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Home > Books > Arab Archery > XIX. On aiming, which is the same as pointing at the target
XIX. On aiming, which is the same as pointing at the target
Part 2 of 2

According to the testimony of al-Ṭabari, the first variation is the method of Isḥāq al-Raqqi, while the second is not far removed from it.

A person desiring to practice his aim should obtain a [lighted] lantern, place it at a distance, pick up a weak and flexible bow, and take his position for shooting. If his method be to face the target obliquely, let him take his position obliquely; if his method be to face the target directly while seated with his legs crossed, let him so take his place and sit; and if his method be to face the target halfway between the oblique and frontal positions, let him so arrange himself. Then let him align the arrowhead with the flame and focus his sight upon it with whichever he desires of the methods and their different variations that are described above-closing one eye and opening the other or opening them both-and, drawing the limit of the arrow, continue so to practice until he arrives at the choice of method which is most attractive and best suited to himself.

There are two schools of thought upon focusing the sight upon the target. One insists on doing so at the very beginning, and on continuing to maintain and adjust it throughout the draw until the moment of release. The second ignores focusing the sight at the beginning, but takes it up sometime during the draw or toward its end.

The first is the method of those who face the target directly and has two variations. The first consists of aligning the arrowhead with the target, focusing the sight thereon, adjusting the left arm and the right elbow so that they may be straight and level with each other, and drawing steadily without haste or languor until the full length of the arrow is reached; then release.

The second consists of deferring the focusing of the sight upon the target until half or two thirds of the arrow has been drawn, whereupon the sight is focused and the arrow is given a sudden jerk backward until its entire length is drawn. It is then released. This is the better and more accurate of the two variations, both of which are used by those who face the target directly.

The second method is used by those who face the target obliquely, and it also has two variations. The first consists of ignoring the aim until all but the width of one fist in the length of the arrow has been drawn, when the archer pauses for a count of one, gives the arrow a sudden jerk backward—thereby completing the draw—and then releases.

This method is very good for warfare because the bow may be concealed from the enemy while most of the draw is being made. When a point the width of a fist from the arrowhead is reached, the arrow is turned toward the enemy, given a sudden jerk backward to complete the draw, and finally released.

The second variation consists of aiming, first and then drawing up to the width of a fist from the arrowhead, when the aim is taken again and is followed by a sudden jerk backward to complete the draw. The arrow is then released. This is indeed the best method and is suitable for all purposes.

In describing how to aim at the target, archers have followed two different schools of thought:
One advocates the oblique position, which consists of looking at the target with the left eye in relation to the knuckles of the left hand. In the case of a short range the archer should look at the target from above the third knuckle of the index finger of his left hand. If the arrow then falls short because of the lightness of the bow or the heaviness of the arrow or the weakness of the archer himself, he should raise the third knuckle of his index finger into alignment with the target- If the range be long and the bow strong, he should aim at the target in the same manner as prescribed for the short range. If the arrow then falls short because of its weight or because of the weakness of the archer or because of the long range, he should align the third knuckle of his index finger with the target- If the arrow should again fall short, he should raise his left hand a little and look at the target from between the two knuckles at the base of the index finger and middle finger. If the arrow once more falls short, he should raise his left hand a little more and look at the target from the point bisecting the knuckle at the base of his middle finger. If the arrow should again fall short, let him look at the target from between the two knuckles at the base of his middle finger and ring finger- If the arrow should still fall short, he should raise his left hand a little more and look at the target from between the two knuckles at the base of the ring finger and the little finger. If the arrow should even yet fall short, he should raise his left hand further and look at the target from his forearm. If the arrow should exceed the mark, he should bring his left hand downward little by little, just as we have described in the case of raising it.

It has also been said that the archer may fix his aim by means of the fingers of his left hand by pointing the arrowhead at the center of the target. If the arrow should then fall short, he should raise his hand and align the index finger with the top of the target. If the arrow should again fall short, he should align the middle finger with the top of the target. If the arrow should still fall short, he should align the ring finger with the top of the target. If the arrow should again fall short, let him align the little finger with the top of the target. Finally, if the arrow should even yet fall short, he should align his forearm with the top of the target. If the arrow should exceed the mark, he must bring his left hand downward little by little, just as we have described in the case of raising it.

The second school of aiming advocates directly facing the target. In this method the archer places the last knuckle of the thumb of the left hand on a level with the left elbow when he stretches out his left arm for aiming- He then depends upon his wrist to adjust the excess or deficiency of the cast of the arrow, as well as upon holding the lower siyah of the bow out or in. Thus, if the arrow should fall short, he must bring the lower siyah out to the left and push with his wrist enough to insure sending the arrow close to the mark[23]. If, however, the arrow should fly beyond the mark, he must bring the lower siyah in to his side. This method is common to those who aim from the inside of the bow and to those who aim from the outside.

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