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Yumi: The Japanese Long-Bow
Part 8 of 9

The manner of pulling the bow, well shown by the spirited sketches by our artist, appears, when first witnessed, to be attended by a superfluous amount of posing, so extremely picturesque are the movements; yet they carry with them a conviction of skill and power. After a little practice one finds each and every motion has its use, from the time the arrow is notched until it strikes the target.

In the first position, that of notching the arrow, the feet are braced well apart, the body bent forward to relax the muscles, and the point of the arrow is inclined towards the ground. The bowman then, with great deliberation, raises the bow to the second position of aiming, both hands high over the head, fixing his eyes intently upon the target. The bow is then slowly lowered to the final position. The instant this is reached the string is released, the arrow flies through the air, and the bow spins around in his hand until the string strikes against the back of his bow-arm. This trick of allowing the bow to whirl in the hand gives a most graceful finish to the whole operation. The string is held in place by the two first fingers pulled by the thumb, which in turn is that grasp the end of the thumb; they, like the thumb, are gloved. This method of holding the string admits of as strong a pull as the old English method of using the fingers, and gives a quicker release. The notch of the arrow is pulled to the ear, a natural result of lowering the bow from overhead—a system that also brings into play the muscles of the shoulder and the back, for the bow-arm is all the while fully extended and rigid.

The ancient Persians, as shown by the sculptures at Persepolis, like the English and the Japanese, drew the notch to the ear. The manner of loosing the string peculiar to the Japanese, as just described, has many arguments in its favor as against the more universal method known as the "Mediterranean loose," where the thumb plays no part in the release.

The old Greek method of holding the arrow with thumb and finger and pulling to the breast was incapable of accomplishing the feats performed by Japanese warriors, and moreover had the disadvantage of rendering the fabled Amazons at best but left-handed beauties.