Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Traditional Archery - Revisiting The Thumb Release

Had an opportunity to take the 40# horse bow out on a Monday afternoon opting to take some vacation time on a nice summer`s day. I originally picked up the Mongolian bow when I was having some hockey related shoulder issues so rarely do I shoot it anymore. That said whenever I do I usually attempt the thumb release technique as the lower poundage is forgiving and perfect for practice.

The thumb release you ask? Many traditional Asian archery traditions used the thumb release as opposed to the three finger styles used in the West. Among them were the Mongols, Koreans, Chinese and Turks. It was used in conjunction with a thumb ring, usually made out of horn or bone.

"It defines a pull-and-release technique where the major work is done by the thumb and the other fingers of the hand are involved in reinforcing the hold...."

Made famous by the horse archers of Asia and the Middle East the thumb draw was fast and offered the archer some advantages.....

"Since the archer’s paradox occurs towards the “opposite” direction compared to the Mediterranean release, the bow is “loaded” from the right side. This way the arrow follows a direct, shorter and flawless path to the string. Therefore, nocking the arrows is faster. The string hand is closed in a special manner to form a lock (“mun-dull” in Turkish), so that the arrow is held in place with a slight pressure of the index finger. This grip assures great stability during the entire shot sequence. The archer pulls and releases comfortably, on foot or horseback, backwards, in kneeling positions, with the bow canted in any direction, at any angle. Unlike when shot with three fingers, the string hand can hold extra arrows that can be nocked and shot faster consecutively. During the shot, the archer’s paradox occurs not only towards the opposite direction but also in a less acute manner, i.e. the arrow shaft bends less. It makes a wider spectrum of spine values match a particular bow. Practically, this allows the archer to shoot other arrows he may find on the battlefield with better accuracy. Another advantage of less-bending shafts is supposed to be a decrease of lost energy and, consequently, a higher initial arrow speed...."


 I do not have a thumb ring but did pick up a thumb release glove from 3 Rivers Archery. It works quite well for anyone wanting to experiment with the technique.

 To say it feels strange is a definite understatement. Not only is the arrow placed on the opposite side of the bow compared to the Mediterranean draw but I find I need to cant the bow to the right ( I draw with my left hand) to get a better sight picture of the target and to keep the arrow in place on my thumb ( as opposed to my knuckles).

It really takes some effort to develop a comfort factor using the thumb release as you are definitely loosing arrows "out" of the proverbial "box". I`m not very accurate but practice makes perfect. I just need to work at it more often to build a familiarity with the technique and, most importantly, develop a smooth draw and release.

Here`s an older video I created back in 2013. Looking at it now I was actually doing pretty good at that point in time but I was using the thumb release much more often. Guess that old saying holds true...if you don`t use it you lose it......


Here`s a cool You Tube video from the historical Turkish Ottoman military perspective.....


 Finally another You Tube video showing the speed and effectiveness of horse archery....


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