Sessions 13, 14, 15

I’m grouping these together as they were somewhat uneventful. Session 13 I shot 40 yards for a bit, then, for fun, had a go at the 100 yards just to see if I could. I shot ten arrows and hit with the tenth (to a cheers from the line of watching archers, not without a sense of humour). Here’s one that sailed on past to about 140 yards, which is encouraging because at least if a clout session comes round I’ll feel I can have a go. 

Sailed past the 100 yards

The good thing about the longer distances is that the arrows are easier to find. At 40 yards they bury themselves flat in the short grass and are a bugger to find. 

[At this point, before session 14, there was a field shoot, but that’s to be another post.]

So, session 14 was all about 60 yards. There’s a countywide competition coming up hosted by my club and I’m taking part for the fun of it. Most of it is about shooting 60 yards, I’m told. So, I thought I’d try this distance again. I did give 60 yards a go a while back but at the time it seemed like the hundred yards does now – some comical distance to be shot only for fun and left to the compound and recurve shooters.

I might have hit the boss once or twice, which ain’t great in an hour of shooting ends of nine arrows (why nine? That’s all I have left after losing and smashing the rest!) 

So, session 15 I was back and earlier. An hour and a half on the 60 yards. This time, a bit better. Getting used to it. 

Advice from person A: don’t point at the sky, you’ve no reference point, move your anchor from the side of your mouth to under your chin. 

Person B: You need to split fingers, three under will make you shoot low. Use a glove, not your tab. 

Person C: But some people say… 

And I tried all their variations and decided to stick with what I knew. Three under. My tab. But actually the anchor under the chin does work for me just to get the height I need with the 40lb bow at 60 yards. 

Person D watched my shooting. Still a bad release but in part because I hold the string too close to the arrow and sometimes touch it. I hadn’t realised. I was doing that back during my beginner course. Have I learned nothing? Also my release is sometimes sloppy and sometimes fine. Need to concentrate on using back muscles, which I suspect I don’t as much as I should. Obviously a heinous error. As is adjusting my bow grip during the drawing process – how did I get so many bad habits after just a few weeks of less practice? 

He also talked me through bending at the waist, not angling the bow or my arms differently. The others points were error correction, but this was the first time I was really understanding this. It made the whole thing easier and my accuracy improved. But also I relaxed. He pointed out I was straining my neck at times before doing this. 

Probably fluke, but it’s great when one goes where you want it to (60 yards)

One of the things I’d realised in a previous week was that when I just relaxed I shot much better. Somehow, finally, I had got back to where I was when things were going alright. Sure, I’m not as good at 60 as 30, but I’m getting better. 

Unfortunately, no more practice before the competition. Not that it matters. I’m going mostly to experience it as a new thing, help out where I can, and fling a few arrows in the process. Apparently there’s cake.

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Session 5

Gorgeous weather this evening, great for outdoor shooting, and I had a much, much better night’s shooting. 

I had my long arm guard on to prevent the bow string hitting my arm. Tonight, I didn’t need it. The string didn’t slap me once.

I also had a glove instead of my tab. This left my fingers numb for about an hour afterward, but I could feel much more while shooting and it definitely made me shoot better, just as shooting with bare fingers seemed to work for me on my first 3D shoot. 

As a note to myself, I think having a bottle of water with me made a difference. Last week I was flagging terribly by the two hour mark. Today, despite the heat, I felt I could happily have kept going. 

I realised,  though, that the club takes about ten minutes per end on average. By the time all the archers are done, and usually the compound shooters take longest, and we all collect arrows, and hunt for missing ones, it’s about ten minutes. In a two hour session, with 20 minutes for set up, that’s only  10 ends. On that basis, you’re doing a lot more shooting if you have ten arrows with you, than just three the club gave you.

On the whole, I shot much better today. That said, there were a few dodgy shots, like the one pictured, and a lot of misses. And one more broken arrow. But…

I started shooting on the 30 yard boss. My very first shot was in the gold and that set me off on the right foot. But then I started to struggle a bit, like last week. So, I decided to start from scratch and reassess each stage of what I was doing.

I’d been leaning forward as part of my stance because my coach does it and because KiSik Lee described 70 per cent weight on the front of the foot in his book. But he also said sink your weight like a martial artist. I used to do karate, so I adopted a neutral stance and sank my weight. I could feel myself anchor to the ground. And I shot better. My bow arm was fine, I decided, because it just wasn’t in the way or causing a problem tonight. My grip was relaxed, and that was fine. 

I can’t explain it, but something I read in Bow International magazine earlier today struck home. I can’t remember what article it was, but it mentioned relaxing. I suddenly decided that relaxing was key. And here I had relaxed into my stance, relaxed my bow arm, my grip, but also relaxed mentally. I’d decided my stance and those things were right. They weren’t the problem.  I was doing them right. I relaxed mentally. I’d been over analysing. And then I realised I needed to relax everything. 

I  had been trying to put all the weight in my shoulders, then ‘load’ more weight. This just made me not shoot straight. So, I relaxed my draw. I just drew it, to the anchor point, and I decided that was right. The anchor point, I decided was right. And I’ve been worrying about it a lot, but now, after a few golds, I’m realising it’s not the problem. 

I shot some good arrows. Can’t say grouping was great, but took the advice of those who’ve commented on my blog here and just tried to enjoy it and find what worked for me, but moreover try to accept that this is OK, and to relax about it. 

So, having filled up the 30 yards boss with arrows, I made a joke about it being too close and moved to 40 yards. Believing this was being a bit daft for a total beginner, I relaxed even more. About half my arrows hit the boss, but the more I relaxed, the more I hit. 

There was a lad who I hadn’t spoken to before and he was shooting the 40 yards with me, but using a recurve with accessories. He missed slightly less than me, but not by much, and he hit the gold the same amount of times. He’d been shooting for a year. I told him I’d been shooting two weeks and he did a double-take, “That’s good. Wow. That’s very good.” I don’t have a lot of other people to compare my beginner state to, but, hey, that made me feel good. 

Shooting at 40 yards, I realised that my release was still messing up a lot of shots. I didn’t let myself get stressed about it. Instead, I relaxed it. And it improved. 

Not too bad at 40 yards, especially compared to last session’s disaster.

Sure, I didn’t hit with every arrow, but I was getting there. 9 out of 10 on some ends. 

So, for fun, I moved up to 50 yards. I hit about half. 

50 yards

But I enjoyed it, and each shot I expected to hit.

Only landed one arrow on the 60 yards, but partly that was pressure as I was the only one still shooting, and partly it was because the facewalking wasn’t working. (Still trying facewalking just because that’s what I’ve been taught.)

This is what did and didn’t work:

30 yards – corner of mouth. 

40 yards – slide it down to top of chin. 

50 yards – slide it down to under jaw.

60 yards – I’ve run out of face. 

At some future point, I’ll figure out what do do at 60. Perhaps a split finger draw will provide the answer. Dunno. 

I feel that I’ve got it now. As long as I do what I did tonight then I can hit the bosses and it becomes just a matter of aiming. Currently,  I find coming up from beneath the gold, pointing with the arrow tip, and releasing as it gets to center, works best.

The biggest problem tonight was arrows falling short or just missing. But tonight that was a facewalking and aiming problem, not a cack-handed archer problem.

And I just feel the love for it all over again.

Edit: I’ve just looked back at Traditional Jester’s and Steve Ruis’s comments on my last session and realised I’ve basically not discovered anything by myself here but just done what they suggested. Clearly their advice had sunk into my subconscious (or whatever) and had just been waiting for the next session to make itself known. Thanks guys!