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VIII. Things the archer should know.
Part 1 of 2

THERE are things which the archer should know and others which he should avoid.

An archer should learn the names of the fingers, the measured distances between their tips when outstretched, and the method of computation with them. The last is very important. Because of their ignorance of it, most writers have neglected it. Yet it is so important that it should be carefully considered and dealt with. It is based on arithmetic and reckoning[15].

The smallest finger of the human hand is called the little finger, the next smallest is the ring finger, the third is the middle finger, the fourth is the index finger, and the fifth is the thumb.

As to the measured distances between their tips when outstretched, we first note the span (shibr). It is the distance between the tip of the little finger and the tip of the thumb when they are outstretched. The next is the half span (fitr), which is the distance between the tip of the index finger and the tip of the thumb when outstretched.

 Arabic finger reckoning The Digits Click for a larger image Arabic finger reckoning The Tens Click for a larger image

The method of reckoning with the fingers is as follows:
The little finger, the ring finger, and the middle finger are reserved solely for the digits (āḥād), which are nine. These fingers are three and, therefore, cannot account for the digits except by varying their position. One is represented by bending the little finger firmly, so that its tip touches its base; two is represented by bending, in the same fashion, the ring finger as well; and three by bending, in the same manner, the middle finger also. Four is represented by leaving the middle finger and the ring finger in that position and straightening out the little finger; five by leaving the middle finger alone in that position and straightening out both the little finger and the ring finger; six by leaving the ring finger bent in the same position and straightening out the little finger and the middle finger on either side of it. Seven is represented by bending the proximal joint of the little finger chiefly, so as to place the tip of that finger upon the mount at the base of the thumb; eight by bending the ring finger along with it; and nine by bending the middle finger in the same way, along with both.

The index finger and the thumb are reserved solely for the tens, which are, like the digits, nine in number. These two fingers, therefore, cannot account for the tens except by varying their positions. Ten is represented by placing the tip of the index finger on the palmar surface of the distal phalanx of the thumb; twenty is represented by placing the thumb between the index finger and the middle finger, so that the central phalanx of the index finger lies on the nail of the thumb; thirty is represented by bringing together the palmar surface of the tip of the index finger and the palmar surface of the tip of the thumb; forty is represented by twisting the thumb so that the palmar surface of its tip rests on the back of the base of the index finger; fifty is represented by bending the thumb over to the palm of the hand nearest to the base of the index finger; sixty is represented by leaving the thumb in the position it takes when representing fifty and bending over it the index finger firmly so that the latter all but surrounds it; seventy is represented by placing the tip of the nail of the thumb on the palmar surface of the middle phalanx of the index finger and turning the tip of the latter over the side of the thumb; eighty is represented by placing the tip of the index finger over the nail of the thumb; ninety is represented by bending the index finger firmly so that its tip touches its base. To represent a hundred the fingers are spread out and apart.

We shall see later how the knowledge of these various positions of the fingers is necessary in grasping the handle of the bow, drawing the string, and taking up the arrow.