Second lesson. Balloons. We quickly get the place set up and we have our bows and everything stored with our names on, so we’re all raring to go and getting involved in the warm up eagerly. This time, we fit sights to the recurve bows. Two archers per boss. Two balloons per boss. We all miss, but start adjusting our sights to bring the arrow in closer to the balloon. The trick is to move the sight to follow the arrow. If the arrow goes down and to the left of where you sighted, then move the sight down and left. Why? I realise later there’s an easy way to think of this. If you imagine a laser going from the sight to the boss, and another going from the arrow to the boss, they won’t hit the same place initially. You point the sight at the bull’s eye. You shoot. The arrow is off to the left and down. Now, assuming your form is right, your arrow is going where you point it. The sight is wrong though. You shot at the laser point from arrow, but were looking at the laser point for the sight. So imagine moving the laser from sight down to match the one from the arrow. It would need to move toward where the arrow landed. So, yeah, it makes sense. The sight follows where the arrow lands because that’s where it should be looking in the first place.

We’re one finger above the arrow and two under this time. Mediterranean style, it’s called. And it lets you pull the string back to touch your nose, lips and chin. These are reference points, so you’re doing the same thing each time. Assuming you are doing the same thing each time, then you should have no problem adjusting the sight until you’re shooting fairly accurately. After a few misses of the balloon, my coach tells me to line the string behind the centre of the bow, not the sight. I line up and then adjust my string to the right a bit, so it’s behind the bow not the sight. Release. Pop!

Each three arrows you shoot, before collecting your arrows to go again, is called an end. I had shot the balloon with the first arrow this end and didn’t shoot the second two arrows. No need. On the next end, I do it again. The tip from the coach has made me able to hit the balloon first time again. My boss partner isn’t popping her balloon. I look around. No one else is consistently doing it either. They use all their arrows.

“Go on, pop hers then,” says my coach. I look around and realise everyone else has finish shooting and I am here with two arrows, in front of everyone, my balloon is gone, but they want me to shoot the other one on my boss. Everyone is watching. “Awww, come on!” I complain. My coach thinks it’s funny, “you gotta, everyone is watching”.

I aim, shoot, and pop!

I get a round of applause and a sweetie (balloon poppers get a sweetie as an incentive). I’ve just popped three balloons with three arrows in a row, and feeling great. Also, it gave me time to chat to my coach while others made their attempts and although I can’t recall everything that gets said, I’m learning, learning all the time.

So they put my balloon on the edge of the boss so one or two arrows go sailing past and the next hits.

Next, they halve the balloon’s size. I have to adjust my sight a bit over the next end, but eventually I get it.

The balloon is shrunk to the size of a tennis ball. I don’t manage to get it by the end of the session. But I do notice that nearly everyone else in the beginners group is still trying to hit the big balloons. I feel great.

I am taken aside in the middle of all this and miss two ends as another coach tells me I need to engage my shoulders not just my arm when drawing the string back. I know this is true, but don’t really understand how to make it happen and end up on tiptoes and just get laughed at. He gets a twelve year old girl to demonstrate it (she’s not a beginner but is here with her sister or something). This doesn’t really help my confidence. He also wants me to release the string differently so I don’t twang it, which seems to be making some of my shots miss. (I realise when I get home that night that I had completely forgotten about the index vane – putting the mismatching coloured feather towards me when nocking the arrow – and perhaps this accounts for a few errant shots. D’oh!) So, I don’t really get the shoulder or release thing, but I know he’s spotted mistakes and I need to learn how to fix them. I go back to shooting and my normal coach tells me to ignore it all and just relax – it’s that instinctive shooter vibe from him.

My coach says he’s not sure why we call “Fast!” to stop everything if someone needs to walk in front of the blue line we shoot from. Later, I look it up. It’s from hold fast, which is from a similar sounding Dutch phrase and means grip tightly, in relation to a ship’s rigging. How it migrated into archery I don’t know.

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