Similar to any sport, archery also requires you to cover all the safety bases before getting started. Aside from protective gear and equipment, you also need to secure a small piece of accessory called a thumb ring. This protects the skin on the inner pad of the archer’s thumb, where the bowstring rests.
If you’re practicing Asian- or Northern African-style archery, then these must-learn thumb ring details we’ll discuss today should be pertinent to your journey. With this info, you’ll be one step closer to turning archery into a long-term, healthy practice.
Must-Know Facts About the Thumb Ring
A thumb ring is an important piece of equipment that protects the thumb of every thumb-drawing archer. Here’s what else you need to know about this essential accessory.
Thumb Ring in Asian Archery
Most people practicing archery in the West have never heard of, let alone seen, the thumb ring. However, it is a prominent feature in the Asian version of the sport. The Turks, Mongols, and Koreans have been using this accessory to draw their bows for a long time.
Technically, it isn’t just the thumb that draws the bow, since the index and second finger help perform the task, too. As you pull the bowstring back, it ends up resting on the pad of the first thumb joint. This is where the thumb ring comes in for protection.
The thumb ring, together with the thumb, also acts as the lever, and the joint assumes the role of the fulcrum. The bowstring, which acts as the load, sits against the ring, just past the thumb joint. The ring and tip of the thumb are then held using the second and index fingers. With the palm held down, this is the final position an archer assumes before he or she releases the arrow.
This thumb-and-two-finger technique allows you to position your hands more ergonomically and create a much stronger draw. Looking at the release, you’d think the technique behind it was developed quite recently and not thousands of years ago.
Types of Thumb Rings
Thumb rings come in different shapes and styles of cuts. They are also made of different materials, like metal, stone, horn, antler, bone, wood, glass, ceramic, and plastic. Some of the most commonly used thumb rings are the Turkish and Korean. They are what most modern-day archers are familiar with.
No matter what kind of thumb ring you end up using, you have to remember that shooting safely and correctly means wearing one that fits properly. Wearing an ill-fitting thumb ring can make shooting arrows painful and may even lead to injury.
How to Fit Thumb Rings
Now that you know what a thumb ring is, let’s move on to the second most important step: fitting one correctly. According to thebodytraining.com, this can be done in one of two ways.
Fitting a Customized Thumb Ring
If you’re really serious about archery, you’ll want to get a customized thumb ring. You can go about this by visiting an archery shop, where they use a slide caliper, or at home, using a sheet of paper.
If you decide to do it at home, follow these steps:
Step 1: Cut a thin strip of paper about four inches long. Measure the paper using your thumb.
Step 2: Move it up and around your thumb knuckle to check whether or not it slides off easily.
Step 3: Adjust the paper depending on the level of resistance. Loosen or tighten the wrapper paper until it slides off the thumb comfortably.
Step 4: Using a pen, mark the area where the two ends overlap.
Step 5: Get a ruler and measure the length of the wrapped paper that fits most comfortably. That’s the size of your thumb ring.
How about if you decide to get an off-the-shelf thumb thing?
Fitting an Off-the-Shelf Ring
If you’re buying a thumb ring from a shop, you could also use the thumb ring size from the previous step as a basis.
Try putting the ring on, turning it sideways so that it’s easier to slide over the knuckle. Take note that although the ring should fit snugly around your thumb, it should not be too tight. Once it’s on, the ring mustn’t be able to slide over the thumb knuckle. It may rotate backward or forward slightly, but that should be as far as it goes.
Removing the ring shouldn’t be too hard, either. It should only take you turning it sideways to slide it off your knuckle.
Also, note that the thumb typically swells when shooting with a ring. Make sure to factor this in when measuring your thumb ring; otherwise, you might end up with one that gets stuck to your thumb later on.
Here’s a video explaining in detail how to use a thumb ring:
Simply put, a thumb ring is a protective accessory used in most Asian and Northern African styles of archery. More than safeguarding the inner pad of the thumb joint, it also allows archers to shoot more efficiently over long periods.
Unless you’re looking to practice the Ishi or American-Indian style of archery, which involves thumb drawing without skin protection, then a thumb ring is essential to your journey. Not only can this accessory help you progress faster, but it can also allow you to practice modern archery safely.