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1) 又八{またはち}は、壁の陰に立って、刀を振りかぶり、彼らの首が入口から三寸と出たら、ばさりと斬ッて落そうと、撓{た}めきッている。

2) 武蔵{たけぞう}は黒樫の木剣を横に撓{た}めて待っていた、そして典馬{てんま}の脚もとを目がけて、半身を投げ出すように烈しく払った。

{宮本武蔵(1935年–1939年、朝日新聞連載、吉川英治)}

What dictionary meaning would fit with how 撓{た}める is used here? Could it be aiming (弓・鉄砲で、ねらいをつける。三省堂 スーパー大辞林)?

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From my first impression, that ためる means "力などを発揮するのをぎりぎりまで押さえて、たくわえておく。" (Being still with all your power so that you can release it at any point.)

But, it seems that 溜める is usually used in that case.

The kanji, 撓 generally means bending. And, it is a little bit strange to use it here.

I have no good explanation, but 吉川英治 is an old popular novelist, so he could have some different rules from now a days. Anyway, 溜 and 撓 are not in 常用漢字 (2136 kanjis that the government suggests to use in daily life.) So, we are not good at telling their differences.

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Regarding the sentence 2), I can't tell whether it just means to hold or it also implies to aim. The verb ためる is very rarely used in this situation today, and the only word I know is 腰【こし】だめ ("hipfire"), which is still occasionally used today (presumably mainly by FPS gamers). I haven't wondered whether this ため means to hold or to aim. Maybe it means both. Anyway the verb we normally use today in this situation is (剣を)構【かま】える.

Regarding the sentence 1), the auxiliary verb 切る (≒"fully", "out" as in "sell out", "up" as in "eat up") is used with ためる, and that gave me the impression that it's maybe this ためる ("psyche up"). But I may be wrong and it could just mean "completely 構える".

As Keita Oda said, the kanji choice between 撓 and 溜 would probably be unimportant because it was not standardized in the prewar period.

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