Kyudo Update: Pandora’s Box

Seems I’ve opened the proverbial gift box with the exploration of the index finger. Tenouchi appears to be one of those topics on which everyone has a different opinion. Many of the ryuha seem to be divided on the basis of their tenouchi so I suppose it’s no surprise, and as often happens, the only way forward is to think and experiment with them.

There was, in fact, a great article in Kyudo a few years back with photos of the tenouchi used by a group of teachers. I’ll have to find that again. There were many variations. Meanwhile we have a two-day “autumn” (it’s already snowing) tutorial this weekend. I think I will focus particularly on tenouchi and breathing.

I’ve been reading Yumi no Michi: Shobo-ryu Nyumon. It’s quite good and comes down firmly in the camp of exhaling during expansion moves like uchiokoshi and, of course, hikiwake. I think this is because it has the same effect that one of the people commenting mentioned, naturally settling you down into the tanden, at least if you’re breathing abdominally. The book also has some very precise instructions on the index finger: you curl it lightly and “graft” it onto the thumb, but then also push the index finger up somewhat, which (try it!) creates increased pressure at the contact point between thumb and middle finger. So, something else to try!

It’s very subtle but I know I need to do something to prevent the tenouchi form from being ruined at hanare (which I think is what leads to the “falling bow syndrome”), but finding the right “something,” one that doesn’t have other negative effects, interfering with yugaeri, or leading the left hand off in some direction or other, has been a challenge so far. I’m doing more makiwara practice than ever before.

Oh, the Katsura string is turning out to be very durable. But since I’ll be needing 6-sun nobi hemp strings for the new bow, I’ve been thinking again about whether I could either make my own and/or find a direct connection to the string-makers. Ordering through the usual places can take months. When the Katsura does break I think I will take it apart and figure out how it was made. Do the fibres run the entire length or is the string composed of shorter ones? Things like that. If anyone has any hints, please let me know!

LATER: Ah, the Internet. Here are images of tenouchi from Kyudo magazine, March and April, 2007:


I need to go back and figure out who’s who but the variation and what, to my untrained eye, looks like maybe not the best form, is surprising. I suppose I’m partial to C.

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6 Responses to Kyudo Update: Pandora’s Box

  1. Interesting pictures, it’s a shame but not all intermediate picture are at the same time. Difficult to see a “very good one”. C looks fine, but intermediate picture is too late, tsuru turned already. I prefer another where the wrist stay about the same, and one were the grip do not go down so much: L.
    Grip down = hand open at release, isn’t-it ?

  2. karamatsu says:

    You’re right about the timing but I suppose they went with the best frames they had. Doing this in a more systematic way, with a grid behind, and maybe a higher speed camera (very cheap these days), would be kind of interesting, but then again in these same issues they have a column called “Kyudo Shindan-shitsu” with commentary by masters on just five photos of kyudoka at yugamae, uchiokoshi, daisan, kai, and zanshin, and they still manage to have a lot to say. In fact I’ve been a little bit surprised at how direct the criticisms are, but I’m sure it’s helpful.

    Fortunately (or unfortunately) we’re left to interpret these tenouchi photos on our own. It’s interesting just looking at the changes and try to figure out what might have happened. At some point I’ll have to ask someone to make some photos of my own shooting, but right now there’s a lot in flux. I’m sure you’re right that the hand is opening but I’m not yet sure what to do about it. “Don’t do that,” is the obvious answer! But how…

  3. I made some trial with differents bow (carbon 2-sun 17 Kg, bamboo 4-sun 17, 18 and 19 kg). They all have small differences in grip size. My tenouchi stays good (as far I can I say !!) with carbon yumi (big grip) and 19kg (bigest grip). Bow fall down with bamboo 17 (smaller grip) and 18 kg (medium grip).
    Do you notice the same ?

  4. karamatsu says:

    I’ll have to give that a try and see if I can detect differences. It’s a very good idea. A little while ago one of the teachers commented that usually with tenouchi there’s a gap between the tip of the middle finger and the joint of the thumb. If the gap isn’t there then the grip is probably too narrow. Also at the link below there is a discussion of how to properly size the grip, something I’ve never seen elsewhere. It’s in German but it’s pretty clear what’s going on just by looking, and there’s the Google translation page to help. Maybe if you measure the different grips (and your hand) it will give some useful guidelines? I’ll do those same sorts of tests but have to buy some shorter strings first! http://www.yumi.hu/order_de.htm

  5. Mauricio says:

    The B is the best in my experience seeing my sensei and other hanshi. F is not good according to my sensei.

  6. karamatsu says:

    Thanks for your note! I guess what I found wanting in B is that the hand seems to open up at the fingers and the bow tilts a bit forward, losing some of the space beneath the thumb. Also… it’s hard to tell but it looks like the left index finger may have come in under the thumb? But all of these could be artefacts of the photo angle and the changing angle of the hand/wrist. I do think it’s interesting just to see all the variation!

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