The Ikigai of Archery

Ikigai is a Japanese word which is a composite of iki (to live) and gai (reason) so it translates as a reason to live. It is more complicated that that but I like the application of the word as “what gets you out of bed in the morning.” Wikipedia describes it as “The word refers to having a direction or purpose in life, that which makes one’s life worthwhile, and towards which an individual takes spontaneous and willing actions giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.”

To apply this to recreational target archery is a bit too puffery if that is a word, but I had a memory that popped up as I was contemplating this. There was a young man who was in my high school at the same time as I was, Charles Johnson. He was three years behind me and although we both played the same sport, basketball, he was a tad better at it that I. He ended up in the NBA as a member of the Golden State Warriors, back in the Rick Barry era, and won a NBA Championship in his tenure. I remember talking to him on the street and he broke off the conversation with a somewhat world-weary “I gotta go to work” not “I have to go to practice, but I have to go to work.”

My first reaction after waving goodbye was to think “Boy, if I got to play professional basketball, I would hop, skip, and jump my way to practice.” In all honesty, it was late in the season and the season is a grind of one-night stands on the road and I understood how he felt

But let’s get back to archers. If you work for a living, you probably only get in a good practice on weekends. Do you wake up in the morning of a practice day feeling “Oh, I can’t wait to get to the range” or do you feel “. . . <groan> another practice day. . . .” Which attitude is more likely to result in a good day of practice and good feelings from it?

Sometimes we groan all the way to the range but when we get out into the sunshine and experience the power of our bow’s and the success of our shots, we look back and wonder why we were bemoaning “having to practice.”

I am coming to the position that our attitudes are trainable, certainly they are affected by the others around us. (Which is why our mothers bemoaned us “keeping bad company.”) So, what ways can you think of it helping your archers boost their ikigai, have them jumping out of bed, eager on major practice days?


Filed under For All Coaches

6 responses to “The Ikigai of Archery

  1. A well-crafted practice includes a short review of the last practice work or coaching session; objectives for the current practice; and will include a variety of activities such as drills, scored rounds, fun-shoot type or holiday themed targets, varied tempos of shooting; evaluation of progress; and sometimes a shorter or longer length of practice as is appropriate. Meeting the archer’s needs is the key. Of course, if the archer is aspiring to be an elite professional or national-level shooter, the practices will need to include the elements to support that endeavor and still motivate the archer.


  2. There are definitely days when I am excited to get to the archery range and days when I have to go to work and would rather stay home if I had the choice. I find the quality of sleep I got the night before is a factor.

    Same thing goes with my students. I can tell when based upon their focus and the quality of their shooting whether they have slept well the night before – or worse, if they’re hungover, distracted by something, stressed or upset, hungry, etc.

    This past year I even had a student imply that he was suicidal, but what was interesting in his case is I think archery was giving him a literal reason to live. A new focus while he got his life turned around after some bad events in his personal life.

    So in his case I think Ikigai is an excellent word, and an apt word. Certainly not puffery. (Which is not a word according to spellcheck, but whatever.) If archery can be the crutch that helps people to walk again – to strive and find purpose again – then so be it.

    For my students who are curious about the more spiritual sides of archery I usually recommend two books:

    1. Zen Bow, Zen Arrow
    2. The Unfettered Mind

    The 2nd book isn’t actually about archery. It is about Zen Buddhism and swordsmanship, but also about being a good person who learns to manage their thoughts and emotions. So while it is primarily about swordsmanship, the principles described in the book also apply to archery.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think there are substantial mental benefits from shooting arrows. It is a closed feedback loop in which, to be “successful” you must relax and clear your mind under the tension of the drawn bow. All of which serve to dispel any mental demons we may be harboring.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is the joy of being able to get out and do it. I am working from home now, so ‘going to work’ has a different idea now than what it used to. Motivating from a place of familiarity is challenging. I guess the real thing would be finding out what makes the archer tick. Is it making “the perfect shot”? Is it shooting better than a particular team mate or rival? Finding out what drives them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.