Archery involves using your instincts. An archer will usually naturally draw with their right hand, but you may want to use your left. If you draw with the right hand then you will aim with your right eye, and vice versa if you draw with your left hand.
You need to position yourself properly by keeping one foot to either side of the shooting line. Your feet should also be shoulder-width apart with your weight spread evenly on both feet and your body facing the target at a 90 degree angle.
After you’ve achieved this position you’re ready to draw the arrow out of the quiver. Nock the arrow by letting it slide backwards on the bowstring. Nocking is when the back of the arrow (the nock) is clipped to the string. The cock feather; the one that looks different to the others, should point left.
Then you position your fingers on the string. You need to use your index finger to curl around the string above the arrow, with your middle and ring fingers below the arrow. The string should be just past the first joint of your fingers.
Prepare to shoot by lifting the bow and pulling back on the string until your index finger rests under your chin with the string of the bow touching your nose. This is known as the anchor point. Close the eye you aren’t aiming with and line the sight on the bow up with the centre of the target.
Take in a deep breath and let out just half of it. Let your mind be cleared of anything that isn’t the target in front of you and relax. Don’t open your fingers to release the string; just let it fall out of your fingers. Let out the rest of your breath as the arrow flies and stay in place until the target is hit.
The key to archery success is to be consistent. You should aim to perform each shot as you did the one before. Stand the exact same way, pull the string back as far as before, and even breathe the exact same way.
Archery takes a lot of strength but working on the muscles you need for archery can prove difficult if you just go to the gym. What you need to do is move yourself into your shooting position with the bow and hold that position for thirty seconds. Relax for thirty seconds and then repeat the exercise until you can’t do it any more.
It’s also important that you stay completely still. Even the smallest movement can really alter your shot, especially a long distance shot. An arrow can fly out of a bow at up to 60m/s, while targets can be a good 90m away. If you even twitch you can send your arrow veering off course. In archery you get the most points for hitting the golden circle. The centre of this circle is called the x-ring (it’s not a bullseye) and, even though you won’t get any extra points for hitting it, it does determine who wins in the event of a tie-break situation.
If you want to get started with archery there are plenty of clubs across the UK that are friendly to beginners. Archery is great fun for all the family; young and old. It’s also a great sport that people with disabilities can compete in. Disabled archers often compete side by side with able-bodied competitors. Membership with an archery club usually costs around £35 a year depending on the size of the club. Archery can be done during winter because clubs have an indoor range. This indoor season usually lasts between October and March. The indoor targets are closer than outdoor ones, but also smaller to compensate. Find a club near you by visiting the Grand National Archery Society at www.gnas.org, or the International Archery Federation at www.archery.org.
Most clubs will require you to have at least some basic tuition in archery before you’re allowed to shoot solo. This begins with targets that are only about 10m away with the distance increasing as you improve. It only takes about six weeks to get good enough to go solo and courses usually cost between £20 and £50.
The only competition in the UK that it closed to all but the best is the UK Masters tournament. All the other archery tournaments are usually open to all so you can compete with your club at one of them.
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You don’t need to worry too much about archery equipment as the club will usually kit you out. You should wear flat and stable shoes though. Avoid wearing heels and loose tops as loose tops can snag on the bow.
Archers will wear an arm guard on the arm they hold the bow with to protect it from the bow string. They also wear finger tabs; a small pouch designed to protect the finger. Some archers keep their clothes in check by wearing a chest guard. Using a pair of binoculars can help you see if you hit that long distance target.
The bows most commonly used in archery are recurve bows. If you want to buy your own you also need to invest in a sight so that you can line the arrows up with the target. You also need bow stabilisers that keep the bow steady while shooting.
The Upsides of Archery
Archery is great at reducing stress. Staying cool under the pressure of archery can teach you to apply this to the other stressful times.
It sharpens the mind as the amount of focus and mental clarity you need in archery will improve your overall concentration.
It tones your upper body as repeatedly lifting and drawing the bow is great upper body exercise.
It’s great for burning calories. Someone who weighs ten stone will burn an average of about 180 calories an hour. There is so much walking involved in a tournament that you could walk up to six miles a day.
It also strengthens your back. Most of the work in archery is taken on by the back which becomes strengthened as a result.
The Downsides of Archery
Archery can be pretty frustrating. It’s an easy skill to pick up but becomes almost impossible to truly master. Even the very best archers will be unable to hit the x-ring each and every time.
The weather can make it difficult. British summers are usually unpredictable at best and even a small gust can ruin your shooting. Flags on the targets will show you the wind direction so you can compensate but it can become almost impossible to hit the target in bad weather.
Archery also won’t do much for you from a cardio perspective. It’s great for burning calories and building muscles but it won’t boost your cardiovascular system in the way that sports like running will.