Technique that the top archers use

You have done the analysis of your strengths and weaknesses and have split the time in front of you till the important event into three…what do you do in the first bit of ‘intensive training’? etc….. Lets start from an appraisal of where you are.

The things you can do something about which I mentioned before are ….

(1)Technique Improvement ….developing the best,most effective, consistant & highest achieving way of shooting you can in the time available.

(2)Physical Capacity to shoot…..putting in the amount of practise to be able to maximise physical condition to best cope with the task of shooting

( 3)Mental Training…Setting out to have the mind set and a developing path of expectation,confidence & technical mental tools to best produce the correct mind set for any and every day from day one to the final goal

They all need ‘training in parallel’ so that they all develope together. This is a three legged stool and it wont support you unless all the legs are the same length! So get together all the equipment you may need like bow, arrows and accessories and start on period one.

Period One: Starting Intensive Training Set out to check out the technique that the top archers use.Videos of shooting are excellent as this puts into your head ‘wholesale’ the visual image of it being done right.Use videos of more than one shooter to make the image more rounded. A video can be used over and over to get that image into your head …and compared to video of your own shooting as an immediate comparison. Look at pictures of good shooters,and books on the physiology of why it is best to shoot in a particular way like ‘Muscles & Bows’ or ‘Archery Anatomy’ and ‘The simple Art of Winning’.From this and talking to coaches and other archers. Notice that I dont put any more emphasis on coaches than this, you have to appraise those who would coach you and take what you can from the advice offered. An aside on coaches:…I have been coached by a top international coach who was a known achiever in the sport that took me to the World Championships in both 1974 & 75 and then the 1976 Olympic Games. The coach in question Mike Spracklen is himself a former Commonwealth Gold Medalist amongst his many achievements and was coach to Olympic Rower Steve Redgrave at Marlow Rowing Club for Redgraves first couple of Olympic Golds! Mike was my coach at the time that I was trying to get into the Olympic Quadruple Scull for the UK, and a great inspiration to me. However once I was in the crew and had gone through Mikes excellent winter build up and got into races approaching the Olympics,…. Mikes confidence seemed to evaporate and his advice was edged with observations about ‘how good’ our opposition looked just as we were about to race them! So the lesson is to know you coaches strengths and weaknesses, and take what you need from that coach but build your self,your group , and your pathway to your goal. A good way around the potential of weaknesses of a coach is to use several,and include them in the mental training so that they are working with you in mental training their own path towards your and their goal. Having several coaches will tend to give you perspective on the character of each one. Technically,select the shooting technique that suits your shape…look at different shooters and their style , think about why they get away with not doing it by the book. Almost no one has perfect technique. For example Rick Mckinney has apparently got a terrible loose…(in fact he has a good loose ,but then throws his hand all over the place.. the slow motion film by Beiter shows he has a good loose as the arrow is leaving the bow) Other archers consistently drop their bow arm(consistently is the key here perhaps) although it would be far preferrable to keep the bow arm strong! This background research into the best technique and copying or ‘Benchmarking’ of the best gives you a direction for improving your own technique. At the same time it starts your mental preparation by ensuring that you know you are doing it right. Same as having the same equipment as the top archer makes you feel that you are not at a disadvantage. Test youself with videos of you shooting at say two week intervals ,when fresh and when tired at the end of a session to confirm progress; or show up stubborn problems. The mental sureness so engendered makes you stronger and without any doubt that you have a good system. A large number of arrows shot in trying to perfect this developing technical excellence does several things. First as I mentioned in an earlier chapter it developes the fitness of the shooter to keep shooting strongly over the whole of the tournament. If you can shoot 400 arrows a day regularly in training several days a week then 144 at a FITA will be easy. Second and more subtle, you will develope the most efficient technique for you as the number of arrows you shoot will ‘find’ an economical way to cope. Third ,you have banked those shots in the ‘I know I have trained hard for this ‘ mind bank.

You may have noticed that the way intensive training affects your performance is in a three legged way from a training standpoint. You know you are thinking or focussing overall on techninque, but there is associated Mental Benefit and Physical Benefit. Refine this to get the best improvement by enhancing the Mental Focus with recognition of what more precisely your overall focus is at this point. Positive affirmation of the sort also referred to earlier by writing down the objectives of the current training period. Accepting that during this period performance in terms of average score per shot may suffer. Not limiting this to saying it will suffer you will note, but leaving the possibility that improvement could be expected in all areas even when it is not your primary focus to know where the arrow will hit but rather that it is a reasonable shot correctly executed and scores ‘O K’. In Kyudo you dont have to even hit the target for the first few grades! Jay Barrs , the former Olympic Gold Medalist has recounted shooting days when he was not going for score but for a techical objective ..and how he shut out from his inner self the ‘jibes’ of other shooters whom he usually beat who were whipping him on that day…he just stayed cool inside and focussed on his objective for the days shooting. He knew that he could always come back to focussing on beating them when he chose to. Meanwhile he was improving his technical refinement so his eventual return to scoring focus would be at a higher level than before. You are doing the same sort of thing in this period of intensive training. There is an associated mental training in this too as you can learn to sheild yourself from the distractions of the world around the self that is controlling performance and focus on performance. Come the day you will have to be good at this in order to focus on doing what you do rather than being deflected by the occasion. Your longer term aim over the three part training cycle should also be in the list of things you read to yourself each day in addition to the comments about your immeadiate concerns. However always keep the positive foccus of these comments so that there is never a negative in the horizon. Americans on the Titanic would be thinking how can I get dry from here, Brits would be thinking how can I not drown….there is a difference.

There are hazards in training intensively. You can cause injuries that take a very long time to heal if you train so hard that you ignore the signs your body is giving out. I know of a prominent archer driven to achieve at the highest level who practised so much that the damage to fingers and tendons of his drawing hand became the reason he had to stop shooting almost totally at the point that he was just on the brink of an international career. So: in practsing do plenty, but build up the amounts slowly over time ….and in cycles of training over months or years,..when damage starts to develope back off, rest and get back to better condition. You can always train tomorrow and keep going forward. If you grind relentlessly on then you risk putting yourself out of training for much longer periods, which would compromise your goals. Get help on your physical health side of training at an early stage if any persistent problems develope. Get help from those health experts who appreciate what you are doing. This is important so that further down the same road you have someone who knows your history and can put you back together when you need it! The UK rowers in Sydney 2000 had done this and to a great extent the medical back up that was in place over the whole period of the 4 year build up to the event keep the atheletes in one piece at , and during the crucial period of the competition. This was a lesson learnt from bitter experience on other occasions when key people ended up on the sick list just as the championships started. An important part of the art of training is rest and recovery.

During this period you need to know you are making progress towards your objectives. To do this devise tests at intervals. So you test your Technique against the video. You can also test your condition ,after a rest period, for being able to shoot strongly for the full period of a tournament . You can also test your feelings or self confidence in competition, even a head to head with a training partner, or in a low key competition…see if you feel good about your shooting,or are starting to get respect from archers who didnt before! These tests are perhaps a little subjective but can be a valuable yardstick to reinforce your progress or point out things that dont work for you. Try out things and pursue what works for you. Take the failures and see why ; so as to get positives out of every result. Hey if we didnt make a mistake we never made anything! For the self you are constructing, I like to choose the day on which I will compete to win,rather than to train. This is always difficult for the opponent if they know you can be competitve,as they dont know if you are trying on any particular occasion or not! This way the opponents are always slightly on edge about you even when you are quite relaxed and actually not looking to win.

At the end of the period its time to re assess your self and look at the progress you have made in the cold light of day.

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