Since my last In-Depth post, I have had three sessions with my mentor, Sheila, and I think I’m off to a pretty good start!
At my first session at the Royal City Archers, before anything, I was first given an arm guard and a finger guard. The arm guard is there to protect my left arm in case the bowstring spins back and hits my arm, which I am told hurts immensely. I received the finger guard after a few shots to reduce the stress and pain on my right middle and ring fingers that pull the bow string back. Pulling the bow string back takes a lot more effort than what they show on TV for sure. You first start off by steadying your feet with your right leg slightly ahead of your left. Then, it isn’t so different from what you see in TV shows and movies, but you have to make sure you pull the bow string back far enough so that your right index finger touches your mouth. I found that the hardest part for me on my first day was keeping myself steady. When pulling back the bowstring, you have to be careful that your thumb and little finger are out of the way and that your index finger isn’t touching the string. Due to the effort of pulling the bow string back, my arms were somewhat shaky and it also made my right hand grip the bow with too much force. This is the main thing my mentor is working on with me because my death grip on the bow will significantly bring down my accuracy in the long run, but at my first session I only really cared to see the arrow fly. I shot at the shortest range, I believe 8 meters, with a 14 pound modern Recurve bow. This was basically the easiest way for me to be introduced to the sport. After a while as I got used to the feeling I took a couple steps back to the next line at 11m. By the time I started to get the hang of it, my first session was already finished.
At my second session, I learned a lot more than just shooting. I also learned how to string a bow, how to check arrows, and how to read targets. The bow that I was using (the same one as the first session) had a worn out string so my mentor took some time to teach me how to re-string the bow. One important fact to keep in mind was to twist the string so that it would be more aerodynamic. I also learned that by spinning the arrow on your hand, you could check the condition of the point, the nock, and the fletchings (the colorful feathers on the back). It just happened that on the same day, I coincidentally ended up snapping the nock (the back of the arrow that snaps onto the string) on one of my arrows. Luckily it wasn’t too serious and it was easily fixed! Lastly, I learned how to read a target through its point system. A picture would be better to describe this.
Now as we got into shooting, I continued to work on my form, technique and accuracy, loosening my death grip on the bow and learning how to properly follow through with my actions.
At my third and most recent session, I finally reached the full shooting distance of 18 meters! From the beginning we started off at 15 meters and I could tell right off the bat that it was quite different from 11 meters. Although it may feel like a small distance, when the amount of strength you use is the same for both distances, it is quite a change. Following is a photo of my shots at 15 and 18 meters.
I also received a sling for my left hand, which would allow me to hold my bow without to place all my fingers on it. This session was mostly shooting, as things were falling into more of a regular routine. One cool thing I learned was about a robin hood shot which is when you shoot the arrow right into the back of another arrow with perfect accuracy. I hope that the name for this shot is self-explanatory. There was a small display of robin hood shots that were preserved at the Royal City Archers that I got to observe and feel which was a very cool experience. One day, I hope to make a shot like that as well.
Now for more about my mentor:
My mentor, Sheila is one of the then founding members of the Royal City Archers and the Boorman Archery. She has been actively pursuing archery for more than 40 years now although she has been teaching for less. She started archery much later than most people but by pursuing it for a long period of time, she caught up easily. My mentor told me that when she first started archery, she was put in a very unfortunate situation where a piano was sitting behind a net that was behind the target. She said that although it scared her undoubtedly, she also improved considerably due to the pressure of the situation. My mentor prefers outdoor archery to indoor and she has described many interesting experiences she has had in the wilderness. One time when she was in Australia she was faced with heavy amounts of rain during a tournament. There was enough rain to fill her quiver (the case that you carry with you to hold your arrows) every five minutes or so. She told me that she remembers it as one of her best and worst days.
So far I have learned a lot from my mentor, more than I could ever learn through the internet or books. She has helped me adapt to a new sport with ease along with fun. I enjoy going to these sessions to see her, learning new material every week. One lesson I learned that I find very beneficial is the knowledge to be aware of my own mistakes. By being aware of my own mistakes, I have the opportunity to help others who have the same mistakes. I hope that by the time In-depth night comes around, I will be able to do this with competently.
Now that I’ve covered the basics, my sessions with my mentor will fall into more of a regular routine consisting of: improving my accuracy, loosening my death grip, and perfecting my follow-through. Hopefully by the time I write my next blog post, all of these will have improved to some degree!