XLI. On sundry points not yet mentioned concerning the competition bow, the description of its arrow, and the manner of its use, together with some of the tricks employed in competitions
Part 2 of 2
Some archers strike or pound with the right foot on the ground at the moment of release, while others do the same with the left, and still others do nothing of the sort. Indeed, everyone does what he has been accustomed to do. Some archer declared that in his opinion he whose left hand is stronger than his right should pound the ground with his right foot at the moment of release, while he whose right hand is stronger than the left should pound the ground with his left foot; and he whose hands are of equal strength should avoid pounding the ground with either foot. Furthermore, when one hand is stronger than the other, shooting is spoiled.
The best season for competitive shooting is autumn, the best region is the one least humid and damp, and the best time is at the two ends of the day: the early morning and the early evening, unless there be excessive dew or rain, in which case the middle of the day and the end thereof are best.
The best wind is in the north when it is not strong. You should shoot with the wind and not against it. Likewise, never shoot on days which are stormy, or excessively humid, or excessively windy, or extremely hot, because all of these conditions militate against the strength of the bow and decrease its range. Therefore, shoot under favorable climatic conditions and at the two ends of the day.
When two archers compete, using the same bow and the same arrow, the better archer wins. When they are equally skillful, the stronger archer wins. When they are of equal skill and strength, the one who shoots first wins, because the bow is always stiffer and stronger when first braced. It is, therefore, necessary that they shoot with two arrows each. The first archer shoots his first arrow and hands the bow over to the second archer who will, likewise, shoot his first arrow. Thereupon the bow is unbraced and left unstrung for about an hour until it regains its original strength and stiffness. Then it is braced and the second archer shoots his second arrow and hands the bow over to the first archer, who will then shoot his second arrow.
If they have only one arrow, the first archer begins, and, having shot the arrow, unbraces the bow and leaves it unstrung for a while until it regains its normal limit in stiffness and strength. He then should brace it again and shoot for the second time. The same should be done by the other competing archer.
Know, too, that the archer who uses an iron, or copper, or silver, or gold thumb-tip will, all else being equal, outshoot the one who uses a leather thumb-tip. The one who uses a tight thumb-tip will outdo the other who uses too wide a tip. Likewise, he whose string has narrow and small eyes will outshoot the one whose string has large and wide eyes, since the wideness of the eyes of the string weakens the driving force of the bow. Such eyes, therefore, should be avoided. The author of the Waṣf Ajnās al-Silāḥ (Description of the Different Kinds of Weapons) maintained that wide eyes offer a greater driving force; but this is, indeed, not true and has been discussed in the section on strings. Similarly, the archer who uses a new string outdoes him who employs an old one or uses a string made of goat skin, because among the properties of goat skin are its softness and sogginess, both of which weaken the driving force of the bow. Finally, the archer who uses a string of good and finished workmanship outshoots him who employs one of faulty and crude manufacture; and he who employs a thin string outdoes him who uses a thick one.
Here follow some tricks not infrequently resorted to by competitors:
When one of two competitors secretly undoes the twist of the string at a certain point, wets it with saliva, and offers it to his opponent to shoot but then, on regaining it to shoot in his turn, unbraces the bow and restores the twist as well as dries the string by rubbing it with his sleeve and, after bracing the restored string, shoots, he will beat his opponent.
If the feathers of the arrow are broad and, after one of the competitors has shot, the other trims the feathers a little and shoots in his turn, he will win.
If one of the competitors should wet one of the side feathers of the arrow, and hand it over to his opponent to shoot, and later, when his own turn comes, dry the wet feather with his sleeve and expose it to the wind to stiffen a bit, and then shoot it, he would win.
If two competitors have agreed to shoot the same arrow, and the one who gets hold of it first should—with an awl prepared for the purpose—bore a hole at the midpoint of the base of the nock where the string rests, and then should shoot, he would win. If he should shoot first with such an arrow and, just before handing it over to his competitor should stop the hole with wax, he would win.
All these tricks give an advantage to the archer who is aware of them and employs them secretly in his competitions, especially when his opponent is unfamiliar with them. But they are all despised except in wagers where the competitors have to use the same bow and the same arrow. Even in wagers they are considered unlawful since they are nothing but cheating. The only reason for enumerating them is to warn the unsuspecting and ignorant of their existence so that they may be on the lookout for them.