When running into problems with my form I usually finding myself working backwards from the release to the earlier stages of shooting.
Our release is off because of our full draw position. Our full draw position is off because of our drawing of the bow. Our drawing of the bow is off because of a messed up dai-san posture. Our dai-san posture is off because of our uchi-okoshi (phase when raising the bow in front of ourselves). Our uchi-okoshi is off because of a bad dozukuri starting posture. Our dozukuri posture is off because of a bad stance. Our stance is off because of an unbalanced mind.
If we run back through our form searching for the particularly ugly point, or source of our problem, then we can start addressing the problem specifically instead of feeling totally lost and there’s absolutely nothing we can do to find improved form and hit the target.
I’ve found myself in a really deep funk lately, and the other day I was searching all over my form for the problem. I searched my mind for all the images that usually save me and absolutely nothing worked.
Then, thankfully, one of my best training partners saw my form and said my uchi-okoshi was really low, which made me do really weird things to get to the dai-san posture, which made drawing the bow effectively impossible.
He was right. At the makiwara I was raising it fine making for a good release keeping my elbows at about the level of my eyes, but at the target for some reason it was really low. And like I mentioned, it negatively affects the next stage, then stacks upon the next and the next and the next until the final release which is just a mirror of the big mess you’ve created.
So, we need to proper uchiokoshi. This is one phase I’ve often overlooked because it’s pretty simple and I’ve never had many problems with it before. But since it has become an issue now, let’s go over a couple of simple things I want to focus on to make sure I’m getting it right. (FEEL FREE TO COMMENT IF YOU HAVE YOUR OWN THOUGHTS!!!)
-Raise the bow until your elbows are at about the height of your eyes.
-While keeping our shoulders sunken down we lift up the bow in front of us, not straight up, but outwards with a slight scooping action.
-I expand my belly on the inhale while rising the bow, and on the exhale I expand the belly more after completely stopped in a complete uchi-okoshi.
-I focus on the lines of my triceps on the outside of my arms, pulled taut and connected to my back, and the backs of my legs into the ground with my body slightly diagonal forward. This is super important as it helps to maintain proper hari-ai tension.
-I relax my hands without adding any unnecessary tension.
-I make sure I keep a 90 degree angle with the bottom of my hand and the bow.
-Keep my eyes on the center white of the target the entire time.
-Keep my chin down and crown of my head extending to the heavens.
-Keep head turned enough so that the line in the side of our neck runs straight up and down.
-Keep my pelvis forward to keep my back straight instead of sticking my butt out.
-The right shoulder can be higher than the left.
Yeah, I think that’s most of the points I focus on.
But aside from the little details, there’s one image that brings it all to life for me. Maybe you can relate.
Have you ever seen feeding time for big cats at a zoo?
And if you have, did they hang the giant pieces of meat on hooks down from the ceiling?
One time in college, long before I ever touched a bow I remember going to a zoo in San Francisco. I happened to be there during feeding time for the big cats and decided to see what it was about. Each of the big cats were in individual cages lined before the public waiting for meat. Then doors opened from above and hooks with giant meat were lowered. I looked at one of the male lions as he reared up on his hind legs and dug his giant claws into the meat.
The image is burned into my memory.
I was blown away by the shear size of the lion’s back. His reach must have been up to 10 feet and his back was bristling with large and small muscles. So much power, all from this angle I never thought about before.
This is what kind of impression we should give with our uchi-okoshi.
Show everyone your lion’s back.
When you start to raise your uchi-okoshi silence, tell everyone, “Hey, look at this lion’s back. It’s the greatest back you’ve ever seen, and because of this awesomeness I’m going to hit the center of the target.”
How mighty is your lion’s back? How well can you use your back muscles to help your shooting? Is your shooting weak because of a weakened uchi-okoshi?
Ask your training partners and teachers to watch you while you shoot, take a video, and make your shooting the best it possibly can.