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Learn archery: The 101 of the first shots
Archery is almost only known from films and sports. And it always looks so easy: put on the arrow, stretch the tendon and shoot. But there is much more to this process than it seems. We’ll tell you what you need to know about archery.
Archery is one of the oldest forms of human hunting, an Olympic sport and an interesting hobby. In short: it is versatile. However, getting started can be difficult. We explain the most important aspects of multifaceted sport to you.
What is archery?
Archery is a precision sport. The archer places the arrow on the tendon, tensions it and releases it. The tendon works like a spring that releases energy and catapults the arrow.
Archery has a long history. The oldest finds of bows and arrows are over 14,000 years old. In the past, these were mainly used for hunting and war. Nowadays, the equipment is used exclusively for sport. Archery has even been part of the Olympic sport since 1972.
In addition to the Olympics, archery is now considered a hobby. There are many clubs that are dedicated to and teach shooting.
The different types of bows
Several types of bows have been developed over the years. There are three basic types that are relevant for beginners.
Longbow for traditional and intuitive archery
The longbow is the traditional type of bow. It consists of a curved and sanded piece of wood. A bowstring is attached to the ends. The longbow is traditional mainly because it does not offer a tool like an arrow rest or a visor. If you want to practice the most classic version of archery, you should grab a longbow.
Recurve bow for sports
The recurve bow is the most common type of bow today. It is also the type of bow used in the Olympics. The recurve bow has two curved limbs, i.e. two curved ends. This makes the tendon easier to pull out than with a longbow. This increases the energy output. Some tools can be used with the recurve bow. For example, a visor and a stabilizer are used at the Olympic Games. The recurve bow is the best bow for beginners.
Advanced compound bow
The compound bow is the “high-tech bow”. At the ends of the arch are rolls that are connected to each other by cables. This makes the draw weight easier for the shooter. So you can keep the bow still longer and have more calm when aiming.
The right equipment
Basically, all you need is a bow and a few arrows. You don’t have to buy a bow directly. Most clubs offer rental bows so you can test archery. Especially for beginners, it is also worth taking a look at additional equipment.
At the beginning it is difficult to aim correctly. Professionals develop an instinct over time. Beginners, on the other hand, need a bit of time to learn to instinctively aim. A visor is recommended to get a rough feel for aiming. The visor can be attached to a recurve bow.
You usually get the right arrows with the bow. If you get your own, pay attention to the length of the arrows. They shouldn’t be too short to start with. Otherwise they can fall off the arrow rest. The arrowhead should always protrude two to three centimeters from the taut bow. All arrows must be of the same length.
At the back of the arrow is the “nock point”. At this point the arrow hits the tendon. In order to be able to put the arrow straight on, a “snapping point” is usually marked on the tendon.
You need a quiver so that you can easily transport the arrows. Quivers are available in several versions. For a start, it is worth a quiver that you can carry on the side. Make sure that the quiver doesn’t bother you when stretching the bow.
Shooting glove or finger tab
When shooting the recurve bow, pain can occur on the fingertips of the index, middle and ring fingers. To avoid this pain, shooting gloves or finger tabs are recommended.
Especially at the beginning it can happen that the tendon slips out of your fingers and bangs on your forearm. It’s pretty painful. But you can also protect yourself from pain here. Arm protection protects your arm from bruises.
Before you can get started with the bow, you have to adjust it to your size and arm length.
The extension length refers to the distance between the handle and bowstring when the bow is stretched. It is the most important influence on your shooting behavior and should therefore be set correctly. If you shoot a bow with the wrong extension length, this leads to a wrong technique. For the correct adjustment you should measure the span of your arms from fingertip to fingertip. The result is divided by 2.5. It’s best to have someone else measure the span. Stand with your back to the wall and stretch your arms. For comparison: a 180 centimeter tall person has an approximate extension length of 72 centimeters.
Tip: If you borrow a sheet or buy it in the store, you can also determine the extension length there with a measuring arrow and have it adjusted immediately.
Another important aspect in archery is the stand height. It decides the precision of the shot. The standing height describes the distance between the lowest point of the handle and the untensioned tendon. The higher the stand height, the better you can control the arrow, because it flies more slowly. If the stand height is set lower, the arrow flies faster, but it is also more difficult to control. That is why it is important to find a good balance. If the stand height is set incorrectly, the arrow can hit the arch.
The optimum measure between speed and controllability is usually specified by the manufacturer. You can measure the stand height with a so-called “checker”. With regular use of the bow, you should check the stand height again and again, as it will decrease over time.
Learn the right shooting technique
A shot with the bow is more than just creating an arrow, tensioning the bow and releasing it. It consists of several phases, which are particularly important for beginners. You should train the sequence of these phases extensively with each shot until it passes into the blood. Until every shot is almost identical, you probably have to be a bit patient. That is the art of archery. You can also observe the even build-up of a shot among professionals. Here every shot looks almost the same.
The posture is the foundation of the shot, because an incorrect position can influence it. Stand comfortably but firmly and align yourself sideways to the goal. Your feet should be shoulder width apart and parallel to each other. Spread your weight evenly over both feet. Keep your upper body straight and slightly tilted forward. Back and hips stay straight. The posture is open, the neck points towards the target.
While you stretch the tendon with one arm, the other holds the bow. Try both variants with both arms and choose the more comfortable one. Most of the time, you stretch the tendon with your usual side. When you have made your decision, you take the grip between your thumb and forefinger. Extend your arm straight ahead while keeping the bow in line with the target and twist your upper body slightly.
Even if it is tempting to simply pull the arrow and tendon back with your thumb and forefinger, archery works differently. Place the nocking point of the arrow on the snapping point of the tendon and place your index finger above the arrow. You position the middle finger and ring finger under the arrow. The bow is stretched with these three fingers. Slowly pull your pull arm back. Make sure that the bow and tension arm are in a straight line to each other so that your body is in a T-shape. At the same time, your back muscles tighten.
Before you let the arrow fly, you should find your anchor point. Anchor point is the union of the pulling hand with the jaw, chin and neck. This means that you find a perfect position for your pulling hand and align it with your “anchor”. You can freely choose the anchor in the given area. Many choose the corner of the mouth that is touched with the index finger when the bow is stretched. It’s about keeping the distance from the arrowhead to the eye the same with every shot.
Every aspect of archery has to be practiced constantly so that you get a certain routine in the processes. This is especially true for aiming. You shouldn’t aim at the target with your arrowhead, but with your gaze. You can admit to yourself a leeway in which you want to meet. Align the bow with your gaze. “Instinctive aiming” helps you develop a better feeling for the bow and arrow.
With a visor on the bow, aiming will be much easier for you. So you can develop a good feeling for how your gaze should behave when aiming. Your visor should be set correctly.
The final phase of archery is to release the arrow. The tension in the back is continuously increased until it is released, the arms are as tight as the tendon. The arrow is released explosively by letting the three fingers release the tendon at the same time. Make sure that you keep your posture until the arrow has reached the target. Otherwise your arms may already be loosened if the arrow has not completely left the bow. This leads to a bad shot.
Tips for beginners
For many, archery is a rather unknown and unfamiliar sport. Studying the movements and finding the correct bow setting can be tedious. But don’t let yourself get discouraged. Archery can be a lot of fun and very satisfying. You are likely to progress quickly and can always motivate yourself.
In many cities there are clubs or courses that you can take part in. There you can regularly take archery or a trial course. Trial courses are perfect if you don’t know for sure whether archery is right for you at all.
In theory, you can learn archery alone. There is a lot of literature and tutorial videos. But you need a suitable place like a spacious area with good visibility so that nobody can get harmed.
For starters, you’d better practice with a trainer who can guide you step by step. This helps you especially if you have to adjust your bow to your height.
Master the challenge
Archery uses muscles that are not very pronounced in many. Therefore archery is not only a cognitive challenge, but also a physical one. Professionals are so used to archery that 90 percent of the processes take place in the head and only the remaining ten percent in the body. But it is especially important for beginners to be aware of the physical processes. At first you can get sore muscles, but after a while the muscles get used to the strain.
Get arm protection
Beginners should get arm protection. It can happen that the stretched tendon snaps to the forearm of the bow arm if the posture is incorrect, causing pain. And pain disrupts concentration, which is an important factor in archery. Arm protection can help by protecting your entire forearm.