XX. On the loose or release
ACCORDING to expert archers there are three ways of loosing the arrow. These are described as sprung (mukhtalas), twisted (mafrūk), and outstretched (mutamaṭṭi).
The sprung loose consists in drawing the arrow up to a point the width of a fist from its head, pausing for a count of one, and then loosing by pulling it back to its full length with force and speed and releasing with a jerk the index finger and thumb from the inside of the bow. The archer's arms are then relaxed and the bowstring turned downward toward the earth.
The twisted loose consists in drawing the arrow to its full length, pausing for a count of two, giving the arrow a twist with the right hand from the inside of the string, and then releasing the index finger and thumb and relaxing the hands. The twist (farkah) consists of pressing lightly upon the string with the base of the index finger and turning the right hand a little until the space between the thumb and index finger adheres to the side of the archer's neck, and, as it were, rubs against it.
The outstretched loose consists in drawing the arrow steadily to its full length, without any twist or inclination upward or downward and without haste or languor. When the arrowhead reaches the thumb the archer should loose without stop or pause. Others hold that he should pause for a count of two and then loose with a jerk from the inside of the string by releasing the index finger and thumb and relaxing the hands. This method is suitable for those who aim from the inside of the bow. The twist is suitable for those who aim from both the inside and the outside of the bow simultaneously. The spring is good for those who aim from the outside of the bow only.
There is no disagreement at all among the experts that the jerk of the string should be done with force and speed and without slowness or delay, because the strength and velocity depend upon the speed of the loose, upon which depends the secret of all shooting.
An expert archer has said that a strong archer looses at the full draw without stop, delay, or pause, while a weak archer does not loose until he has drawn the arrow for its full length and has rested his hand upon his shoulder. This is because, in the case of the strong archer, from the commencement of the draw to its very conclusion, his hand remains in the same position as when he first took his aim; that is, he sustains his aim from beginning to end. This is not true of the weak archer, as his aim is not taken until he has brought the arrow to a pause with its head held against the kabid and has rested his hand upon his shoulder.
In the opinion of the author, the merit of this is questionable, for how could a weak archer take his aim during the pause when his arrow is full drawn and his hand is resting on his shoulder, if he were already proven unable to focus his aim at a time when he was free of strain and stress, namely, at the commencement of the draw and up to the moment of loosing?
This method is that of the followers of the intermediate school, who hold that the archer should pause for a period ranging between the counts of two and ten. This period is highly strenuous and the aim taken then is most difficult. Consequently, it would be better if the weak archer did not try to pause at the full draw- He should wait neither a little nor much, but should develop the knack of taking aim immediately at the conclusion of the draw, because he cannot keep his left arm steady from the beginning to the end of the operation. The strong archer, however, can pause to his heart's content- Pausing at the conclusion of the draw is, in fact, very good. Its duration is said to be at least the count of three, or, according to others, until the face is flushed with blood.
The release consists of opening the hands of the archer, while, at the same time, he separates them from each other by endeavoring, if possible, to make the ends of his shoulder blades meet in the center of his back. If the archer cannot accomplish that, let him try his best to approximate such a meeting by releasing both hands simultaneously. He should beware of releasing one hand before the other or of releasing the one and leaving the other unreleased. Some archers are wont to reach the back of the ear when releasing the right hand and likewise when releasing the left.
Al-TṬbari warned against releasing one hand and leaving the other unreleased, lest the archer lose his aim, spoil his shot, scatter his arrows, and disturb his accuracy. Even though he might hit the mark while releasing one hand before the other, his method would not be good and he would not be considered an archer by experts, nor would his shooting be dependable. He scores a hit simply by persistent practice, and if ever he should neglect to shoot for a few days his accuracy would disappear, in contrast to that of the archer who releases his hands simultaneously. The latter may stay away from his practice for several days but on his return to it little disparity is evident- Such a person is numbered among archers by the experts.
Consequently, the simultaneous release of both hands at the moment of shooting is an important principle of marksmanship. It has already been mentioned among the principles and is a procedure agreed upon by all experts. It should, therefore, be strictly observed without any neglect or omission.