Sorry for the delay. Many things going on including another two-day seminar with a very dynamic Hanshi. These are the highlights from the first page of instructions that I received along with the new takeyumi. This was the “read this before you even look at the bow” page. Initially I was going to post all of it but because of copyright concerns I’ll just hit the highlights.
One point in talking with my teacher is that this bow has come directly from the yumishi so is more “immature” than what you would normally get through a shop, therefore more pliable and sensitive than usual. What normally happens in a shop is that the resident yumishi will take care of the bow over the months/years until it is sold, making sure that it is always in good shape and ready for use. In this case I’ll have to do that, so, a bit daunting but also a great learning experience.
Also, of course, this is just my feeble attempt at a translation and I could easily have made errors. Nothing here should be interpreted as the recommendation of the original author, or even me. It’s just my current understanding, and if you’ve read some of the other posts you know I’ve been wrong before!
Please Read Before Looking at the Bow
If you release the string when an arrow is not properly nocked (karahazu), the bow may damaged beyond repair. In terms of shooting technique this is also a serious blunder, so great care is required and you must take responsibility for this yourself. Particularly when using a synthetic bowstring, it is crucial to avoid this error.
Drawing the bow without an arrow (subiki) can cause the bow to lose its form, so after the bow is strung, draw it to 80 or 90% of the yazuka while holding the bow very softly with the left hand (yunde) and without any kind of twisting action.
You can begin using the bow immediately, however on the first day, after making the nakajikake, shoot at least 20 times at the makiwara before using the bow to shoot at a target.
Maintain the gap between the bowstring and the upper seki-ita between two and five millimetres (this was written in by hand so is different for every bow). The proper height of the string at the yasurito is 14.6-15cm (also written in by hand for this specific bow). The positions of the bowstring loops are correct as delivered, and a temporary mark has been made. Please make your own original mark in a way that will not stand out or be too noticeable. (The bow has been constructed so that the correct position is normally not the centre of the bow)
Keeping a close eye on the position of the string, please make an effort to maintain the bow’s proper form. The bow has been constructed so that with use, as the rise height of the bow becomes more shallow, the tsurune and katami will develop. So put the bow to use, and until it is stable, keep the bow strung, and be sure to store it with the
anteiki attached. As long as the string is suitable to the strength of the bow, there is no problem with storing the bow this way, especially during the cold weather season.
The reasons the bow is initially strung with a synthetic string are twofold. The first is to avoid any possibility of damage due to the string breaking during shipping. The second is that if, during the initial training period, the bowstring should break, the bow will lose its shape and revert to its raw (arayumi), unstable form. With a synthetic string, there is no hope of a clear tsurune or katami, so once the bow is stable it is highly beneficial to switch to a hemp bowstring. But synthetic strings are suitable during the initial training period, so after 300 arrows, please replace the current string with another synthetic string, and then once the bow has become stable, switch to hemp. Hemp will produce sustainable performance, and avoid the danger of damage due to splintering of the todake (kougai). In addition when storing the bow it is also beneficial to use a synthetic string since this will prolong the life of hemp strings.
Using an arrow that is too light places a burden on the bow and invites damage such as kougai.
The quality of the bow is essentially determined by the way it is strung and unstrung.
For this particular bow, the recommendation is to grasp the bow with the left hand just below the grip, and turned slightly to the left, then press downward, while the right hand slips the lower loop over the motohazu. Then adjust the form of the upper and lower limbs so that they are well balanced. Because the path of the string (弦の通り) will change as you use the bow, change the position of the hands and the angle at which you push the bow down as appropriate. Pressing down from the left is a way to avoid dekiyumi. If the string is too far to the right (iriki), push down from the right while attaching the string. Since correcting dekiyumi involves a weakening of the bow, please string the bow so that such corrections will not be required.
Likewise measuring the strength (draw weight) of the bow is a frequent cause of dekiyumi or otherwise ruins the form of the bow, so you should avoid this as much as possible. If you absolutely must check the strength of the bow, immediately afterwards it’s vital to check the shape and balance of the bow, and adjust it as needed. If you do not know how to correct the shape of the bow, then it is best not to measure its strength at all.
When using synthetic strings, a string that is too thin has a bad influence on the bow, so please use the thickness of the string initially provided as a reference. Also you must replace the string well before any danger of it breaking. The shock to the bow when a synthetic string breaks isn’t comparable at all to the much softer effect when a hemp string breaks. The vibration can be so severe that the damage to the bow may be irreparable.
There are several other pages of instructions but these seem to be the most vital points. Another thing that I think I mentioned before is that he recommends laying the bow down on a big sheet of paper and tracing its form before you’ve used it. That way it will be easier to detect subtle changes and recognize where you need to make corrections. I find that by keeping an eye on both the distance between the string and the grip and the distance between the string and the upper seki-ita, I can notice changes before my eye would recognize them from the shape alone.
Meanwhile, I’m ordering some additional synthetic strings (#2) from Heisei Kyugu, makers of the Ten-Kyu line of products, in anticipation of having to shoot at least 600 arrows with the synthetics before things start to stabilize. They have 6-sun nobi strings in stock and are the origin of the string that the yumishi chose, so I figure I’ll go with his selection. On the other hand I need to pause and rebuild the grips. The ones provided are too high for me, so I’ll spend some time folding postcards to make new ones.
One trick I learned recently is to glue the postcard (or rubber/leather insert) to the bow, then put a layer of thin paper over that before adding the leather grip. The paper used for calligraphy practice works great because one side is rough and the other is smooth. When it’s time to replace the leather, the paper acts as a separator letting you pull the leather (and maybe some of the paper) off while leaving the postcard in place. When that works well you can change the leather in 20 minutes if you really need to. If paper builds up over time, use some sandpaper or a razor-sharp knife to restore the proper dimensions.
And then finally, getting all the reservations and stuff in line for Nagoya and then our Spring shinsa. Spring is a busy season in Hokkaido. Or maybe it just feels busy after all the winter slumber?