I’m tired of this stupid tenouchi (gripping technique on the bow) and it’s time to change. I’ve been told the same things for years but never listened. I’ve been chiseling small spots around it for improvement, but it’s time for a revolution. This entire fist is going to change its axis of rotation, and my technique will be exponentially improved. More arrows will hit the target and the rest of my body and form will benefit from the correction’s waves of relief, relaxing all the right places while concentrating energy where it can effectively flow throughout my body.
This is how I felt after a tournament yesterday in Oita City. I was with two other archers that have been hitting a lot and on the rise lately, and all of us silently thought that we may actually win this one. On our first arrow all of us missed, and it was downhill from there, at least in my mind. My tenouchi was a reflection of my entire technique and mind: nervous, sloppy, without direction. I lost the battle today, but the frustration led me to look deeper into my technique, and also to look at all of the other incredible archers around me for inspiration and clues. At the end of the day, I’m happy and motivated to get back to training tomorrow, though it wasn’t without momentary bone breaking rock bottom collisions. It was one of those days where I realized that we really can gain much more from losing than winning.
So this big ugly issue to fix is that my hand turns forward diagonally at the release, (as you can see in the picture at the top of this blog post) collapsing the tenmon-suji. The tenmonsuji is the line in your palm that runs perpendicular to your fingers. The outside left corner of the bow should stick to this line in your hand with your bow and hand making a cross. At the release your arm and fist should move straight in the direction of the target. The better these straight lines are protected, the straighter your arrow will fly. Because my tenmonsuji is off line in the full draw, it collapses at the release sending the arrows in random directions. When I feel good I’ll naturally time everything perfectly so that I send the arrow in the target. But that form is made from a combination of slanting lines and timing. Improved form is manipulating the straight lines of form which can release you from the whims of the balance and timing of feeling.
So I must keep my fist vertically perpendicular with the floor. Some images that may help this are:
-Focusing on making the gap between my thumb and forefinger (tora-no-kuchi, “tiger’s mouth”) parallel with the floor.
-Pushing with the meat of the base of my thumb.
-Pressing the meat in my hand at the base of my pinky finger against the bow.
I also must focus on keeping my fist perpendicular with the floor instead of having it slant diagonally forward in the release. Some images that may help this are:
-Shooting my thumb, hand, and shoulder into the target.
-Rotating my thumb towards the left in the full draw and through the release.
-Pretending there is a wall on the right side of my fist keeping it from moving at all in that direction.
-Focusing on moving my hand one fist to the left.
I also must fix a bad habit of letting my middle and ring finger float in the tenouchi which slackens the tenmonsuji and probably has big hidden effects on the flaws of my forward falling tenouchi. This I can fix by checking my form in the mirror in the full draw and making sure I tuck the finger tips into my hand, not too hard, but just enough to line them up to my palm.
And so this will take me somewhere I haven’t been in a really long time, the makiwara training hay bail.
For so long I’ve had these bad habits commented on by teachers. I’ve brought the mirror in front of me while I’m at the target which helps, until I release, and then it loses its effect because I’m consciously focusing on a lot of other things at the same time. So I’m going to have to go to the corner alone and start repeatedly fitting my tenouchi in the right places until my body soaks it in like a sponge and I no longer have to think about it. Then I’ll go back to the target and see what happens.
I’m not sure exactly how this is going to get fixed, but I know I won’t be allowed to the next level until I do. It’s time to go on an adventure with my form.
This is kyudo.
This is walking the budo path.