Topic 5 - Thumb Ring

Learning how to use a Korean thumb ring can take practice, but it is a very rewarding skill to develop. The purpose of the thumb ring is to allow an archer to draw the bowstring with only a single digit; the thumb. Many other traditional archers will draw the string with two, three or even four fingers. Korean archery - along with Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan and other Asian traditions - uses this single restraint method as it was handed down from thousands of years ago. While the actual material of which the thumb ring is made can differ (most on this website are made from water buffalo horn), the purpose of the ring is the same; to protect the thumb from pain and injury while pulling back a powerful bow. The thumb ring, if used correctly, will allow an archer to loose dozens upon dozens of arrows without pain nor difficulty. The thumb ring of Korean Traditional Archery takes two forms, the male and female rings. On this page, I will mostly discussing how to use a female thumb ring, since this technique is the one with which I am familiar. Many archers use a male thumb ring, and I will include pictures and a brief description of the basic method later on this page.

One of the most important things to remember when using a thumb ring is just how much power and energy you are holding behind a single thumb. While it is very convenient to have only a single point of contact on the bowstring, the trade-off is that the release in Korean archery is extremely sudden and powerful as well. Because of this, learning the correct technique of wearing and using a thumb ring is a major safety concern, and students should only begin using a thumb ring when he or she can comfortably draw the bow several times without tiring. I mentioned this in earlier topics; That an archer should only move on to loosing an actual arrow when he or she can draw and hold the bowstring for around five seconds without shaking or sacrificing overall posture. This general rule of thumb is also true for the thumb ring's use. Until an archer can control the bow at full draw and at the same time control their bodies, he or she shouldn't be rushed into using a thumb ring.