 1924 and 1929.
This exotic Zen-flavoured feat had been accomplished as a result of
the opportunities Herrigel had enjoyed whilst teaching philosophy at
Tohoku Imperial University, in Sendai, Japan.
His interest in Zen mysticism had been kindled much earlier than that,
however – during his time studying theology in Germany. And so, in
order to pursue further insights into Zen culture, Herrigel had decided to
live in Japan.
Upon arriving in Sendai, he had discussed his deeper intentions with
a local acquaintance he had made there, and was subsequently advised
to take up a traditional Japanese Zen art – in order to approach Zen in a
more practical way.
Soon afterwards, Herrigel discovered an eccentric ky?d? teacher and
mystic, called Awa Kenzo, and began studying under him as a disciple –
at the age of forty-one years old.
Around nineteen years later, in 1948, Zen in the Art of Archery was
published in Europe – as a formal account of the German professor’s
experience when learning the ‘Zen’ of ky?d? for a few years in Japan.
The book became an instant classic in the West – especially as a
gateway of sorts for lay readers to gain a glimpse of the Japanese Zen