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Home > Books > Arab Archery > XVIII. On drawing and its limits
XVIII. On drawing and its limits

ARCHERS have disagreed concerning drawing. Some have maintained that an archer should draw the length of the arrow less the width of a fist and pause for a count of one or two, or, according to some, a count of three. He should then draw the remaining length of the arrow with a sudden jerk and release. Others draw steadily the whole limit of the arrow to its very end and release without any pause or holding. Among the followers of this second method some pause for a count of two while others pause for a count ranging between two and ten. These are the followers of the intermediate school.

Its limits are fifteen in number: five are connected with the left hand of the archer, five with his right hand and body, and five with his face. The five connected with his left hand are: first, bringing the arrowhead to the tip of the nail of his thumb; second, bringing the tip of the arrowhead to the base of his thumb; third, bringing the tip of the arrowhead to the first knuckle of his thumb; fourth, bringing the tip of the arrowhead halfway between the two knuckles of his thumb (this is called the full draw) ; fifth, bringing the tip of the arrowhead to the lower knuckle of his thumb. Only the first is good for warfare, while the second, third, and fourth are good for target shooting. The fifth is risky and poor, its use lacking any advantage.

The five connected with the right hand and the body are: first, drawing until the forearm meets the upper arm and both are held closely to each other; this is called the bleeder's hold[21]; second, drawing to the shoulder joint and dropping the hand along the fore part of the shoulder just removed from the joint, or, according to others, just on the joint, and pausing for a count ranging between two and ten; third, drawing to the back of the ear between the shoulder joint and the lobe of the ear; fourth, drawing to the throat; fifth, drawing to the base of the breast.

The first, or bleeder's hold, is the best because it involves no effort or artificiality. The second and third involve a great deal of effort and artificiality as well as weakness, because the arrow is released by the action of the bow rather than by that of the hand, since the hand is left no freedom for movement, traction, or pull. The fourth and the fifth, which are drawing to the throat and to the base of the breast, are worthless because it is not possible to aim accurately with them. Others, however, have said that they are good for long distances; consequently their arrows are long.

The five connected with the face are: first, drawing to the extreme end of the right eyebrow; second, drawing to the lobe of the ear; third, drawing to the white spot where no hair grows between the lobe of the ear and the beard; fourth, drawing to the end of the right jawbone, in which operation the arrow runs along the lips or the mustaches; fifth, drawing to the chin.

The first, namely, drawing to the extreme end of the right eyebrow, is decidedly wrong and is practiced by those who are ignorant of the principles of archery, since it is blind. Furthermore, the right hand is thereby at a higher level than the left and, therefore, the arrow travels downward to the earth- For this reason some have recommended the method for shooting from on high, as from fortresses and similar elevated places. It is, however, useless for target shooting because it is blind. It has been said that the arrows used therein are long and offer, as a result, strength in drawing. It is an ancient way of shooting and, on the authority of al-Ṭabari, the method of the intermediate school.

Drawing to the lobe of the ear is, likewise, an ancient method of shooting and is very accurate. There is not among the ancient methods any which is more accurate or more deadly. Drawing to the white spot between the lobe of the ear and the side of the beard is almost as good as drawing to the lobe of the ear; whereas drawing to the end of the right jawbone and running the arrow along the lips or the mustaches is the method used by the advocates of the straight and level position of the arrow and was the practice of the people of Khurasan as well as that of Ṭāhir al-Balkhi, Isḥā al-Raqqi, and others besides. It is the best method. This straight and level position of the arrow calls for a perfectly horizontal state where the arrowhead is level with the nock of the arrow, free of any inclination either upward or downward. It is indeed the best method for target shooting and no other method is more accurate or deadly because it is the least subject to errors and the most consistent in hitting the mark. It is the favorite method of experts.

Drawing to the chin where the mustache and the beard meet at the root of the lower teeth is faulty because it, too, is blind, removed from the sight. It is, therefore, not unlike drawing to the throat and the root of the breast.

This paragraph treats of the basic rule governing the length of the arrow. An archer desiring to determine the length of his arrow should pick up a bow, string it,. and, taking an arrow, nock and draw it to one of the limits connected with his left hand, while bringing his right hand to one of the limits connected with his face and with his body and right hand—in every case the limit best suited and most comfortable to him. He should cut the arrow off at the point marking the limit of his draw. This would then be his most suitable arrow; he should not use another. This is what I myself worked out from the various methods of the other experts and developed from their principles.

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