This technique actually isn’t called “dragon shoulder”, and there aren’t many such interestingly named techniques in kyudo, or any Japanese martial arts for that matter, but here I will take the liberty of applying my own term, cause it’s cool and the idea is vital to improved kyudo technique.
Anyway, the dragon shoulder technique refers to the twisting motions of one’s shoulders when doing kyudo.
If you hold your arm straight out while holding the bow, the pressure will jam up in your joints and the string will probably slap your forearm. This is not good.
The first time someone tried to help me fix this was by telling me that I need to flare my left elbow out. It helped me get the beginning shape going, but just focusing on the elbow still leaves your arm static and taking all of the pressure of the bow.
What really changed me for the better was when someone told me to twist my arm from my shoulder.
Immediately my left arm went from a broken twig taking all the pressure of the bow, to this powerful hose of surging water winning against the bow. By twisting my shoulder I can actually feel myself extending out through the center of my chest, rooting into the ground, and allowing the ground itself to push against the bow instead of my own body.
When I don’t twist my shoulder, the pressure of the bow also makes me jolt after the release sending the arrow in any which direction, which isn’t good. When I do twist my shoulder it sends my arm and the arrow straight into and beyond the target.
With this newfound knowledge, I imagined my shoulder as a dragon, spiraling forward in the direction of my chest, rising through my elbow and out through my hand into the target.
But that’s really only the half of it…
the spiral continues through your chest to the core, and out through your right arm where your shoulder spirals the other way away from your chest, twisting your right hand towards your face enacting proper hineri (twisting of the right wrist. Here I don’t think it would be wise to focus on spiraling the shoulder as much as your elbow.
With this dragon shoulder technique, the horizontal straight line of your arms and chest spiral in one great direction, like a dragon flowing through your body.
We don’t need the dragon analogy I suppose, and I haven’t heard any other Japanese say it before, but it helps spice things up for me. Perhaps I’ll take the artistic license to start renaming all the kyudo techniques with cooler names. That’s one thing I miss about Chinese martial arts.
Anyway, one last point to make is one that complicates things a bit on your left arm. While your arm spirals forward towards your chest from you shoulder, through your elbow, and to your wrist, your hand that holds the bow turns the opposite way outwards, so that your fist stands vertical and not turn diagonally forward. With this your thumb acts as the final point where your form extends through the pressure and sends the arrow into the target.
Perhaps your hand is the head of the dragon, and your thumb the tongue.
Let your imagination enhance your technique and much will improve.
Any cool imagery of your own? Let me know!