These notes analyze an archery shot, discuss some of the mental challenges of archery, and give some suggestions as to equipment for a beginning archer. For most people who took the class, it was a chance to spend a hopefully pleasant morning trying something new. For a few, it will be the start of a lifetime passion. It is for those people that these notes are intended. But even if you think you're in the first group, you might want to put these notes where you can find them someday, because once archery infects you, it can lie dormant for years before it flares up and you find that you’re in the second group after all! This has been written from the perspective of traditional archery: recurves and longbows, as that is what I am most familiar with. However, basic archery form (everything we do behind the bow to get the arrow off) is the same for compounds. During the class, you were shown a few of the fundamentals of archery: stance, grip, drawing the bow, etc. It takes time to learn a new physical movement, and it is counterproductive to introduce more than a few at a time. Actually, in the introductory class you were probably shown more than you could reasonably absorb in one morning, but you needed to be shown enough that you could start shooting arrows. What you didn’t remember or comprehend from the brief explanation we gave, you filled in as best you could. Some of what you filled in you will want to re-learn if you decide to progress in archery. In some cultures, a more methodical approach is used, and it is a long time before the student fires his first arrow (see Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel for an example of the Eastern approach to teaching archery).
The best way to use these notes is to slow down a bit, pick one component of the shot, and work on it until you feel you’ve worked out the solution that works best for you. It could be the last step in the shooting process that you pick first if that’s what catches your attention; it really doesn’t matter. Just keep shooting and enjoying yourself, filling in the blanks as needed, and over time replacing the blanks with good archery form.
If you really want to learn some component of archery form, the best way to do it is to shoot at a blank bale: a big backstop about five feet away from you with no target on it. For example, suppose what you want to work on is the way you grip the bow. You can try out the orthodox grip and all the variations you can think of without worrying about where the arrow goes until you find the one that's right for you. The best explanation of the use of a blank bale that I have found is in the video, Masters of the Bare Bow 3.
I’m not an expert archer; far from it. But I’ve had the good fortune to learn from some of the best, including Rod Jenkins and Rick Welch. One of the ways they helped me the most was to identify things I was doing incorrectly in my shot, and show me what I needed to do to correct it.
The problem we face is that if we repeat an incorrect action enough times, it begins to feel more natural than the correct action. When we start doing the action correctly, it feels awkward until we shoot enough arrows correctly that it, in turn, begins to feel natural. It is hard to selfdiagnose a problem when doing it the wrong way feels right, and it really helps to have an expert point it out for you. In order to help you, I have included TIPS for those problems I have learned to self-diagnose. One of the benefits for you of my not being an expert, by the way, is that I think I have made most of the mistakes that an archer can make, not just once but many times. I have had to learn to self-diagnose a lot of problems that I have repeated even after the correct method has been shown to me by an expert.
Nine Steps to a Perfect Archery Shot
As Rod Jenkins stated in the video Masters of the Bare Bow 3, you should never accept less than a perfect shot. What is a…