Tag Archives: archery

What does over bowed mean in archery?

We often forget how much terminology we use in archery and how daunting it can be as a beginner so we thought we’d tackle a few of the big questions here on the blog starting with:

What does it mean when my archery instructor says that someone is ‘over bowed’?

Obviously, it doesn’t mean that they have too many bows because we all know that you can never have too many bows. This is what garages were invented for (or in London spare bedrooms, large cupboards, or any available wall or floor space). It actually means that the weight of the bow that the person is trying to pull is too much for them.

So, firstly ‘how can you tell?’ and secondly, ‘why is that a problem?’ Well, the second most important rule of archery (the first is about where you’re pointing the pointy end) is that in order to be successful an archer must be completely in control of the shot at all times. You want a smooth, repeatable shot cycle – which is exactly the same for every single shot that you take.

So, how do we know you’re over bowed? A good sign is if you see the archer wobbling around, raising their shoulders (no they shouldn’t be up around your ears and yes, it is possible for them to come down) or doing any one of a million other small, painful things (huge tension in the neck is another giveaway or grim locked-jaw with throbbing forehead veins) to try and brace yourself for the huge HOICK back… then you’re not fully in control.

Why is it a problem? Because it throws your shot off and because it’s not repeatable. If you are over bowed it will get progressively worse through the session as you tire – meaning ever more random things start to become part of your shot. We practice regularly to try to build muscle memory in a positive way – we REALLY don’t want for an archer to build in any of those painful things. So, if you feel that you’re tiring or perhaps you’re on the very edge of being over-bowed – once you start to feel that your shots are off, or you are not fully in control – then stop!

Give yourself the break and come back fresh another time.

Buying your first bow: part 2

You’ve decided to take the plunge and get your first bow. Well done! But what do you need to buy?

If you’re buying a traditional style bow, this is an easy question. Traditional bows are basically sticks with a piece of string attached, so really that’s where most of your money will go; anything left over will go on arrows and a bag and maybe some peripherals such as a quiver, finger tab (or glove), and an arm bracer.

For a modern recurve, the answer is more involved. Modern recurves are modular, so there are choices to make around each part of the bow. Some of this is based on your physique and skill (how big should the bow be? How powerful?), but much of it will be around personal preference and what type of shooting you enjoy.

The easy way to buy a modern recurve is to buy a beginner kit or a starter bow. There are plenty around, but if you’ve read my previous post and want to go to a shop and build your own bow, this is what you will need to consider. I have put in some rough cost guidelines, although as always prices may vary. Continue reading

Buying your first bow: part 1

The 2 most likely questions for a budding archer to ask immediately after their first lesson are: “How much does a bow cost?” and “Where can I buy one?”. I generally recommend that any aspiring archer holds off buying a bow until they’ve been shooting regularly at a club for a while (6 months or more), but sooner or later we all hear the siren call of shiny new archery equipment.

Where can I buy a bow?

There are plenty of places you can buy a bow; Amazon and eBay are filled with beginner kits, second hand bows, and general equipment. Heidi, archer-in-chief at 2020, bought her first bow (a second hand beginner kit) via eBay and never looked back. However, while you might be able to find a bargain, many new archers may not know their draw length, required poundage, or simply how a bow fits together. Without the guiding hand of an expert, it is easy to end up with a duffer.

When buying your first bow, I think your best bet is to buy directly from a dedicated archery shop. Most archery shops these days have websites if you just want a quiver or a finger tab, but if you’re starting out with your first bow, you would be better off taking a trip to a physical brick and mortar store. Continue reading

traditional or freestyle bows

Two Tribes

When you feel that the time has come to buy your own bow, you have a decision to make that goes beyond your income and the distance to the nearest archery shop: traditional or modern?

2020 Archery teaches using a modern style – recurve training bows – and you can stick with the club bows (with no charge!) for as long as you need. But you’ll have seen club members using the full gamut of styles: longbows, flatbows (AKA the “American longbow”), horsebows, Olympic recurves, and the occasional compound bow. Broadly speaking, the former three cover the most popular styles of traditional archery, and the latter two are considered modern.

So what unseen force pushes the novice archer to follow one path over the other?

There was an economic aspect to my decision to go traditional: my first bow, a Buck Trail flatbow, cost around £130. That figure aligned far better with my bank balance than the £200-plus that a recurve could have set me back, even before all the accessories used with freestyle – long rod, V-bars, sights and what have you – were factored in. But even if I’d been feeling more flush, I think I’d still have gone trad. That’s partly because shooting a stick-and-string makes me feel closer to the historical archers I like to learn about, and partly down to a (somewhat masochistic) desire to find out just how far I can go with the uncompensated mechanics of my own body.

I don’t think traditional is in any way superior: it’s a very personal preference. But I was interested in what makes people, as a general rule, choose one school over the other. I was also curious as to how far people grow into their preferred style – how important is your shooting choice to your identity as an archer? Are you an archer who happens to prefer traditional, or are you firmly a Traditional Archer?

“I don’t differentiate between the two”, said Erin. “I’m currently shooting a recurve, but I definitely plan to buy a traditional bow in future.” Erin sees the positives of both: “With my modern bow I’m at the point where I’m confident my arrows will hit the target where I want them to, which is obviously a nice feeling. But I like the idea of trying out a bow that doesn’t have the sights and other accessories, to develop my style.”

Kat shoots a longbow, a style of archery that she’s been drawn to since a child. Her bow is made in the Victorian style – something I’d previously been unaware of, but Kat described a photograph, currently hanging in her hallway, of Victorian ladies shooting similar bows at Crystal Place. Whilst feeling a deep connection to the longbow, Kat has a good practical reason for her choice. “I’m dyspraxic, and the relative simplicity of the longbow suits me for that reason.”

I have oversimplified by defining the choice as simply Traditional versus Modern, of course. There is, at least some kind of, meeting point between the two in the form of recurve barebow and traditional barebow. The former is a good option for those who prefer to shoot a modern recurve, but without sights, stabilisers or draw check indicators. It’s not unusual to see a club member who usually shoots freestyle remove their sights and stabilisers, just to mix things up a bit. On such occasions, their fellow archers may be treated to said archer’s musings on how their “release feels different when I shoot it bare”, which certainly livens up the session. Recurve barebow is recognised by Archery GB in their national rankings, alongside freestyle recurve, compound and longbow.

Recurve traditional is similar to recurve barebow, but requires the use of wooden arrows, alongside a couple of other stipulations.

We also have a few compound shooters in our club. These bows are fast, accurate and comparatively easier to hold at full draw (although, remember that you DO have to pull it through the peak draw weight so you need to be able to control the full weight of the bow). Like recurves, compounds can be shot with or without stabilisers and sights. You can read Archery GB’s detailed explanation of the various bow styles in the Rules of Shooting.

So is tribalism in archery a big thing? Not in our club, it seems. Even those firmly attached to their preferred style have chosen it for personal or practical, not ideological, reasons, and everybody I spoke to expressed an interest in learning about the choices of others. Archers, it seems, are curious folk. In a good way.

But since this is my blog post and I’m a traditionalist, I’m going to end with YouTube archer NUSensei’s fine demonstration of the difference between freestyle and traditional shooting. The defence rests (on the arrow shelf).

Why do some archers shoot with a tab not a glove?

Your hands are one of the most important elements in archery. They are the crucial connection between archer and bow. Correct hand positioning can be the difference between hitting the golden ten… or the neighbouring target. Your hands and fingers as an archer are arguably your most important asset (and indeed in life!). It is therefore essential that one wears protection to prevent any blisters, numbness and nerve damage, whilst also aiding your string release and performance as far as possible. Therefore every archer, whether Olympic gold medallist or novice, will need to work out some finger protection. But how do you choose from the multitude of styles available?

One of the deciding factors which will help with this decision, is determining the style of archery you wish to pursue. When shooting a traditional style bow, gloves are inherently more advantageous. They provide superb protection through reinforced fingertips (particularly helpful for bows with a heavy draw weight) and as gloves tend to be made out of thick leather, they therefore provide product longevity. For practicality purposes, gloves give the archer the ability to be “hands-free” to do other things, such as, retrieve arrows (or rearrange their Robin Hood hats). Many traditional archers not only feel that it synchronizes with their style of going “old school”, but that there is a more intuitive, natural release when shooting with a glove.

That said, the most common finger protection among archers is the finger tab. Modern Olympic-style shooters will find the tab the most universal piece of equipment. A basic finger tab is simply a piece of leather with a retaining loop or holes to keep the tab in position. More upgraded versions might have a platform, plate and/or a spacer. Although from the perspective of protecting your fingers tabs may be thinner than gloves, this does give the archer more sensitivity allowing them to innately fine tune and reflect on their release. Importantly, tabs provide a smoother release by having a lower friction surface, ensuring the least interference with your arrows. Many tab designs, such as the shelf tab, will further ensure this by stopping the archer from pinching the arrow (which is what makes for that frustrating arrow swing whilst drawing back). Many archers also find that their shooting becomes more accurate when using a shelf tab as it allows them to anchor the string better with their fingers.

All in all, gloves and fingers tabs basically do the same thing, with subtle differences. Gloves and tab products have a range of price points, they aren’t an expensive investment and they are usually one of the first pieces of equipment a beginner archer will buy. Although the style of archery tends to inform the style of finger protection, there is no reason why an archer cannot shoot a traditional bow with a tab or an Olympic-style recurve with a glove. Archery is very personal and therefore it is important that you ask yourself, which elements resonate with you. Consider the following criteria when choosing: protection, sensitivity, smoothness of release and practicality.

And finally as with everything else in archery we tend to teach what works best for the majority of people. There’s a reason that no-one has ever won an Olympic gold medal shooting a freestyle recurve with a lovely tooled leather glove. Conversely if you shoot a hunting style American flatbow you’re going to pick up somewhat strange looks if you’re rocking a Cavalier Elite Cordovan top of the range shelf tab while trying to master your instinctive ‘at one with the arrow’ shooting style.

Finger Tab

Archery Glove

 

If you want to be a record breaker …

On 5 September 2015, Hamish Murray of Swindon, UK, shot 10 arrows into a 40 cm target, from an 18m distance, in just 1 minute and 0.5 second. With a 62 lb longbow. And he was just 17 at the time.

If your reaction to that is less “Ooof” and more “Guard my beverage”, then there’s nothing stopping you from having a go yourself. Murray currently holds the Guinness World Records (GWR) title for “Fastest time to shoot 10 arrows”, which is just one of a whole host of archery titles that GWR monitor.

Other current titles include “Farthest accurate distance (men’s archery)” for which the challenger must shoot an arrow into any scoring ring of a 120cm World Archery target. Which might sound reasonably do-able, until you consider that the current record stands at 283.47 m (930.04 ft). It’s held by US Paralympic legend Matt Stutzman, AKA the @ArmlessArcher, who, as his bio says, does everything with his feet. You might not want to put that beer down just yet. Another archer with proper foot skills is American Nancy Siefker who, standing on her hands and holding the bow with her left foot, shot an arrow into a scoring ring of a 5.5 cm target from a distance of 6.09 m (20 ft). If you fancy having a go at this, be reassured that the rules allow for a larger target than the one Nancy chose – anything up to 12 cm is allowed. Easy.

But in all seriousness, if you’re willing to put in the work you could be in with a shot (yes, I know) at one of the other records. Certain club members – and at this point the Wednesday evening crowd come, unbidden, to mind – might fancy their chances at this one: “Most balloons burst simultaneously by arrows.” The current holder, American Randy Oitker, loaded multiple arrows onto his bow and with this lethal cluster managed to burst seven balloons, pinned to a target, at the same time.

If endurance is your thing, there’s a record for the “Longest archery marathon”. This is pretty much what it sounds like: the longest time to continuously shoot arrows under World Archery conditions (with designated rest breaks allowed, so you can take care of requisite business). That record currently stands at 30 hours and 16 minutes, and is held by Dutch amateur archer Ton van Eekeren. Those who prefer outdoor shooting might like to consider the as-yet unclaimed title for “Highest archery score in 24 hours under World Archery outdoor conditions”.

Another, rather intriguing, record category also currently stands unfilled: “Most bottle caps removed using a bow and arrow in one minute”. That’s pretty much what it sounds like: the most crown cap bottles opened using a bow and arrow in one minute. Anyone taking home that title will not, in all likelihood, have to buy a beer for a very long time.

If none of the above records (and there are a few more on the website) sound like your thing, the GWR team are open to suggestions for new record categories. There are a few criteria to bear in mind if you want to propose a new category, though. One of these is that your proposed record must be based on a “single superlative” – so you could go for farthest, highest, fastest or most, but not a combination of these (so no “Farthest accurate shot whilst doing the loudest burp”, for example). Another important one is that the activity can’t be too niche: it’s got to be something that is currently subject to, or is likely to provoke, international competition. As impressive as it is, no-one is going to accept your suggestion of “Most zombie hostage targets hit by a vaguely hungover South London archer in 30 seconds (female)”.

You can also request that a record be split by gender, if there is justification for this. There’s no reason why women and men shouldn’t compete with each other for “Most balloons burst simultaneously by arrows”, but you could argue that “Heaviest longbow draw weight” – a record which, at 200lb, has remained in the arms of the UK’s Mark Stretton since 2004 could be split into female and male categories.

If you feel like having a go any of these records, you can fill in a short online form on the GWR website. Then, the records management team will send you the guidelines – basically, what conditions must be fulfilled and the quality of evidence they’ll need to see to evaluate your claim. Record verification is taken very seriously by GWR – the majority of archery records listed above must be undertaken using unmodified, World Archery-recognised equipment in the presence of independent expert witnesses registered with either Archery GB or the equivalent nationally-recognised governing body. By “independent”, GWR mean that the witness can’t have any personal investment in the outcome, so you can’t ask the club to do it.

But we will claim it was our training that got you there. Naturally…

Archery Anatomy by Ray Axford

Book review: Archery Anatomy by Ray Axford

Ray Axford, the author of Archery Anatomy, describes his book as a “primer of anatomical biomechanics and elementary physical mechanics as they relate to archery”. That’s a pretty accurate description: if you’re looking for tips to combat your target panic, you won’t find them in here. Archery Anatomy, as the title implies, is deeply grounded in the physical: in “the body and bow moving and working together”.

The book is split into two parts. The first part, Body and Bow Anatomy, covers the bones, muscles and movements of the human body in some depth and with a vast number of detailed illustrations. This first section also deconstructs bow anatomy, and demonstrates the forces that radiate through a bow in motion.

Part Two, Technique Analysis, explores the physical forces that bind archer and bow in the act of shooting. Anatomical diagrams show exactly what your bones, joints and muscles are doing throughout the shooting sequence. The push-and-pull of forces between the body and the bow, and the effect these forces have on the movement of the muscular-skeletal system, are clearly illustrated. If you want to know exactly why a twisted wrist gives a sloppy release (settle down at the back), Physics is here to tell you.

There’s an immense amount of detail here: every part of the body that comes into contact with the bow, at every stage of the shooting process, is deconstructed to the bone — almost literally. There’s an especially interesting look at variance in facial structures —noses and chins, anyway — and how these natural differences impact the efficacy of the reference point.

In terms of bow style, Archery Anatomy is focused very much on Olympic recurve — there’s no mention of traditional bow types here. Most of the information presented will apply equally to all tribes, but the author does assume that stabilizers and a sight are being used.

It is exceptionally well illustrated (although male anatomy is depicted as default throughout, with the female body visible only in chapters specifically focused on sex differences). Physics aficionados, or those who just remember their school physics better than me, might get more out of the visual side of this book: there are a lot of force diagrams here. In a former life Axford was an airline design engineer, and he certainly applies an engineer’s eye to the body/bow relationship.

In that sense, the book is more likely to be of interest to coaches, or archers looking to seriously advance in the sport, than to the hobby archer.

That said, there’s no shortage of books covering the history, culture and psychology of shooting. Archery Anatomy brings the body back to the centre of the sport. In his sign-off, Axford argues that many new archers devote more time to learning arbitrary rules of engagement — competition etiquette, handicaps and so forth — than on developing the kind of basic body sense that sets one up for a life in sport. With recent developments in science suggesting that we think with our bodies as much as with our brains, he may have a point.

Archery Anatomy by Ray Axford was first published in 1995, and has been reprinted seven times since then. Published by Souvenir Press, it’s available for £12.99 in the UK and $16.95 in the US.

 

5 Tips for Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse

October 31st is drawing near – and if the undead are, inconveniently, to rise, it’s a fair bet that it’ll be at Halloween (if nothing else for blending in purposes). You don’t have much time to prepare. And preparation, in the event of zombie attack, is key. Better read this fast. Here is 2020 Archery’s five-step-guide to surviving the imminent Zombie Apocalypse.

 

You’re going to need a source of food and water, weaponry, a place to hide, transportation, a bunch of kooky ‘how-did-I-end-up-with-this-bunch-of-feckin’-weirdos’ bunch of weirdos to surround yourself with (these are called ‘survivors’ and you want to be one of them) and, finally, weaponry.

 

So, how can you maximize your chances of survival?

 

First of all, you need to sober up and accept the situation. Then, you can start to consider:

 

 

1. Food and Water

 

Start stashing food and drink away now.  Find a secure place – basements tend to be popular for Apocalypse hoards, but bear in mind they’ve only got one exit, and, if you’ve seen your movies, you’ll know that ain’t good. Still, needs must and all that. Don’t stock up on Druid Street Market fare unless you want hordes of hipster zombies kicking your door down in search of civilization’s last surviving vegetarian Scotch egg.

 

If you haven’t pre-prepared your stash of survival food, come Apocalypse Day you’ll probably want to head for the outskirts of cities (see point 3). The main supply depots for supermarkets are going to be a better bet in terms of minimizing encounters with the marauding undead than heading for Greenwich Waitrose. Mind you, negotiating Greenwich Waitrose on a Saturday morning is probably good preparation for dealing with zombies.

 

Tip: Don’t burn the straw bosses for a barbecue. They smoke like bastards.

 

Boss fire

 

Figure 1. Bonfire of the (knackered old) straw bosses.

 

2. Weapons

 

In order not to get eaten while stocking up on supplies (it doesn’t count as ‘looting’ once it’s survival.*) you’re going to need a weapon. You can probably guess which way we swing with this one. Silent, deadly, unlimited ammo – no, we aren’t talking about Saturday afternoon post-pub flatulence. Archery, dammit. Get your archery lessons started now, kids. You won’t regret it when the undead rabble starts snapping at your wing-mirrors.  But which type of bow?

 

Don’t bother looting our bow stores – we will have already hidden the stash as part of our 2020 Archery instructor zombie apocalypse privilege system**. If you really can’t find an archery shop to loot you’ll need to read our later blog post on ‘How to make a longbow in the event of a zombie apocalypse’. In essence this blog post will advise you to make it quickly – somewhere out of sight. Or the more cack-handed amongst you can, instead, have a go at this simpler emergency zombie-killer, fashioned from little more than a PCV pipe. Either way, we recommend starting archery now so you already have a bow that you’re familiar with. Remember Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Practice. Or something.

 

Book a lesson here at http://www.2020archery.co.uk/lessons-courses

 

3. Transport

 

Depending on what type of undead horde you’re working with, it’s usually a good plan to get out of town. If it’s the “Hell is full – now they walk the Earth” kind of zombie, you’ll definitely want to avoid old civil war battle sites  and, say, Indian burial grounds (not that the Home Counties are overflowing with these, but you know what we mean – probably stay away from Hadrian’s wall). There are probably still going to be less bodies out in the sticks.

 

If it’s your standard Hollywood, “Oh, blast. The damned infected monkey’s escaped from the lab,” type of outbreak – well, that’s going to infect the living, and you definitely want to be out of the city.

 

So, once you’ve shot your way out of London (you’ll need a nice clean headshot for each zombie – seriously, get some practice in) you’re going to need to grab the wheel of a truck in order to get outta town.  Choose well – you want space for your beer – I mean, water – tanks, and enough room to seat your group of quirky cannon-fodder (sorry survivors). Allow some space for bows and arrows – a couple of take down recurves, maybe a compound, and a horsebow if you want to go trad.

 

 

4. Hiding Out

 

 

Find someplace safe to hide out the apocalypse – ideally, somewhere with a good vantage point from which to shoot, should you need to defend the old palace. And – naturally – find a place with a bit of space to practice your archery. The more practice you can get, the better your chances with the undead – this is also true for archery competitions, though that’s probably not top of your priority list right now.  Take your archery books along – the evenings will be long. If, by some unlikely miracle, you can still get WiFi, you can get some more archery inspiration from online folks like Infinite Curve, Grizzly Jim, and our old mates Ageing Archer and Twitchy Archer.

 

Don’t let training slip – we’ve all experienced the drop in form after even a two-week holiday. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Honestly. There’s a reason why regular archery practice used to be legally enforced. (See – How to improve my archery – earlier blog post).

 

Implement classic battle tactics – look for high ground with a good view. If there is an undead sortie, make sure you aim for the head. Nice clean headshots should stop them in their tracks. Arse shots will just annoy them.*** Moving targets are tricky – aim slightly lower than your natural inclination, stay calm and try and judge the pace at which they’re moving. It will, obviously, be helpful if the zombies’ heads can be picked out against a backdrop of red, blue, black and white concentric circles to help you focus. Try and judge it fairly quickly, though. And – as ever – make sure you have a good release. Think smooth draw, give yourself a bit of time to aim, and get that back tension going. A few lessons pre-apocalypse can do wonders here.

 

Zombies

 

Figure 2. A zombie target. Very convenient.

 

 

Once you have a pile of undead don’t forget to collect your arrows. You might want to clean them at this point.

 

Hone your combat archery skills (yes, we really said COMBAT ARCHERY) at one of our Archery Tag sessions: http://www.2020archery.co.uk/archery-tag

 

 

5. Repopulating the planet

 

Hopefully, the worst hasn’t happened and you’ve managed to siphon enough gas along the way to find yourself a fabulous mountain hide-out. You’re managing to refill your fresh water supplies, you’ve got some seeds planted, and a bit of fresh meat and fish available for bow-hunting. You’re keeping your head down in the hills (and keeping up your target practice). All this is looking pretty good and, eventually, you’re going to start seeing fewer zombies. Now is the time to start repopulating planet Earth. Choose your quirky band of cannon-fodder wisely. That’s all we’re saying on this one.

 

Left it to the last minute? Join one of our intensive two-day weekend archery courses: http://www.2020archery.co.uk/lessons-courses-8/weekend-beginners-course

 

*Well ok maybe it does but there’s probably some prohibition in London against encouraging looting that we don’t want to fall foul of. Croydon. That’s all we’re saying.

 

** you’d be surprised by how many of our instructors took up archery in case of zombie apocalypse. Honestly.

 

*** and you do not want an annoyed zombie on your case.