The Archery Library
Old Archery Books, Articles and Prints
Home > Books > Arab Archery > XVI. On how to hold the grip of the bow with the left hand
XVI. On how to hold the grip of the bow with the left hand

EXPERT archers have disagreed on the exact manner of holding the grip of the bow with the left hand. Abu-Hāshim was wont to hold the grip with acute obliqueness, placing it between the groove formed by the proximal joints of the four fingers of his left hand and that formed by the middle joints of the same, while the upper end of the grip touched the base of his left thumb close to the proximal phalanx, and the lower end lay at a point the width of one and a half to two fingers away from his wrist. He then pressed the hypothenar eminence against the grip, tightening the little finger as hard as possible, the ring finger a little less, the middle finger a little less than the ring finger, and the index finger still a little less than the middle finger, while the thumb remained loose either it front of the grip or behind it. This method was followed by the Persians, particularly by archers like Shāpūr dhu’l-Aktāf, Bahrām Gur [both of whom were kings of Persia], and others besides.

Ṭāhir used to hold the grip with his entire palm, pressing against it with both the thenar and hypothenar eminences. In fact, he was wont to place the grip in the joins at the base of the four fingers of his left hand and grasp it gently with his five fingers after pushing the flesh at the base of his fingers toward the center of his palm, resting the upper end of the grip between the two phalanges of hi, thumb, and the lower end in the groove between the two eminences. He would then tighten his grasp until his finger tips all but bled, and press hard with his wrist against the grip.

Isḥāhaq was in the habit of striking a happy medium between the two methods. He placed the grip in the joint of the second phalanges of his left hand while laying its upper end against the proximal phalanx of his thumb and its lower in the palm a finger's breadth from the wrist bone. Then he tightened the three fingers—middle, ring and little—of the left hand very hard but allowed the index finger to remain loose either in front of the grip o: behind it. The arrangement of the fingers would then be a thirty, which is the best method of holding the grip.

An archer who follows the method of holding the grip straight should tighten all his fingers except the thumb as we have already described, and should press against it with the whole base of his hand. This method is best for shooting at near targets, making trick shots, and for practicing with a very strong bow. He who uses this method, however, cannot avoid having the string hit against his forearm. This militates against the utility of the method.

An archer who holds the grip obliquely should tighten his fingers in the order which we have already described and should press against it with the hypothenar eminence. This method is best for shooting at high objects, such as walls or fortifications- It is also stronger than the former, though less accurate.

An archer who follows the middle course will neither hold the grip with his entire hand nor hold it therein obliquely. It is, as we have already stated, the best method.

Summing up, the method of holding the grip straight is that of the Arabs, while that of holding it obliquely is that of the Persians. The basis of the difference is their disagreement concerning facing the target- Those who face the target sideways should make the grip of the bow square and should hold it obliquely. To hold it straight is wrong and will spoil the accuracy of shooting. Those who choose to face the target halfway between the sideway position and the frontal position should make the grip neither square nor round but halfway between. Furthermore, the size of the grip should be proportional to the size of the archer's hand, so that he may hold it with ease and comfort. The best size in proportion to the hand is that which leaves, after grasping with the whole hand, a space between the finger tips and the palm equal to the width of half a finger. If the grip is too small, the defect can be remedied by wrapping around it firmly a piece of rag or tape.

Archers throughout the world have agreed that strong and accurate shooting depends upon a firm hold upon the grip so that the finger tips all but bleed. The Persians, however, maintained that the opposite, namely, a loose hold upon the grip, insured strength and accuracy. This, to my mind, is wrong.