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Home > Books > Arab Archery > XIV. On picking up the bow and arrow preparatory to shooting and the manner of shooting
XIV. On picking up the bow and arrow preparatory to shooting and the manner of shooting

A Bow is either strung or unstrung. If it is strung and lying on the ground, you should seize the grip with your left hand, placing the string along the back of your left arm and the belly of the bow toward you. You should then pick the arrow up gently with the thumb, index finger, and middle finger of your right hand, just as a scribe takes a pen, while the small and ring fingers remain folded against the palm. This is the manner advocated by the school of abu-Hāshim. You may also pick the arrow up with the five fingers of the right hand, just as the horseman picks up a spear. This is the fashion advocated by the school of Ṭāhir al-Balkhi. Or, if you so desire, you may pick it up with the index finger and the middle finger at a point one span away from its arrowhead; just as a bird picks up a piece of straw with its beak for the building of its nest. This is the method preferred by the school of Isḥāq al-Raqqi.

Then you revolve the grip in your palm-thereby transferring the string to a position along the front part of the arm-and release the thumb, index, and middle fingers off the grip so that it is held by the small and ring fingers. This is the method advocated by the schools of abu-Hāshim and Isḥāq. You then bring the right hand with the arrow near to the left that holds the grip and place the shaft of the arrow between the thumb, index finger, and middle finger of the left hand at a point the measure of a fist from its head. This is the method followed by the school of Isḥāq.

You may also leave your three fingers grasping the grip without releasing them therefrom. When you bring your hands near to each other at the grip you may open the same three fingers in a way which resembles the opening of the blades of shears. The bringing of both hands together and the opening of the fingers should be done simultaneously.

You then place the arrow between the three open fingers at a point one span from its head, locking them thereon with thirty-eight, and run the other hand on the remaining part of the stele. This is the method of the school of Ṭāir.

This running of the hand along the stele is done to insure freedom from shavings or strewn feathers and the like. When you have run your hand on the stele down to the nock, hold your index finger and thumb very firmly on either side of the nock, with the slot resting against the first phalanx of your middle finger close to the finger tip. This is the method advised by the school of abu-Hāshim. You may also hold to either side of the nock with the middle phalanx of your index finger, the fore part of the thumb, and the tip of the middle finger. This is the method of the school of Ṭāhir. Or, you may hold the nock with the index finger and the thumb, placing the slot of the nock between the first two phalanges of the middle finger. This is the method of the school of Isḥāq.

You then give the arrow a hard and quick shove while the stele is against the string until it is clear past the string, which will hit the base of your thumb and index finger. Thereupon, you will bring the arrow back to the string and nock it. This is the method of abu-Hāshim. You may also give the arrow a hard and quick shove while the stele is against the string without going clear past the string, but, as soon as the nock reaches the string, you open your fingers and nock it. This is the method of Ṭāhir and Isḥāq. Ṭāhir used to hear a sound from the bow and arrow at the time of nocking[19].

Throughout the operation you should not watch the nocking nor any of the details that lead to it. Rather keep your eyes upon the target. This is the method of all three schools. Furthermore, the whole operation should be carried out before you, opposite your chest, or, according to others, opposite your navel.

If, on the other hand, the bow were unstrung while lying on the ground, then you should hold it in the manner we have already described under bracing, brace it, and continue the operation described above in the first method.

There are some who, while standing, would hold the tip of the upper siyah with the left hand, place the lower siyah on the ground as though it were a cane, and then bend over, pick the arrow up and revolve it between the index finger and the middle finger of the right hand, and toss the bow gracefully upward into the left hand (all these operations taking place simultaneously), catch it at the grip by the same left hand with which the bow was tossed upward, strike the arrow against the inner part of the grip (others strike it first against the inner part and then against the outer part), all after revolving the arrow between the two fingers, and then continue the operation described under the first method, such as bringing the hands together by the grip, and so on, until the arrow is nocked.

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