This quote is attributed to a World Champion in the Olympic form of archery. Certainly there cannot be an archer who has not come away from a hunt or shoot believing that he shot as well when it mattered as he/she did in practise. That old adrenalin gets into the system and you are suddenly trying to do everything as if it was the first time all over again. I started my first tournament with a little bit of practise under my belt and I knew the sort of result I was worth. The arrows started to go all over the place and the harder I tried the worse it got. I quickly developed a technique of thinking about something else, something calming , between arrows….trees I remember was one image that I found to be good. Large oak trees their shape and size the way they moved in a breeze…. and you see you have forgotten about archery and the nervous state has gone. The next arrow you start in a more relaxed state. This technique I soon realised was limited, and so I started to look for a source of better advice on preperation for getting it right on the day. There was not a lot about the subject readily available… I started digging.
The Western Tradition Of Archery The archer in the Western world (as opposed to the Eastern Tradition) is a technician which is a parallel to most of our cultures. The archer is well aware of the bow the arrows the bits and pieces which go with archery. The problems of getting the bow and arrow system tuned to perfection is what he is good at. The way he feels about what he is doing and the tuning of this aspect of his shooting doesnt even enter his thoughts. So to improve he practises a lot….. natural aptitude and practise sort out the champion…some because they are determined to put the winning high in their lives as a priority, before job family and friends… practise from morning till night… and as few do this the habits so formed tend to carry the archer to the top of his club or country . I bet you can see yourself or someone doing this in your club. The problem is that this is not good enough to win at the top level and it is exhausting as well as only effective while you are “in training”. There must be more to it than that….so I looked around me having tried the above method in at least two sports and just stopped myself doing it again in archery.
The Eastern Tradition of Archery Some years age a man came to see me who wanted a bow for “Kyudo” the way of the bow, the Japanese Art. I set about getting him and his fellow enthusiasts the equipment that they needed from the man who was the master, whose advice they were following, in Japan. I duly managed to get the equipment and they to use it . After a short time the man came to see me. He and his fellows were unable to hit the target ,and the arrows were destroying the leather arrow pass in very few shots. The bows and arrows did not match . They were in fact very ill matched. I took some hours to explain the idea of the arrow fitting the bow and that when the arrows are correct for a bow they fly true and cause little or no wear on the arrow rest or pass. He was amazed as his teacher had always just handed him the equipment (having matched it without telling the pupil) and told him how to feel and think about shooting. No reference at all was made to the equipment, only to stance ritual and mental preperation. Indeed it is not necessary to hit the target at all in several of the early stages of Kyudo. I subsequently visited Japan and the man whom they were following. He was an exceptional individual and I was fortunate enough to stay with him and to visit his “DOJO” and witness his teaching. Some of his pupils were able to produce some exceptional accuracy and with enormous grace and calm. His star pupil was in his 90’s!! I asked him why he did not explain the mechanics of the bow and arrow, his reply accompanied by a wry smile was that it would get in the way of control of the thinking about eliminating the distance between the archer and the target.
Producing A Performance I was then able to go to the World Archery Championships in Korea, It was a revelation, the Eastern Tradition of most of the Eastern Nations is just as blinkered as the Western Tradition, but the two together in the Korean Nation Team produces an awsome result. The arrows of the Korean Archers just got tighter and tighter to the very center of the target as the competition moved to its peak. The rest of the competitors of all other nations wilted under the stress of the occasion, the Korean Girls just got better. This started me looking at both approaches and their combining to produced controlled shooting performance.