(Chapter 13 of New Book of Effective Methods)
by Qi Jiguang [the first half of the text actually by 俞大猶 Yu Dayou]
[translation by Paul Brennan, Feb, 2021]
 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.
 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.
 Hold the bow and arrow with focus and firmness. “Focus” indicates careful adjustment. “Firmness” means that your grip is steady and sure.
 Whenever the bowstring hits your left sleeve upon release, it means your grip was unsteady.
 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].
 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.
 “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.
 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.
 “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”.
 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].
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 [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.”
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 [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.
 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.
 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.”
 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:]
1. Pushing out the bow with a full grip:
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):
2. Pushing out the bow with the palm:
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):