Image Training · Kyudo · Tenouchi - the Grip

Tenouchi Revelations!

I’m figuring it out.

The tenouchi can be done.

And bad habits can be broken.

The answer lies in the tenmonsuji.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, tenouchi is the technique used in our left hand that grips the bow, and tenmonsuji is the line in our hand that runs perpendicular to our arm.

The bow must stick to the tenmonsuji and turn inside of our hand, we must maintain maximum pressure against the bow, and we must maintain this pressure beyond the follow through of the release. This is called tsunomi.

Tenouchi’s power, and our’s as archers, relies upon the utilization of tsunomi.

These terms have been explained to me over and over again. Literally over a hundred. I’ve had masterful teachers show me how to do it right there on the spot.

It’s right there, see?”

“Yes! But I just can’t do it.”

So why did it work today?

Back to the tenmonsuji, that magic line in our hand. It’s magic, and it’s given to us just the way we are. All we need to do is cup our hand and it appears to our eyes. We stick that to the back left side of the bow, and don’t let the bow part from it through the movements. By doing so, the bow affectively falls into our hand and we can utilize the tenouchi without over exertion. By doing this our tenouchi is maximized while relaxed.

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

What I was doing wrong until now was not gripping the bow deep enough, along the tenmonsuji. My grip was too shallow, so the bow pushed against my thumb making me “lose” to the bow. Because of that I was using the strength in my fingers to grip to the bow, creating unecessary tension in my hand, thus arm, thus body. That is very very bad. So now I make sure that when I torikake (grip the bow), I actually do so using my tenmonsuji.

The second key to making the tenouchi work is maximizing the pressure against the bow by not letting up. We can setup the perfect shot by utilizing our tenmonsuji, but if we let up the pressure somewhere in the draw, it all goes to waste. For me, I’ll often let up during the kai (full draw) and then let up completely during the hanare (release), which is horrible. In order to prevent any slack, I’ve found a good image.

Our arm should act as one straight stick. We don’t bend the wrist or the elbow to weaken the stick … it is straight, arm and hand and all.

But it’s actually not straight. Our shoulder curves to the inside, flaring our elbow out curling up, the two bones of our forearm curl so they stand on top of each other, and the line continues to our thumb on the other side of our hand. We have a kind of beaufitul arc in our arm. I’m not sure exactly the use or meaning of it, but if we can realize our arm as a straight stick, with these natural curves with the bow right in the center, right in the cruck of the toranokuchi (tiger’s mouth [space between our thumb and forefinger]), we focus on pushing our thumb, and we can create proper tsumeai (form). If we properly utilize nobiai (expansion, in this case pushing the bow and string apart) and don’t let up, extending beyond the release in a follow through … then our tenouchi can become alive and working.

The curves in our straight stick of an arm.
The curves in our straight stick of an arm.

The amount of pressure felt is extreme, but it feels amazing. It’s what we’re supposed to be doing, using our body to push against the weight of the bow. We trick ourselves into feeling lack of pressure in some areas by using our muscles too much or not enough in others. To push correctly is to push seemingly effortlessly, and the release becomes smooth and straight. Interestingly enough, somehow making this work magically effects your right hand that pulls the string, making a proper twisting motion (hineri) and allows you to pull with your elbow instead of your hand. The release is sharp, and the arrow flies straight.

When I made this work today the feeling was overwhelming. The shooting felt physically great and I was flooded with endorphins from the joy of actually making this work by my honest effort … but then I was also very apprehensive. These kinds of things come and go while practicing kyudo, and I’m sure I’ll forget this newfound knowledge and become lost again.

But I won’t let that ruin the fun for now.

Each time we pick ourselves up and figure it out, we become that much stronger.

Perhaps I will forget the tenouchi again, but next time it will come back faster and stronger.


Minasan, ganbare!

Do your best everybody!

You can do it. We can overcome anything.

Onward and upward.


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