Kyudo · Tenouchi - the Grip

My Nasty Tenouchi Habit

I have a nasty habit in my tenouchi, and it just won’t go away.

I try and try to fix it, but it just won’t go away.

So I say screw it, give in, and then I hit the target.

But I know inside it’s fake.

So it’s time to quit this shit.


By figuring out the “why”s of it all,

wanting to change,

and then putting in the hard work.

So let’s start from the beginning,

What is tenouchi?

Tenouchi is our hands, usually in reference to when we use something with them. The characters for tenouchi in Japanese (手の内) literally translate as the inside of our hands. The term tenouchi is used in various Japanese martial arts. Tenouchi is also often translated as “grip”. In kyudo we can be talking about either hand when we mention tenouchi. Usually tenouchi refers to the left hand that holds the bow, and that’s what I’m talking about today.

There are a multitude of things we do with the tenouchi. To name them all here would take books worth of information. So I’ll try to keep things simple and only relevant to the issue of my bad habit.

We hold the bow in front of ourselves, raise it above our heads, move our hands to the left into the daisan (2/3 draw posture), then lower the bow to the full draw. During the release the bow twists counterclockwise in our hands. After the release the string should be touching the outside of your arm if the bow properly rotated in your hand during the release.

This is a particular detail which separates kyudo from most other forms of archery and is very important.

We hold the bow, but should not use strength. We do not use excessive strength but must hold the bow somehow, under a great amount of pressure, but also use tension in certain areas.

What is important is the tenmonsuji, a line on the inside of our hands running perpendicular to our arm. That line must remain perpendicular with our arm so that the arrow is shot straight.

The crease in the middle of the hand signifies the tenmonsuji.
The crease in the middle of the hand signifies the tenmonsuji.

The tenmonsuji is like the hinges on a door. The two hinges (upper and lower sections of the tenmonsuji) remain fixed so that the door may open and close straight and smoothly. If one of the hinges, or both of the hinges even, are broken or loose, the door will not move straight and it will jar in any which direction.


The door is the bow and string, the hinge is our tenmonsuji.

We break the hinge by gripping the bow too hard with strength, or not putting pressure in the right areas. By putting pressure in the right areas, I really mean maintaining the proper shape. That’s all tenouchi is, maintaining the proper shape. Maintaining the proper shape under the pressure of the bow in the full draw. My bad tenouchi habits are found in my inability to maintain the proper shape.

The proper shape consists of:

-Right angle with the bow and the bottom of our hands. This I can’t get to, mine is too soft. This breaks the bottom hinge of the tenmonsuji.

-Straight thumb. I’ve got this, but I let up at the last second wasting all of the pressure and straight direction I’ve made until the release.

-Pushing forward with the thumb and closing the fingers in the release. I can’t do this it at all because I break my tenmonsuji by not protecting the right angle with the bottom of my hand and the bow. I also let up my hand at the last second, ruining all the great pressure I’ve built up. I also am putting uneccessary pressure somewhere in my hand which makes it open instead of close at the moment of the release.

Because of all of this my hand flares up at the release. I compensate for this by aiming high.

What my crappy tenouchi looks like at the release.
What my crappy tenouchi looks like at the release.

This is not good.

I’m feeling a bit lost in how to fix it exactly. My body won’t follow the instrctions from my head. But there is one image that has been working for me …

Keep my hand just the way it is in the full draw. I’m good until there, it’s mostly just the release where it goes haywire. In Japanese we say そのまま, sonomama, “just the way it is”.


This is my challenge. I’ve spent the last few days focusing on only this, and I have had small success. Without the proper image the other parts of my form fail. This is not good. But major changes need to happen if I am going to overcome this wall.

My nasty tenouchi sticks out from my whole technique.

There’s no way I can pass the yondan (fourth level) test the way it is.

Our goal in kyudo is to shoot a straight arrow. Settling for warped curved technique is for quitters and the ignorant.

Kyudo isn’t easy. Niether is life. But they both have their reasons, and their own rewards.

Let’s fix our nasty habits with reason, intent, and continuing effort.

Onward and upward.



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