Kyudo means the Way of the Bow, and it is said to be ‘synonymous with the pursuit of truth, goodness and beauty.’ Our friend Claude has gained the title of Kyoshi or teacher of Kyudo in Japan, and although we know nothing about this martial art, we go to Port Royal to see the students competing. He’s the President of the Kyudo association here, and has organised this event. He thinks it will be boring for us.

In a big Parisian sports hall, yellow blinds drawn, the Tannoy announcements have a repeat echo that make them even more incomprehensible to us. The floor is patterned with coloured geometry (I don’t go to sports halls very often, you can tell), and the students walk out in white shirts and long black divided skirts. I say walk, but they slide really, in a sort of slow march, on their white divided socks.

Hands on hips, their arrows out at an angle, they walk to position, kneel, bow to the target, and put their arrows on the floor. Standing in a line they put two arrows up to the bow, in opposite directions, and notch the one they will shoot. Looking at the target, the archer raises the bow over his or her head, slowly brings it down, and the bow bends into a beautiful curve, and after a few seconds the arrow is released and the bow spins in the archer’s hand. And of course there’s the thwack of the arrow hitting the target (or clatter if not). It’s totally mesmerising.

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