This lesson was a comedy of errors. It’s been a fortnight since the last lesson because of a scheduling problem with the indoor sports hall. I had forgotten more than I would have thought, considering how much I’ve been thinking about and reading about archery in the meantime.
At one point, I managed to use the stringer wrongly on the bow and undid the wrong end. That was just the way it was going to be this lesson. Note to self: the string comes off the top of the bow.
We started by flinging arrows down the range using the 20lb recurve bows belonging to the club and kept for beginners. I was trying to apply all the things I had learnt from reading the KiSik Lee book, but the result was that I was at full draw for far too long. This led to the coach calling me Mr Spaghetti because of my complete lack of inner core strength, as he saw it, and Mr Pasta which was, apparently, equally hilarious. Not that I minded. I just minded that my arrows were going all over the place. One ended up with a ripped vane.
So, I got a new set of arrows and a new bow. The coach had decided my lack of visible core strength was down to the fact that the bow was too weak for me. In truth, it was a bit like pulling a wet noodle. I wasn’t meeting any resistance and could hold it at full draw for far too long. This new bow was 26lb. I tried it, but it wasn’t much better. Despite trying to think through all the good form detailed in the Total Archery – Inside the Archer book, basically I was shooting terribly and, amongst other things, dropping my drawing arm.
My shots were going all over the place. One arrow hit the wall. You can see the results above.
I was given a 34lb bow, but after one end I realised the rubber bit on the arrow rest was broken and the arrow kept sliding off. So, I went back to the 26lb bow.
The other factor here is that the 26lb and 34lb bows didn’t have sights, so I was suddenly back to shooting with three fingers under. This completely threw me off, because we haven’t done this since lesson one.
Meanwhile, we were baking a cake. This is an archery game. Everyone is given an erasable score sheet where they record what colours on the target they hit. To bake a cake you’ve got to hit, if memory serves, the gold twice, the red five times, the blue three times, and the white twice. Once you’ve hit this number (or more) for each of these colours, you’ve baked the cake. But if you hit black then you’ve burn the cake and have to erase all your hits from the score sheet and start again.
To help me, I was told to try ‘looking down the arrow’ by a different coach, and I did this, but did it wrong, held holding the arrow too high and close to my eye. So, I was then told not to hold the arrow so high. We were approaching the end of the lesson and I felt all I had done was take a huge step backwards into confusion.
So, somewhat crazily, I resorted to shooting the way I had using the longbow at the medieval re-enactment event all those months ago. I’d paid £2 to shoot six arrows and although the first three were useless, the last three had hit the dummy at twenty yards. So, three fingers under, a loose stance, a slight lean forwards, and I anchored the fleshy part on the top of my thumb joint into the hollow under my cheek bone, where it meets the jaw. I kept my head still. I shot. Please remember, I was using a new bow, three fingers under and no sight for the first time in 6 weeks. I got two golds.
I then needed a blue and a red. I got them.
But I made the mistake of bragging about it. I was pretty chuffed that, this close to the end of the lesson, having changed shooting style, no longer having a sight, and making up my form as I go along, I was hitting what I wanted. I called that I would hit the red twice.
Hit the black. Burnt the cake. More hilarity.
We were at the last end now. I had basically spent the whole lesson firing arrows around wildly, breaking arrows and bows, and achieving nothing. But now, shooting barebow, and instinctively, I was feeling like I was getting somewhere. This was more like what I wanted to be doing, anyway. I want to end up behind an English longbow again. I guess I’m clearer than ever now that that is what I want.
No one had managed to bake a cake. It was the last end. So the coach called out that after three arrows (two for me) the closest to the ‘spider’ (crosshair in the centre of the gold) would be the winner. They would measure from the centre to the arrows if it was close, if there was any contention.
I didn’t think I had much chance. Everyone else was shooting the same recurves they’d had since the beginning of the classes and were using sights and had three arrows. I had a new bow, no sight, new fingering to get used to, and only two arrows.
No one hit the gold. I kid you not. Not one of the other beginners hit the gold. But I did. With both arrows right in the 9. And I won this week’s chocolate bar. But I learnt two things, too. The first was to trust my coaches over and above what I read in books. There’s something about their experience combined with their ability to actually see what I’m doing wrong right in front of them which a book just can’t replicate. Secondly, I realised I was a barebow shooter. An instinctive shooter. And it felt right.
Of course, this sent me into a spin trying to decide what bow to buy myself. I’m actually obsessing about this on a daily basis. Here’s my thinking:
I could buy a Buck Trail. Cheap, effective hybrid.
I could buy a Bodnik Slick Stick. Less cheap, excellent hybrid.
I could buy an English longbow and just be done with it. But I think the longbow will be too hard at this point.
The problem is that I’m going to end up buying a 40lb bow, probably, and then six months later wanting something heavier. I understand I need a lighter bow to work on my form, but I also know that a lighter bow might not give me the pull I need , just as the club bows didn’t.
So, I could buy the Buck Trail for £120 and then upgrade to a 50lb Slick Stick later. But then why waste the money on the Buck Trail? Maybe I could be happy with a 45lb Slick Stick and make do. But if I spend over £200 on a Slick Stick, will that make me less likely to fork out £350 for a longbow sometime soon? Arrggh. I just don’t know what to do. There’s still time to think about it all, though. I’ll keep asking questions.
Next lesson I get a certificate saying I can join a club and start shooting. Looking forward to that.
Also, next lesson we’re scoring. That means recording our scores and working out what our handicaps are. Let’s hope they give me a third arrow before that happens!