Category Archives: Articles by Club Members

Josie : Attention in Archery

Hi all, I’m on a slightly different tack this week and thought you might like to come along for the ride. I’ve been musing on concentration recently in an attempt to improve my shooting technique. In the course of my research I’ve come across this issue in many archery books and articles I’ve read. It may sound like something that won’t become relevant until later on, but believe me: it’s as important to the absolute beginner as the seasoned pro. Different people approach it in different ways. This is my take on it.

Attention in Archery

Attention moves around the visual field independent of the direction of gaze. This is the “attentional spotlight”, utilising peripheral vision as almost a second set of eyes. We use this in everyday life all the time, in general totally unaware of the split connection. Even if we find ourselves looking directly at something we don’t expect to see, we’re no more likely to notice it than if it appears at the edge of our vision. Hence, attention roves across the field of vision like a spotlight, picking out points of interest that are not necessarily where our eyes are pointed. It also acts as a kind of built-in risk assessment, constantly scanning the environment and submitting information to the subconscious which informs motor function.

Attentional spotlight has a major role to play in target archery. Have you ever got to full draw, focused on the gold, held on just a second or so too long and found your arrow tip wanders away from the centre? Attention is critical for this. It also works the other way: taking too little time may allow your eyes to point the right way but is by no means a guarantee of attention.

It’s why I find rhythm so important for shooting: I know, more-or-less, how long I can keep my attention fixed to my gaze and I know how long it takes me to get to full draw and do the necessary pre-flight checks. The tricky bit is marrying the two to create the perfect shooting conditions. Working to a rhythm or counting the draw can help you become more consistent. If you try this then remember also to develop a breathing pattern that is the same every time you draw. (While we’re on that tangent, try to avoid taking a deep breath while drawing, especially when at full draw; it causes too much upper body movement and it’s harder to hold position when the lungs are either completely full or completely empty. Try various breathing patterns and see what works for you.)

Attention can take up to half a second to divert, which is a long time in psychological terms. On some days you may find your attention just won’t stay. This can make shooting extremely difficult and frustrating. It’s up to you whether you stick with it on that day. There are mental techniques that are said to be able to help with this which take time and training to master (I’ll be coming back to this another time). Despite how long it may take I believe it’s not only worthwhile but crucial if you wish to discover how good an archer you can be. 

It is possible to shoot fairly well without getting to grips with attention-mapping, just don’t expect top-quality scores! If you are willing to invest the time it will add an extra facet to your ability that will be useful in everyday life too.

There’s another side to the same coin known as ‘ironic processes of control’. Sometimes too  much attention is just as detrimental as too little. Imagine you’ve just shot two 10s. You’re on course for an excellent score and mentally rehearsing the final shot as you prepare to draw. Concentrate, release and – it’s a 6. Been there? I have. This is a prime example of the ironic processes of control. You over-think the shot in anticipation, moving what would usually be a subconscious process into the conscious mind. The conscious mind cannot treat the process in a likewise fashion and makes subtle alterations, enough to throw the shot off completely. There are ways of dealing with this, though none are foolproof. The best way I’ve found is to gain control over your conscious mind, push its focus to one side and let the subconscious regain control of the shot. For example, focus your attention somewhere closer to home: focus on your grip on the bow, keeping your bow shoulder down, what you’re planning to do after the session or what’s for dinner. Don’t expect miracles, but you’ll improve your chances of a great shot.

I took some advice from a friend about focus. He shoots high-powered rifles over long distance at targets the size of a 50p piece so focus is a major factor. He told me that when he shoots he gets into position, sights, then drifts his eyes and his attention away from the target for just a moment before snapping them both back to the target and squeezing the trigger. This overcomes the split-attention issue by refreshing the mind just enough (and releasing any built-up tension at the same time). I’ve tried this myself at the club with good results so I’d recommend trying it. Just don’t try shifting attention too far or the conscious mind will move your arm. I drift my focus down to the border between black and white on the target face. Down works best for me as I find it doesn’t lead me to move my physical position. Make sure you drift your eyes only, don’t move your head.

I should point out that even if you follow this to the letter there’s no guarantee that every shot will be perfect. There are so many factors to consider and I don’t even know them all yet!

What are your thoughts?

Pranava : Coming back into Fashion

As I travel around London, buses and tube stations alike are adorned with huge posters of the much awaited younger Lara Croft holding a fully drawn bow with the tagline ‘a survivor is born’. As I look at all these images I think to myself, is it just because I picked up archery recently or is it really all around us nowadays!

Archery also features heavily in almost every medieval fantasy world – Legolas in The Lord of Rings, The Hobbit and almost everyone in the TV series The Game of Thrones portray archery as a weapon of precision and talent. However, it’s also interesting to see archery feature in modern day comics. I didn’t even know there was a character called the Hawkeye before I watched Marvel’s Avengers! In all fairness, that’s my shortcoming since Hawkeye has been part of the Avengers since the 60s. Of course I was glad to find that there is an archer in the midst of the expensive-gadgeted billionaires and born-with-powers gods, etc. For whatever reason, there he is!

There is also a new TV series Arrow based an old DC comics hero Green Arrow. Apparently he survived 5 years on an island and is a billionaire in Starling City, much like Gotham’s Batman except Batman never thought of getting a bow. The survivor theme seems to be key. Katniss Everdeen survived The Hunger Games with more help from her bow than from Haymitch her mentor. The Hunger Games movie apparently brought many people into archery, so much so that a lot of people have asked me if that was my reason. Funnily enough though the movie never actually seems to focus on the shooting itself – unlike Merida in Brave. Even though it’s only a couple of scenes, Brave does make a good go of portraying archery accurately. Even the fletchings on the arrow are correctly aligned (unlike Avatar where the technique is so horrible archery looks to be somewhat risky for both hunter and hunted alike). Brave also portrays archery as having a lovely rebellious edge.

So, to conclude, although archery is an ancient skill it is also definitely the newest fashionable sport in town! You simply can’t have fantasy fiction without an archer! And actually.. I’ve just spotted another theme. Green Arrow and Hawkeye are old comics but the newer archery heroes are all women! Ha! Now I am definitely trying to pull a fast one!

Louise : my first club shoot

So, I attended and completed the beginner’s course with 2020 Archery, and by the end I felt pretty confident that I could at least do alright for a beginner. I wasn’t brilliant but I wasn’t constantly missing and I hadn’t injured anyone.

I joined the Club pretty much straight away (only £30 annually to be a member) and got my login. I had already booked my first shoot over email but I used my login to book my second shoot. It was really easy and simple to use and I worked out when the best times to book would be.

I was twinned with a club member called Sarah who was able to tell me a little about what usually happens when you attend a club practice session. After helping to set everything up we got shooting straight away. I ended up using the same bow as the last two sessions I attended which I was happy about, and due to the weather it was quite quiet and I had a target to myself.
Now, I’d love to tell you I was awesome and hit the centre of the target all the time, I’d love to tell you that because the reality was quite different! My first few ends were literally hit and miss (unless you count hitting the curtain, in which case they were all hits) and I got smacked in the arm a couple of times with the bow string (entirely my own fault). At one point, a couple of club members pointed out I was trying to shoot at a slight angle as I wasn’t directly in the line of a target. I started to get a bit tired and a bit annoyed with myself, not to mention my arm hurting from the twanging.
This is not a photo of Louise!
Luckily I was surrounded by many awesome club members, some of whom had been there a while, and some who were only in their 3rd or 4th session of shooting post-course. They reminded me that this was only my first shoot and I was probably a bit nervous and to just relax and enjoy it. So, I pulled myself together, sorted out my arm guard so it was tighter and in a more sensible place, moved along the line a bit so I was in front of the target properly and tried to relax. My first shot after all this hit red, and then the second hit yellow. The third hit outside the target but we won’t talk about that one.
I think the important thing to remember is that even though you’ve just completed the course you’re still a beginner and you’re constantly learning, altering your technique, getting used to the surroundings and just doing what you feel comfortable with.
Even though it didn’t go entirely to plan, I really enjoyed my first session, especially because I met such lovely people like Sarah, plus Tony and Laura who helped me settle in. Alright I came out with a little bruise or two and I didn’t get nearly as many points overall as I did previously, but I’m so glad I was able to do the course and so glad I’ve joined the club.
Until next time!

Josie : how to build / fletch arrows

Today I’m taking you through the first of this year’s major archery purchases: new arrows.
A lovely line of lovely shiny points
The arrow choice was made on advice – taking the jump from aluminium X7 to carbon is a significant step that can be costly. Considering the likelihood of upgrading limbs one can’t expect arrows to be well-matched to increased poundage, so it made sense not to spend a small fortune on arrows I may not use for that long. Luckily, Roger was on hand to recommend Carbon Express as an excellent alternative to Easton. I went with Medallion XR on the basis that the shafts and components came to under £140 for a dozen arrows, so not too big a deal if I need to upgrade them in six months. 
It’s the first time I’ve assembled arrows so there was a bit of a learning curve. Luckily, several experienced archers are a short hop away on email so advice was never far away.
Let’s get on with assembly. First, I cleaned the shafts and inside each end with isopropyl alcohol. Then I fitted the nock inserts. I used Dragon Spit for these, seemed like a reasonable idea. Before gluing, make sure all the shafts are the same way around or the writing will go different ways on your arrows! 
Newly fletched arrows
Next came the points. When it comes to points, there are many different fixatives recommended and it’s a little confusing. Would hot-melt be better than epoxy? Do you need to use an “archery” glue or will a bog-standard hardware glue work just as well? Can you get away with super glue or another cyanoacrylate instead? I couldn’t decide so I asked Roger – given his experience building and mending arrows it’s fairly safe to assume he knows what he’s talking about. He recommended hot-melt so I went with that.
The points themselves were quite easy to fit, but I did find a couple of snags which can be avoided. Firstly, when working with hot-melt you have only the “hot” window in which to work with the glue before it goes off. As such, putting it on to a cold tip will decrease working time significantly. I heated the tips with a heat-gun until they were quite warm but still able to be held. With my first point, I inserted it too slowly and the tip got stuck halfway, so I heated the shaft gently for a couple of seconds until the glue had softened enough to push the rest of the point in, which worked perfectly.
Now for the pin-nocks. These aren’t really any harder to assemble than G-nocks (which I have on my X7s), but the metal pin insert serves the added purpose of protecting the end of the shaft from direct hits. The nocks push onto the nock pin but are not glued: it’s a tight fit when they’re on so they don’t need to be. I like to get things just right, so I positioned the nocks so that the arrow text is perfectly aligned down the side of the arrow when the arrow is at full draw. Makes it look so much more professional… 
The trickiest part (for me) was fletching. I think I used too much glue on this first batch – getting the exact right amount eluded me. Too much is a bit messy and too little will not stick well enough. For reference, a blob of glue at each end of the vane will also help stop the vanes coming detached at the weakest part. It was the first time using my fletching jig so I had to set the alignment for the arrows I was fletching, but this was straightforward and didn’t take more than a minute or so. Fletching a dozen arrows takes time – every vane has to be glued, positioned and allowed to set for a couple of minutes before then removing the clamp and rotating to the next position. It’s very “on-off” work so good to do whilst doing something else (cooking, watching TV or even at your desk at work if you have a forgiving boss!). 
This is my first arrow build so I don’t yet know how they will shoot. I’ll add a comment when I’ve tested them! Let’s hope they don’t disintegrate on impact…
I’m sure there are some other tips which will help fletching/arrow building, would anybody like to add any?

Mark : First Competition Norwich Stafford Part 2

If you missed my last post, let me bring you up to speed… We’re in Norwich shooting a Stafford; this is my first competitive shoot and all’s going well. 

I found out about the tournament in the directory at the back of the Archery GB magazine, which brings me to a very important point : if you want to shoot competitively you must be a member of Archery GB (often still referred to as GNAS). If you aren’t a member then you won’t get past the stage of filling in the tournament entry form. It doesn’t cost much to join and you can do it through the club (just send an email in to the office). As well as enabling you to shoot at competitions it also means you can shoot at other clubs, assuming they allow guests (and you ask nicely!). Perfect if you ever spend lengths of time away from home and want to keep up your practice.

The tournament directory lists all the UKRS and WRS shoots that are going on around the country, along with some other open club competitions. If you shoot regularly at 2020 you are probably familiar with the Portsmouth round, but there are other indoor rounds you can shoot too. Don’t let this phase you; they are all similarly structured and of similar difficulty. 

The Stafford round is 6dz arrows shot in ends of three arrows at a distance of 30m at an 80cm target. It feels very similar to a Portsmouth, as the increased distance is countered by a larger target face. It is not a particularly common round as it’s difficult to find a large enough indoor space to comfortably shoot it, so many of the competitors were using their sighter ends to coarsely set their sights rather than fine tuning a sight mark worked out previously. I didn’t want to take that chance, so I had been practicing shooting at 30m for a few weeks beforehand at (often in sub-zero temperatures – how’s that for dedication/idiocy!) and had worked out my sight marks.

There are a few pieces of etiquette that you should be familiar with before shooting at a tournament and although we shoot safely and respectfully at 2020 we don’t always follow rules that are standard at many clubs. A couple rules you’d be wise to be aware of:

  • Do not step up to or back from the line if the archer in front or behind of you is at full draw, it’s distracting.
  • If you are the penultimate archer to finish shooting your arrows, stay on the line until the last archer has finished shooting. You don’t leave someone up there by themselves. Even if you have to stand there looking like a plum for 30 seconds.

Other points of etiquette are relaxed. For example, we frown a little bit if you stand on the line at 2020 adjusting your sight as it slows the session down, but in a competitive shoot each end is timed. You generally have two minutes to shoot your three arrows, so if you want to spend some of that time adjusting your sight that’s up to you.

Although the experience was new and there were a few things to learn I’m pleased to report that I had a good shoot. I scored 623/720, a little lower than my practice average, but still placing me 6th out of 15 in the Gents Recurve and leaving me with an itch to scratch… that evening I entered another four tournaments!

Full results can be found here: 

Louise : Final session of the beginner’s course

After the start of last week’s session it was fair to say I was quite nervous about how I’d start off this week. Would I hit the curtain again on my first shot? Would my arrow even stay inside the sports hall? 

These were all genuine worries, but my mind and body seemed to have got the hang of it. It was the last session yesterday.  I helped set up and then strung my bow. I was quite chuffed that I remembered how to do it to be honest, anything after that was a bonus. I paired up with Tim for the final time on the shooting line and we began shooting pretty much straight away. Diccon spent less time getting me to rearrange my arms or my reference point this week which I think meant that I was doing okay! My grouping wasn’t brilliant during the first few ends; it takes me a little time to get my sight lined up, but I eventually started to line up my shots. I’ve noticed that I start to hit the centre of the target, just at different points vertically! I hit mostly black and white rings during the first ¾ ends but eventually broke my streak and hit red. Fiona, a member of my group (in the photo to the left!) had a start similar to mine and then she hit the centre of the target. Another member of the group had perfect grouping on their target. It was good to see how far we’d all come since the beginning when we all thought the bow was heavy and we couldn’t get our reference point etc.

After a number of ends we had a competition. Last week in a smaller competition I came third after two ends (a score out of 60) which I was very happy with. This week our competition was out of 300 points which would be ten ends. Any mention of competition usually puts heaps on pressure on and I don’t do very well, much like in my Have-a-Go session all those months ago. This time, after so many hours and so many shots I seemed to be able to keep my composure. I wasn’t always on target (literally) and my grouping was still a little off, however I scored higher as time went on. In the end I came third again with 152 points! I even managed to get a 10 pointer at one stage.

One final tip that Diccon gave us to help with our shooting was to line up the string in the same place on the bow when the string is pulled back, using your foresight. I was terrible at this, this first time I tried the arrow hit the boss sideways and landed on the floor. I might leave using that trick until a further date!

At the end of the session everyone on the course was presented with a certificate of attendance, to show that we attended the course, spent six hours shooting and understood the basic safety protocols and would be able to join 2020Archery as a club member. Diccon gave us the information on what the next steps would be should we wish to join and everyone in my group seemed quite interested in carrying on with the sport and joining the club. One good thing about joining after the course is that you can request to have a buddy when you first attend a shoot, someone who has been shooting for a while and who can help you settle in quickly which I think is a great idea. There are a number of shooting sessions that we can book onto and equipment hire is included in the price of the session, so I don’t think I’ll be running out and buying all the kit just yet!

I had a great time on the course. Diccon was a great tutor and was very patient with us all and offered great advice and help. I found each week easier to get into shooting and forming my reference point and even the weight of the bow was less noticeable by the middle of this week’s session. I was also in a group of nice people who I hope to meet again at a club session.

So there we have it. The course is completed and now the next step is to join 2020 Archery and fulfil my dream of becoming a superhero.

Oh, and you see that photo of me there? My reference point is wrong. Don’t copy me, I’m only a beginner! Until next time……

To take a look at upcoming dates for the Monday evening course that Louise took go to the website here

Mark : First Competition! Norwich Stafford

It’s a wintery afternoon on 13th January 2013 and I’m wandering around a near deserted college campus somewhere on the outskirts of Norwich. The sports hall, the venue for the Norfolk Bowmen UKRS (UK Record Status) Stafford, is proving to be difficult to find. I feel okay about this because as soon as I do find it I’m in unknown territory – the elusive world of the archery tournament.

My quest to find the sports hall left me plenty of time to ponder the bigger questions in life: How will I know what to do? What if I don’t know the etiquette? Why does Rule 307 make me feel like I’m back a school? What on earth is a Lady Paramount?

Ah, found the entrance! Deep breath. Here’s what I found out….
  • It’s similar to shooting at the club. There are loads of people with bows, a few familiar faces (some of the staff from Clickers in Norwich) and a lot of less familiar faces. But we’re all here to do the same thing.
  • It’s really well organised and the judges are here to help. I arrived at the end of the first session, found a judge and blurted out, “This is my first tournament, what do I do?”. 
“Don’t panic!”, came the wisened reply, “Set up your bow and we’ll explain everything”. Which they did, immediately prior to our two ends of sighters.
  • Although the signalling system is different to the one used at 2020, it only takes a couple of ends to get used to it. In short: 

    • *bleep bleep* first detail to the shooting line 
*bleep* first detail shoot

    • *bleep bleep* second detail to the shooting line
*bleep* second detail shoot

    • *bleep bleep bleep* safe to score and collect your arrows

    • The process then repeats, but if you were on the first detail for the first end you swap to second detail for the second end and so forth. That way, everyone gets to shoot at a blank target face an equal number of times.

If there are four people on a target (A,B,C,D), archer C tends to write the scores, but this can be negotiated. You call your arrows in turn, highest value to lowest, pointing at each one as you call it (but don’t touch any of the arrows or the target face until scoring has finished!). If you aren’t the scorer you should pull your fair share of arrows once the scores have been taken, not just your own arrows.

And so it goes until the end of the round.

I was lucky enough to be on a target with three friendly and more experienced archers so I took the opportunity to ask lots of the questions. In my next post I’ll let you know what I found out about etiquette and preparation.

p.s. the Lady Paramount (or Lord Paramount) appears to be the chief judge. This wasn’t overly clear. I think they should have to wear a special hat or something.

Louise : Embedded reporting from Monday night Beginners Course Week 2!

I stood on the line, remembering my T position and my reference point.  I took a deep breath as I picked up my arrow and placed it on my bow. As I drew the string back I breathed in hard, then I let the string slip off my fingers and watched as the arrow sailed through the air, straight past the target on the boss and into the curtain at the end of the sports hall.


And so the second session of the Fast-track course began!

Those who arrived a little earlier helped to set up all the equipment and Heidi joined for a short while, giving us tips on how to place and pin the targets to the straw bosses. We started shooting fairly soon into the start of the session after a few refresher tips from Diccon, our course leader. It was fair to say that I didn’t start off well. In fact 2 out of the 3 arrows shot in the first two ends seemed to enjoy missing the boss completely. However it didn’t take long before I started to get back into the swing of things. I started to get used to tuning the sight more this time round, and from the third end, around 70% of my arrows were central on the target! Horizontally rather than vertically, but this was still good progress as far as I was concerned.

I think the most important thing I learned during this session was how to hold the bow, or rather, being reminded how to hold the bow by using my palm rather than trying to balance the bow in-between my thumb and forefinger, putting pressure on the area. I felt much more in control of the bow and my shaking reduced a fair amount too.

There was a lot of shooting practice this time, giving us the chance to work on our technique more and to get used to repeating certain manoeuvres over and over so we were more used to them. Diccon was on hand giving everyone advice and help, pointing out when a shoulder was too high or giving us new things to think about when shooting, such as where in our upper body the power would come from for a shot.

After an hour and a half, it was competition time. Each person would shoot two ends, three arrows in each, and the score would be recorded with a best out of sixty. I remember how during my Have-a-Go session I instantly became awful as soon as I felt any pressure, but I did better this time round. In the first end I scored 8-7-7 totalling 22, and then in the second I scored 9 and 6 scoring 15. The other arrow decided it was a pacifist and wanted no part in the competition. With a total of 37 I was third out of the group which I was very happy with, considering how badly I began the session!

I’m already looking forward to next week. It is quite relaxing and also a little stressful but with more shooting time and practice I think this could be something I really enjoy.

Until next time!

Mark : From Novice to Competitor.

Alternate title – I am a contender!

Hello! I’m Mark and I’ve been shooting at 2020 Archery for the last two years. I first used a Recurve bow at a Have A Go stag event and enjoyed it so much that I went on to take a weekend course, joining the club shortly afterwards. After a few months of shooting I started to consider buying my own bow and set myself the goal of scoring 500 on a Portsmouth using a club bow, at which point I would shell out on the new kit. 

Exactly one year after my training weekend I was the proud owner of a Hoyt bow with XX75 arrows, which I bought from Asher at 2020 after testing out a few different bow setups. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I’d bought my first bow sooner; the fastest way to improve in the beginning is to use the same kit week in, week out, and the only real way to have that sort of control is to own your bow and get to know it intimately.

I decided early in my second year of shooting that I wanted to shoot competitively. A few weeks ago I shot at my first tournament and caught the bug; a week later I was shooting at my second tournament and the third, fourth and fifth have been booked. 

The process of preparing for and then shooting at a tournament certainly bring your practice into focus.  This is the area my blog posts will focus on. I put off entering competitive shoots for some time because I had so many questions about how it all worked, what it was going to be like and how good the other competitors were going to be. I’d like to share my experiences with you, because it’s not as scary as it might seem and it’s loads of fun. Honest!

Josie : Cupid’s Bow (A Valentine’s Day special!)

Given the date, I thought I’d explore something relevant to the moment. Let’s have a quick look at one of the world’s most famous archers: Cupid.
There are many legends surrounding this purveyor of love, with his magic arrows and unnerving aim. Like most legends, Cupid very likely has roots in ancient history, though perhaps not so recognisable from what we see today. The name comes from the Latin “cupere” which means desire. Cupid is mirrored in Greek mythology as Eros (from where the word “arrow” is derived) and is the son of Venus in Roman mythology (Aphrodite in Greek mythology). Exploring why Cupid is an archer brings up some interesting ideas. Cupid has been said to carry arrows of both gold and lead or iron: gold to inspire love and lead/iron to cause distaste (unlove, if you like).

Cupid’s factual roots emerge from his parallel with Nimrod, believed to be one and the same being (from “Nimus” which means “son”). King Nimrod (possibly king of the Assyrians) appears in the Christian faith as the great-grandson of Noah (see Genesis 9) and the world’s first great conqueror. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll remember that the Assyrians were the first to shoot recurve bows.

Nimrod was a mighty hunter, known for his strength and bowmanship. He built the Tower of Babel sometime between 3600 and 2400BC (according to archaeological record) in an attempt to bring about a great union of men, which was then destroyed and men scattered across the Earth. Archaeology proves the existence of the Tower, though Nimrod’s role in its creation is as yet not defined.

There is also a dark side to Nimrod; a hunter of the souls of men who strove to lead them to idolatry and the worship of pagan gods. Nimrod appears in Dante’s Inferno as an ice giant (sent there for his part in building the Tower of Babel). Nimrod the giant also features in Hungarian folklore.

The comparatively recent image of Cupid as a chubby infant replaces the older depiction of Cupid as a beautiful male youth which comes from Greek mythology. What about the bow? Practically, a short bow seems more likely and follows through most artistic representations: something along the lines of a Scythian recurve bow. I’m not the right person to talk about traditional bows but there are several people here who may be able to oblige!

So there it is: an extremely brief window into the history of Cupid to tide you over the weekend!

IMAGE: Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, 1786-93, Antonio Canova (Musée du Louvre)