Lesson 6 of 6

This lesson started with my getting new arrows. They were aluminium ones, quite fat, made by Easton. As they were old club-owned arrows, one coach span them individually on the side of another arrow to see if they were straight. I hadn’t seen this done before.

We shot some ends, and I picked up where I left off – using the club’s 26lb recurve without a sight and shooting three fingers under. I was doing better than I’d done in the previous lessons and definitely felt I’d found something that worked for me.

We then got given score sheets for the competition, which was the finale of the course. I shot against two other beginner seniors on a single target. The younger beginners were also split into groups. We shot at the target and scored with the central gold circle being 10 down to the final white ring which was 1. We shot 16 ends of 3 arrows each and I managed not to miss the target once, unlike everyone else, and hit the gold (9 or 10 points) twenty two times, so I won outright with a score of 388 which was about a hundred higher than anyone else. I won the chocolate bar again. However, the “inner core strength” issue, or wobbliness, is still obviously apparent to the well trained eye of the coaches. The names Spaghetti Man and Mr Pasta were, this time, eschewed for the simpler and more amusing nickname spag bol.

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This is my score sheet. The layout was simplified for us beginners.

But the real excitement of the night was getting my certificate saying I’ve completed the course and joining the local club. This also joins me to Archery GB which means I can now shoot in pretty much any club in the UK. Archery GB also send you a quarterly magazine. I managed to grab a couple going spare in the club to read sometime, dating from 2016.

Meanwhile, also ordered a three finger under-style tab and a Win & Win arrow puller from Merlin Archery. Still not ready to buy a bow yet though… still struggling to decide what to get, but I like what Traditional Jester said in a comment on a previous post about his “longbow is a cannon whilst my flatbow is a sniper rifle” because although I want to shoot longbow, I want to get good at archery first and I think I’d be happier with something with which I can learn to shoot accurately. This makes me think it’d be better if I bought a longbow in 6 or 12 months time, after I’ve had a good amount of time to get used to shooting something that will give me a bit more feedback about my accuracy and progression, or lack thereof.

Lesson 5 of 6

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.

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Lesson 4 of 6

The first thing I did today was have a hospital procedure, during which I was given Buscopan which, at one point, made everything up close very fuzzy to the point where I couldn’t text on my phone after the procedure. With this in mind, I wasn’t really expecting a night of great shooting, and sure enough, after a little unexpected initial success, it went downhill.

Three balloons on the boss. I shot one, and then the next, and then almost got the third – very close. This to jeers of “you shot the blue but you were aiming for the green one” and so on. Hard to concentrate when you’re chuckling. That was about as good as I got though, there were a lot of near misses and for the first time a significant number of arrows that missed the boss. Just glad to have made it to the session.

Tonight we had novelty targets on bosses set at alternating distances of 20 yards and about 14 yards, and we all rotated between the targets. Some had hallowe’en pictures, some had apples, some had milk bottles stuffed with rags, some had Sellotape rings stuck in pyramids, as pictured. It was a night of fun shooting, but the real aim tonight was to let us see some real bows and arrows, not just the £80 recurves we’d been shooting.

So, first a coach showed us his hybrid flatbow, which was £485 worth of Bearpaw Bodnik Quick Stick, right handed, bow weight 50lbs. He was shooting barebow, being an instinctive archer.quick stick He was shooting carbon arrows with yellow goose feathers (£10 a pop). He shoots with two fingers and uses a modified tab. Impressive and inspiring to see someone hitting bulls’ eyes with this set up as I hope to achieve this myself someday. It was explained that there’s more accuracy than a recurve because of the rigidity, no flex in the limbs like a recurve, but that it isn’t so fast. It was clear the instinctive shooting style looked quite different to that of the other coaches.

Slightly reluctantly he let me try it out (pulling it back without an arrow) and I found I could draw it to full draw length for me. Sure, it was a lot heavier than I was used to and probably too heavy, but I managed it fine. I’d probably manage a good few arrows before getting tired with it, but I understand you need something more manageable when you’re still learning your form.

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Lesson 3 of 6

So we come to lesson three. In the last lesson, we were handed a sheet with these steps on it, which I memorised:

1. Stance
2. Nock arrow
3. Set hands
4. Prepare
5. Raise bow
6. Draw
7. Anchor and aim
8. Release and follow through

It seems clear, but then you start to wonder what is involved in the ‘prepare’ part, and shouldn’t you be aiming from when you raise the bow? I know the steps though and having had a little practice and got to grips with using my shoulders, I feel confident going into this lesson, although partly just confident that I’ll realise how little I actually know in no time at all.

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Lesson 2 of 6

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!

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Lesson 1 of 6

First lesson. I turn up. Normal start time 7pm but we’re all here, us beginners, at 6.30pm so we can do some preparatory stuff. The professionals seem friendly but preoccupied. There’s not much in the way of introductions. We beginners stand around awkwardly as the officials fuss with things in lockers and bits of paper. They take a register. Eleven of twelve have turned up. People are playing badminton in the large sports hall and we wait for them to finish.

We get told about finding your dominant eye. Basically, one eye seems to send a stronger message to the brain than the other. You hold up your fingers to make a triangle to look through, and hold out the triangle at arm’s length. You then focus on a point on a wall and bring that triangle back to your eyes. It will come to your left or right eye. I was left eye dominant. But having spoken to my work colleague previously, I thought this was a problem. Left eye dominant means you want to hold the bow with your right hand and draw the string with your left. But I write with my right hand, and standing that way around would feel like trying to write with my left hand – totally awkward. I get advice from one coach to do it anyway. Another tells me to do what feels natural. I end up with a bow I hold in my left hand so I can draw with my right hand. This feels natural. This is what I would do if someone unleashed me with a bow and arrow in a forest and I was pretending to be Robin Hood. Continue reading “Lesson 1 of 6”