The Battle Of The Bows

10 June, 2015

Brief video from the Smithsonian channel exploring the differences between a yumi and a longbow, briefly explaining why recurves are more efficient than simpler self-bow designs.

Amongst the many things it doesn’t explain or gets wrong include why the longbow became popular despite more efficient composite designs existing contemporaneously. The reason is that it was a mass-produced weapon, much cheaper and quicker to manufacture and requiring less maintenance and care than composite Eastern bows – the Kalashnikov of its day. The classic English yew longbow of historical battles also used much higher draw weights than the 50lb weapon shown here, usually 100lb and up for long range, heavy war arrows on European battlefields, very different to short-range (and often mounted) samurai combat.

It ends with a slo-mo illustration of archer’s paradox on the longbow, without explaining why the yumi doesn’t suffer from it as much (it’s to do with twisting the bow on release, as I understand), and without explaining why it’s not an issue.

Unfortunately, archery is complicated, and traditional archery even more so – but the conventions of TV mean that things get reduced to ‘which one is better’. That’s OK. If you want more, there’s a big deep pool to dive into which you can swim in for life. 😉

(Via Archery Scrolls).


One comment on “The Battle Of The Bows

  1. Nelson

    The video is a nice introduction, the longer version of the program has more interesting bits about more esoteric aspects of Japanese and Western style archery.

    My understanding of why the yumi suffers less of the archer’s paradox is because of the unique thumb draw employed. Unlike say Manchu or Korean style thumb draws where the thumb ring employed causes a deep hook (which for a right handed archer would cause the string to twist counter clockwise), if you use a kyudo glove the grip on the string is less deep and relies on pressure between the thumb and index fingers. Upon release there is less twist and is more like a compound bow, so the paradox is less than other forms of finger releases.

    This would be a great area to do more research in.


Leave a Reply