Recent readings and wanderings in practice have led me to do a lot of thought about the right elbow in kyudo.
The right elbow is incredibly important in kyudo because it’s essentially responsible for pulling (or pushing) the string. Though we grip the string with the kake (glove) on our right hand, we should not pull the string with the hand our wrist, but use it only to keep the string from pre-releasing. Dealing with this paradox of holding the string, but not pulling with the hand is one of the most difficult and crucial aspects of shooting.
There are two things I’ve been working on lately in attempt to fully pull with my elbow and take uneccessary tension out of my hand.
First is focusing on the twisting of the elbow in the draw. We do not pull the elbow simply straight out. There is also a spiraling effect that turns outwards to your back. This may be hard to describe only in words. If you simply just pull your elbow to the side, then your fist holding the string will end up right in front of your right shoulder. By doing this your fist will be close to leve with your elbow, which is not good in kyudo. But by twisting your shoulder and elbow (if you look back at your elbow you would be spiraling it clockwise), it puts your hand kind of on top of your shoulder, which is good in kyudo. One reason for this, is that if you just only pull your elbow to the side level with the target like you should, you’ll actually end up pulling it behind you, so that when you release your elbow will be pulled back, instead of shooting out to the side like it should. By turning your shoulder and elbow, your hand will end up on top of your shoulder, you will be able to relax your hand, and your elbow will shoot out only to the side like it side.
Did you get that? I’m gonna have to start getting more videos and pictures about this kind of stuff. I read about this in a kyudo book with great illustrations and diagrams. I’ll have to post more about that soon.
Anyway, continuing on, the second thing I’ve been working on is making the angle of the inside of my elbow as small as possible. If you’re pulling your elbow to the side and relaxing the tension in your hand like you should, that angle should be small. If you’re putting uneccesary pressure in your hand, or pulling in a direction other than straight to the side like you should, then that angle will increase and you’re release will be affected for the worse. In the full draw I focus on making that angle small, and as I breathe out and extend for that 6 to 8 second duration, I focus on that angle getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller … CRACK! A natural release is made with relaxed tension in the hand and the elbow only going out … ideally.
The fingers on the hand are only there to connect with the thumb and keep the string from slipping. No unneccessary stress.
The elbow spirals and only moves to the side, not up, not down, not in front, not behind, only out to the side.
Good luck with your right elbows, and leave a comment if you have anything else that works for you!