The short answer to this questions is: it can cost quite a lot.
The equipment is expensive and most of it is only sold in Japan, the shipping of the bows is exorbitant, and most people have to travel a lot to receive quality instruction in kyudo. All of these costs add up quickly.
We do what we can to keep costs reasonable, especially for those new to kyudo. But there are many things to purchase and many supplies that need to be replaced regularly. And our members may wonder why we are asking for registrations or membership renewals many times throughout the year. This post will hopefully clarify all of the costs for everything we do here at the MNKR. This post is public to give anyone interested in trying kyudo an idea of what the financial burden might be when they get involved.
Location, Location, Location
Practice locations are hard to get and are usually very, very expensive. Even when we can secure a location that has no problem with the fact that we shoot projectile weapons, we have to find a way to afford it. In Minnesota, we’ve been able to strike a deal with two different community education offices. That deal is that they get to offer something pretty interesting and unique in their catalog, and in exchange we do not have to pay them gym rental fees. So when each of the community education offices start a new ‘session’, we have to ask our students to register for the class location they intend on joining. Most of the money collected from our student registrations by the community education offices stays with that office and functions as the reimbursement the get for letting us use their space. Specifically, all of the money for the Northfield location is kept by the Northfield Community Education office. We never see any of that money for the MNKR organization. For St. Louis Park, that registration money goes to the SLP Community Ed office from which they send us reimbursement for the gas we use to drive 45 miles each way to that location. In both cases, John or I do not receive money for providing instruction.
In order to use a public location, we also need to provide the school districts with proof that our organization has liability insurance. We have researched insurance policies a few times over the past few years and each time we come to the conclusion that getting insurance through USA Archery is the most economical way to go for us.
Tools for the Job
We know that it’s unreasonable to expect someone new to lay down the cash for a full set of equipment and uniform right out of the gate. I think that most others who offer kyudo instruction agree that a sure fire way to discourage new people from joining the kyudo community would be to expect them to purchase their own equipment just to try it out!
So when you start learning kyudo here and in many other places, you have access to borrow equipment for as long as you need to do so. At the MNKR, we have a selection of gloves, arrows and bows that fit most of the people who come to try kyudo out. We let borrow it as long as you need to, with the understanding that you may have to share equipment with others if the size or strength of bow you use is needed by others. When you come to the point where you are ready to start spending money on your own equipment, we are happy to advise you on what to purchase so that you can get your own set a little bit at a time.
There are some things that we will purchase in bulk and then sell off to our members as they need them. These include the Kyudo Manual in English and gomu-yumi, and sometimes strings or nigirikawa.
But Wait! There’s More!!
In addition to the stuff we shoot with, we need stuff to shoot at. So there are costs for the targets, target forms, the cardboard, ethafoam, arrow-stopping net and floor covering. Dojo arrows get damaged and need to be replaced with some regularity. The grips on bows wear out and need to be replaced, etc, etc. Some get replaced more regularly than others, but all of them have had to have been purchased at some point. In our case, the costs for all of these things come out of the general MNKR budget.
We also participate in a few festivals each year to demonstrate kyudo to the greater audiences. We don’t often get a lot of new members from these demonstrations, but if we do we consider that a perk. We participate in these events to just let people see kyudo once and learn just a little bit about it. So we always meet our goals there. But participating in these events also costs money at least some of the time. Those costs also come out of the MNKR operating budget.
To Sum Up
To make it clear, here’s how our costs break down for the MNKR. It may be different for other organizations, you would want to inquire with them if you want to know how their organization financials.
- Northfield location Class Registration – $29 paid 3x a year – pays for rental of full sized gymnasium
- St. Louis Park location Class Registration – $5 per class paid 3 x a year – pays for gym rental and gas money
- MNKR Annual Membership – $35 for first year, $50 thereafter paid 1 x per year
- $10 American Kyudo Renmei membership included
- $10 International Kyudo Federation membership included
- $15 USA Archery membership included
- Remaining $15 goes to the MNKR general operating budget
So far, the MNKR has managed to operate mostly within the limits of the budget provided by our membership. We’ve been lucky to receive some very generous donations in the past and we now have a larger membership (34 people!) to help support the operating costs.
So, the long answer to the question is also: it takes quite a bit of money to do kyudo! And not all organizations can immediately provide loaner equipment or scholarships for those who can’t afford to participate. But I think that most of us do the best we can. And here in Minnesota, we will do whatever we can to help someone who truly wants to learn kyudo even if they can’t quite afford it all.