When I first said this in my head I immediately thought of “sticky hands” aka “push hands” practice from Tai Chi, but it’s not really like that.
It’s more like the idea that when playing with weapons in martial arts, we’re often told to treat them as extensions of ourselves.
Not, person holding external weapon,
but person being weapon.
It’s more like that, but also a little different.
Specifically, it’s about using your arm and hand as one straight single unit, which means not putting uneccessary strain or movement into your hands and wrists.
It’s like your arms and hands are just two large sticks that are connected to the bow and string.
It’s easy to say, and everytime somebody tells this to me it’s clear as day, and yet it’s still one of the most difficult things to do when pulling the bow.
I’ll even start out OK and plan to do just what I’m told keeping my arms as sticks, and yet when you change positions it all falls apart and we start pulling the bow with our hands again, dissecting our arms into various parts again. Usually this happens in the hikiwake process. We start holding the bow, look at the target, and then raise the bow in front of us over our heads in the uchiokoshi process. Then we begin the hikiwake moving into the two-thirds draw (daisan) and then begin the draw. Until we release the arrow, these movements are considered hikiwake, and it’s usually where we might mess up keeping our hands as sticks.
We are told to pull the bow using our bones. We are also told to relax our hands and wrists. But this doesn’t make sense at first because we are holding the bow and the string with our hands. In order to do so we must use the muscles of our hands while putting our attention there. We are also doing so under a great amount of pressure. Telling one to relax their hands and wrists and treat the arm as a straight stick feels to be impossible in the beginning.
But then again we’re not going to get it right the first time. Or maybe the first thousand.
But we can, and so we strive.
Hands are sticks.
Our hands and wrists don’t even exist. We just spread ourselves between the bow with our bones and let the arrow fly straight.