VII. On the principles of loosing and the different schools therein
ABU-HĀSHIM AL-MĀWARDI said that the principles of shooting were four: the grasp (qabḍah), the clench (qaflah), the aim (i‘timad), and the loose (iflāt).
On the other hand, Ṭāhir al-Balkhi maintained that the principles of shooting were five: the grasp, the clench, the aim, the nocking (tafwīq), and the loose.
Isḥāq al-Ragqi said that they were ten: standing opposite the target obliquely so that it is in line with the left eye, bracing, nocking, clenching, grasping, aiming, drawing upon the mouth, bringing the arrowhead to a stop between the two knuckles of the left thumb, loosing, and opening the hand.
Abu-Ja‘far Muhammad ibn-al-Ḥasan al-Harawi [son of Hasan who came from Herat in Afghanistan] maintained that the principles of shooting were seven: bracing, nocking, clenching, grasping, drawing, aiming, and loosing. Some have said that the principles were four: the grasp, the draw with sixty-three [see section VIII], the aim, and the loose.
Next to the principles are the so-called branches, which comprise knowledge of nine things: of drawing evenly and steadily, of the capacity of the bow, of the capacity of the string, of the capacity of the nock of the arrow on the string, of the capacity of the arrow, of the cast of the bow, of the ability to shoot while fully armed, of accurate marksmanship, and of inflicting damage therewith.
Besides these principles and branches, an archer needs two traits: caution and patience. The principles are those without which there can be no shooting; the branches are extremely helpful.
The best school of shooting is that of Isḥāq al-Ragqi, since without standing opposite the target and aiming at it, shooting would be useless; while bracing, nocking, grasping, and loosing are indispensable and the absence of any one of them would prevent shooting. Absence of opening, or unclenching, the hand after loosing, however, would not prevent shooting but would gravely interfere with it.
Drawing upon the mouth and bringing the head of the drawn arrow to rest between the two knuckles of the left thumb, as well as releasing, or unclenching, the hand, are important but not indispensable. Their absence will not prevent shooting. The least important of these principles are the drawing upon the mouth and bringing the arrowhead to a stop between the two knuckles of the left thumb. On the other hand, the clenching and unclenching of the hand are very important since shooting will be greatly affected if they are not just right.
Shooting rests upon four pillars: speed, strength, accuracy, and care in self-defense. Without these four pillars the archer may perish. If he lacks speed and is slow in shooting, his adversary will destroy him before he can do anything. For this reason some archers were in the habit of making for their arrows two nocks, one crossing the other. This enabled them to insure speed in nocking and shooting.
Again, unless the archer's arrows are strong and penetrating, the adversary will divert them with his shield. Similarly, if he lacks accuracy in his marksmanship, his adversary will hold him in contempt and will easily overcome him. Finally, unless he can defend himself well, his adversary will fell him. These four things are as indispensable to the archer as are the following four to shooting: an archer, a bow, a string, and an arrow.