Kyūjutsu(弓術?) ("art of archery"), is the traditionalJapanese martial art of wielding a bow (yumi) as practiced by the samurai class of feudal Japan. Although the samurai are perhaps best known for their swordsmanship with a katana (kenjutsu), kyūjutsu was actually considered a more vital skill for a significant portion of Japanese history. During the majority of the Kamakura period through the Muromachi period (c.1185–c.1568), the bow was almost exclusively the symbol of the professional warrior, and way of life of the warrior was referred to as "the way of the horse and bow" (弓馬の道,kyūba no michi?).
One of the earliest formal schools of kyūjutsu, teaching a scientific approach to shooting the bow, was the Ogasawara-ryū, founded in the 14th century. In particular, the practice of shooting a bow while riding a horse at full gallop (yabusame) was developed and trained extensively.
The bow (yumi) itself was fairly unusual in its asymmetrical shape and extremely large size; a little under six feet to just over seven feet long and gripped only one third up from the bottom. At the height of their use, bows were made from a combination of wood and bamboo, and many different arrowheads were created for different applications. Training involved the shooting of 1,000 arrows per day, and the techniques developed for their use were ritualized with systematic focus on the various stages of shooting and the mental attitude required for each. Additionally, many specialized tactics were developed for regiments of bowmen.
In 1543 the matchlock rifle was introduced to Japan, soon Japan began to manufacture their own version (tanegashima) and the emphasis upon the skill of kyūjutsu gradually began to decline as the tanegashima and yari (spear) became the main weapons of war. Kyūjutsu was eventually developed into the modern "way of the bow" (弓道,kyūdō?), still practiced today.