QI JIGUANG’S CHAPTER ON ARCHERY

射法
ARCHERY PRINCIPLES
(紀效新書卷十三)
(Chapter 13 of New Book of Effective Methods)
戚繼光
by Qi Jiguang [the first half of the text actually by 俞大猶 Yu Dayou]
[1560]

[translation by Paul Brennan, Feb, 2021]

一列女傳云怒氣開弓息氣放箭蓋怒氣開弓則力雄而引滿息氣放箭則心定而慮周
[1] It is said in Bios of Exemplary Women [this quote not actually appearing anywhere in that book]: “Enraged, draw the bow. At peace, loose the arrow.” To be “enraged” has to do with the strength required to fully draw the bow. To be “at peace” has to do with calming the mind in order to zero in on the target.

一量力調弓量弓制矢此為至要也故荀子曰弓矢不調羿不能以必中孟子謂羿之教人射必至於彀學者亦必至於彀射家要法
[2] Select the bow based on your strength and then select the arrow based on the bow. This is imperative. Xunzi said [Xunzi, chapter 15]: “Without the right bow and arrow, even Hou Yi the god of archery would not be able to hit the target.” Mengzi said [Mengzi, chapter 6a]: “Hou Yi taught archery by example, always drawing his bow to the full. His students thus felt compelled to also draw their bows to the full.” Drawing one’s bow to the full is an essential principle in archery.

一持弓矢審固審者詳審固者把持堅固也
[3] Hold the bow and arrow with focus and firmness. “Focus” indicates careful adjustment. “Firmness” means that your grip is steady and sure.

一凡打袖皆因把持不定
[4] Whenever the bowstring hits your left sleeve upon release, it means your grip was unsteady.

一凡矢搖而弱皆因鏃不上指也
[5] Whenever the arrow feebly wobbles through its flight, this is always because the arrowhead was not on your thumb [i.e. you failed to draw the bow fully so that the back of the arrowhead met the tip of your thumb].

一法曰鏃不上指必無中理指不知鏃同於無目此指字乃是左手中指末知鏃者指末自知鏃到不假於目也必指末知鏃然後為滿必箭箭皆知鏃方可言射
[6] The thumb principle has been explained in this way [quoting from 王琚 Wang Ju’s 射經 Archery Classic]: “If the arrowhead is not touching your thumb, you will miss. Your thumb not being able to feel the arrowhead is the same as being blind.” By “thumb” is meant the tip of your left thumb. By “feel the arrowhead” is meant that the tip of your thumb feels the arrowhead arrive so that you do not have to look at it to make sure that it is correctly placed. The tip of your thumb has to feel the arrowhead touching it in order for your draw to be considered full. Once you are instinctively expecting to feel the arrowhead of every single arrow you pull back, you can then be said to have grasped some of the subtlety of archery.

一審者審於弓滿矢發之際今人多於大半矢之時審之亦何益乎
[7] “Focus” has to do with the moment between having drawn the bow fully and loosing the arrow. Most people focus before the bow is fully drawn, rendering no benefit at all.

一審者今人皆以為審的而已殊不知審的第審中之一事耳蓋弓滿之際精神已竭手足已虛若卒然而發則矢直不直中不中皆非由我心使之也必加審之使精神和易手足安固然後發矢其不直不中為何
[8] Most people think “focus” simply means focusing on the target, never imagining that the real priority is to focus on the moment. Once the bow has been fully drawn, the mind and body are at the peak of their effort. If you immediately let the arrow go, then whether or not the arrow hits the target will have nothing to do with a conscious decision. In this moment, you must instead increase your focus in order to calm the tension arising in your mind and stabilize the trembling building up in your body. Then when you loose the arrow, it is more likely to go straight to the target.

一射法中審字與大學慮而後能得慮字同君子於至善既知所止而定而靜而安矣又必能慮焉而後能得所止君子於射箭引滿之餘發矢之際又必加審焉而後中的可決欲知審字工夫合於慮字工夫玩味之乃得
[9] “Focus” is the same idea as the “mindfulness” in the statement “with mindfulness, the objective will be achieved” from the “Da Xue” [The “Great Learning” – chapter 42 of the Book of Rites]. “The highest form of education is to set a virtuous example. To love the people is to guide them to the peak of perfection. Knowing that the ultimate end is benevolence, there is stability. With stability, there is calm. With calm, there is peace. With peace, there is mindfulness. With mindfulness, the objective will be achieved.”
  After drawing the bow to the full and before loosing the arrow, there has to be an increase of focus, and then the target can be hit. If you wish to understand the meaning of “focus”, ponder “mindfulness”.

一大指壓中指把弓此至妙之古法也决不可不從之
[10] When gripping the bow, your left thumb presses on the middle finger. This is a key subtlety of the ancient methods and it must be adhered to [although it seems to contradict Wang Ju’s instruction to have the tip of thumb touching the arrowhead].

一馬弓决要開至九分滿記之記之若七八分亦難中也
[11] When shooting from horseback, you must draw to no less than ninety percent full. If only seventy or eighty percent, you will undershoot the target. Remember this point.

一馬上射把箭須以箭二枝連弓弝把定又以一枝中弦掛為便其有以箭揷衣領內或揷腰間俱不便决要從吾言
[12] When shooting from horseback, you should have two arrows at a time: one held by your left hand at the bow grip in readiness to replace the one currently on the bowstring. To have an extra arrow slipped through the back of your collar or through your belt is not as convenient as simply holding one at the bow grip. Trust me.

一凡箭去寧髙而過的慎勿低而不及也此人人之病記之記之
[13] When loosing the arrow, it is better for it to overshoot the target than to not even get there. Letting the arrow drop too low in its flight and fail to reach the target at all is an extremely common error, so keep it firmly in mind.

一塲中射須要業業恐不中决不可有一毫自放之意都如無監射各官在上都如平日自射一般慢慢一枝知鏃過一枝一枝審過一枝如何不中
[14] When demonstrating your skill for your superiors, you must guard against having any fear of missing, never allowing the slightest thought of it. Always imagine there is nobody there watching and judging you. Let it be just like your ordinary practice: slowly draw, the arrowhead touches your thumb, increase your focus, then loose another arrow, another arrow, another. With this attitude, you will not miss.

一凡中的之前可取必者皆自從容閒暇中能必之未有忙忽而可取必者忙忽而有中者亦倖耳
[15] To guarantee that you will hit the target is always a matter of being calm and unhurried. If you shoot in haste and yet manage to hit the target, that was just luck.

一凡射至五矢之外猶未中的更要從容審决不可因不中而自忙若忙則六七八九矢更無中理也
[16] If you make several attempts but still fail to hit the target, you must calm down and increase your focus. Do not become frustrated. If you allow yourself to become frustrated, you will just keep on missing.

一教騎射箭法曰勢如追風目如流電滿開弓急放箭目勿瞬視身勿倨坐出弓如懷中吐月平箭如弦上懸衡
[17] [Wang Ju:] “Some maxims for cavalry archery: Race along like the wind, eyes flashing like lighting. Slowly draw the bow, then suddenly loose the arrow. Do not blink and do not sit stiffly. Push out the bow as though the moon is emerging from your chest. Place the arrow as though a set of weighing scales are being hung from the bowstring.”

一步射箭法曰箭者殺人於百步之外者也射者必量其弓弓量其力無動容作色和其肢體調其氣息一其心志故曰莫患弓軟服當自逺莫患力贏引之自伾但力勝其弓必先持滿射之先近而逺此不易之法也大端還要學扯滿射逺及到然後自近求凖非如一人自未開弓便止射三二十步起也如此一為所局豈能逺耶
[18] It is said in infantry archery that the arrow is for killing enemies beyond a hundred paces. [Wang Ju:] “The arrow you use depends on the bow, and the bow you use is determined by your own strength. These five standards of posture are the highest virtues: 1. be unflustered by everything happening around you, 2. show no frustration at all, 3. harmonize your limbs, 4. regulate your breath, 5. and focus your mind. Do not worry that the bow might be too fragile, for you must draw it fully in order to shoot far. Also do not worry if you feel too weak to draw it, just persist and you will eventually be able to draw it fully.”
  Conquering your bow starts with learning to fully draw it. Then move on to shooting with it, starting closer to the target and then gradually getting farther away from the target. This principle is unchanging.
  To sum up: draw full, shoot far. When close to the target, you should of course strive for increasingly greater precision, but if you stay at the level of a beginner, becoming complacent and never pushing yourself to go more than twenty or thirty paces away from the target, you will never learn to shoot far.

凡射或對賊對把站定觀把子或賊人不許看扣(目稍瞬則不及避而制於人此眼法也)
[19] When shooting at an enemy, or even just a straw figure of one, watch him and do not allow your eyes to close. The smallest blink is all the time it takes for him to shoot you first. This covers the principles for the eyes.

凡射前腿似橛後腿似瘸隨箭改移只在後脚左眉尖直對右脚尖丁字不成八字不就射右改左射左改右(二句正中的之妙此足法也)
[20] Your front leg is like a firm stake in the ground, whereas your rear leg seems to be almost limp. Therefore when adjusting your aim, it is only your rear leg that shifts. Your left eyebrow aligns with the toes of your right foot. Your feet form neither a T shape nor a V shape, somewhere in between. To shoot to the left, shift to the right, and to shoot to the right, shift to the left – this little hint is the key to scoring bull’s-eyes. This covers the principles for the feet.

凡射前手如推泰山後手如握虎尾一拳主定前後直正慢開弓緊放箭射大存於小射小加於大(存壓其前手加舉其前手)務取水平前手撇後手絕(一句射之玄機一撇一絕正相應之妙一齊著力使兩臂膊伸合則箭疾而加於尋常數等矣此手法也)
[21] Your front hand is as though it is pushing away Mt. Tai. Your rear hand is as though it is grabbing a tiger by the tail. One fist braces while the other moves, both fists forming a straight line forward and back. Slowly draw the bow, then suddenly loose the arrow.
  Big target, small focus. This means that you can keep your front hand lower [because the target is close]. Small target, big focus. This means that your front hand has to rise up [in order to hit a target that is farther away].
  Seeking a high standard lies in this point: Your front hand reaches in one direction, but your rear hand refuses and goes in the other. This simple principle is the key to archery. One hand reaching out while the other goes in the opposite direction is an ingenious coordination. Both hands putting forth effort in unison causes the work of both arms to be combined. The speed of the arrow is thus many times faster than ordinary [i.e. much faster than the strength of just one arm throwing a dart.] This covers the principles for the hands.

凡射頤惡旁引頭惡却垂胸惡前凸背惡後偃(乃身之病此身法也)
[22] [Wang Ju:] “The bowstring pulled back against your right cheek, your head lolling back, your chest sticking out, and your back arching are all errors of the body.” This covers the principles for the body.

凡射法箭搖頭乃是右手大食指扣弦太緊之故其扣弦太緊之故是無名小指鬆開之故學射者有此病射時用小草梢一寸用無名指小指共拾於手心箭去而草不墜即箭不搖擺矣
[23] If the arrow wobbles in its flight, this is because your right thumb was covering the bowstring too tightly. The thumb behaving in this way is trying to compensate for the ring finger and little finger being too loose. This is a common error for beginners. When shooting, put about a square inch of grass into your palm and have your ring finger and little finger hold it there. If the grass does not fall when you loose the arrow, then the arrow will not wobble.

凡對敵射箭只是箇膽大力定勢險節短則無不中人無人能避矣此狀形容不出大端將弓扯起且勿盡滿且勿輕發只是四平架手立定則勢自險矣必待將近數十步約我一發必能中敵必能殺人至死或患將㘦身或為賊先鋒一中而收利十倍則節自短矣馬上之賊只當看大的射不可射人諺云射人先射馬擒賊必擒頭是也
[24] When firing arrows in combat, keep your courage high, your strength steady, your position ready, and the moment of action decisive. [This line draws from the Art of War, chapter 5: 是故善戰者,其勢險,其節短。勢如張弩,節如發機。(“For those who are skilled in battle, position is a state of readiness and the moment of action is decisive. This readiness is like a drawn crossbow, the moment of action like pulling the trigger.”)] In this way, you will never miss, and no one will be able to dodge your arrows in time.
  The condition of readiness is hard to describe, but the main points are that you do not waste your strength holding the bow in a full draw for an extended period [only pulling it back that last little bit when it is time to shoot] and that you are never willing to waste your shots. Simply keep your hands level and your stance stable. This is what makes the position ready.
  You have to wait for the enemy to be within twenty or thirty paces in order to be certain to hit the target with lethal precision. Do not be afraid of vanguard troops getting this close to you, for your shots at such a range will be ten times as effective. This is what makes the moment decisive.
  For enemies on horseback, pick the larger target, not the rider. There is a saying [from Du Fu’s poem “Forward to the Frontier”]: “To shoot a man, first shoot his horse. To catch bandits, first catch the ringleader.”

凡馬須要平日適飼養時調度蹤蹲聽令進止觸物不驚馳道不削前兩脚從耳下齊出後兩脚向前倍之則疾且穩而人可用器矣故馬者人之命塞馬慣戰數倍中國居常調度之功也
[25] Keep your horse well-fed, well-trained, and obedient. Teach it not to be startled by any object in its path and not to turn sharply while galloping. Its front legs come down in line with its ears, its hind legs coming down past where its front legs just were. In this way, it will be both fast and steady so that you can shoot effectively while on its back. These things are important because your life will depend on your horse. The horses of the Tartars and Mongols are much better suited to war than Chinese horses, for they train with their horses more consistently.

[26 – Two basic methods of holding the bow:]

實握射圖
1. Pushing out the bow with a full grip:

此法弓滿左肱直如弦而弓斜如月前平奶頭
With the bow fully drawn, your left arm is as straight as a zither string while the bow alone curves like a crescent moon. Your front hand is at nipple level. See the drawing (front view and rear view):

掌心推射圖
2. Pushing out the bow with the palm:

此法弓滿則肱之曲心對下肘平如衡而弓須兼八分平勢
With the bow fully drawn, your left elbow is slightly bent and your left hand is slightly turned so that the center of the hand is facing downward. Your left arm is like a steelyard scale and the bow will rise the equivalent of sliding the counterpoise a mere tenth of an ounce toward the fulcrum. See the drawing (front view and rear view):

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