“Don’t pull with your wrist.”

Legs evenly apart on either side of the shooting line, let the feet and ground take all the weight and balance, raise both arms, and slowly lower them while simultaneously pulling the string to my chin, and…

I’d arrived in time to help with setting up the bows and bow stands. This lesson we were going to learn to use the bow sights to aim, so there was that little extra part to assemble on, then we were ready to go.

The position of the sight pin is adjustable to suit the individual archer

The position of the sight pin is adjustable to suit the individual archer

Now, unlike a compound bow or a rifle where there are two sights, front and back, to line up to achieve good aiming, a recurve bow has only one sight (at the front) while the second sight is replaced by the position of the string of the bow when fully drawn. In other words, the centre of the target face, the sight pin and the fully drawn bow string have to be visually aligned to achieve good aiming. While the target face and the sight pin are fairly stationary factors, the position of the bow string can easily differ with every shot if the archer is not well-balanced with the right posture and muscle action during the drawing. Consistency is key, and so, apart from the legs, body and head being properly positioned before each shoot, the draw length and lateral position of the string at full draw has to always be the same. This is achieved by positioning the index finger (of the drawing hand) at the tip of your chin. Think about it, if your body stance is always right and consistent, your chin is probably as stationary a point as the target board is. The base of your chin is, therefore, an anchor point. This method of pulling the string to full draw all the way to your face (which also involves involuntary kissing of the string on your lips) is actually dependant on the archer’s facial structure; some people have it easier/better when their anchor point is at the side of their face or above the chin. Using the base of the chin as the anchor point is the most common, though, and easiest to start with for beginners like us.

This lesson also saw the introduction of one new bow in our class: the left-handed bow! As I’d mentioned in my previous archery blog post, my left eye is the dominant eye and therefore I’d be better suited to using the left-handed bow. The difference between left-hand and right-hand bows, for me, is mainly the comfort of my eyes and visual strength, as well as the ease of handling the weight of the bow. With the right-handed bow, the left hand is the bow hand while the right hand is the string/drawing hand, vice versa for the left-handed bow. As I am normally a right-handed person when it comes to writing and day-to-day activities, the right side of my body is naturally better able to manage loads and remain stable. The bow is not a lightweight toy, so it certainly makes things easier for me if I hold the bow with my right hand instead, reducing wobbling from fatigue. The weight of the bow affecting me is also likely to be due to improper stance and/or still only getting used to holding a bow, but all-in-all I just feel much more at ease with a left-handed bow. It’s just that I’d be face-to-face with someone if the archer in front of me is using a right-handed bow.

I like my archery class. It’s small, so we get good one-on-one guidance and supervision every time each of us comes up to the shooting line. I always throw whatever questions or uncertainties I have at my instructor every time it’s my turn to shoot. At one point, the instructor noticed the stress I was putting on my hand and wrist as I pulled the string back, and he said “Don’t pull with your wrist; use your elbow.” I used to be a complete dullhead when it comes to following instructions on getting the right form or using the right muscles in sports, but I think I’ve finally gotten over it! So I relaxed the bow, and keeping in mind to use my elbow, while the instructor held it up to guide me to the correct form, I had my legs evenly apart on either side of the shooting line, let the feet and ground take all the weight and balance, raise both arms, and slowly lower them while simultaneously pulling the string to my chin, and… my arrow hit the yellow zone! In fact, most of my shots this lesson landed well compared to last lesson.

The key to improving technique is to develop a consistent form, and I sure hope I can get as much practice as possible to achieve that consistency. And keep on nailing the yellow zone!

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4 responses to ““Don’t pull with your wrist.”

  1. Thanks for posting this, it was very helpful. I took a very basic archery lesson several years ago & have since been practicing on my own irregularly. Your tips on stance & aiming were helpful, well-written & easy to understand. Much appreciated! :)

    • Glad someone finds something I post to be useful! This course I attended was also a very basic one; we’re supposed to have a follow-up intermediate course accompanied with more practice sessions but our coach is one busy guy, frequently travelling to judge or oversee various archery competitions around the world. When lessons commence again, I hope to be able to continue writing more on what I learn :)
      Thanks for visiting Spirit of a Spright! :)

  2. I have found that there is much in common between maintaining that consistent form in archery, and the lessons I’ve learned in my Pilates class. It is difficult, sometimes overwhelming, to have your brain talking to so many parts of your body at one time. Of course, with practice it becomes automatic, and easier — until you have to change something!
    I had always thought one was supposed to pull by tightening the lower trap of the pull arm, thereby moving the patella medially; the elbow follows backward in a straight line but remains completely relaxed otherwise.
    Great post. Thanks!

    • Maybe my instructor just tried to simplify things for me by saying elbow instead of which particular mucsles to use. Thanks for sharing that information; I’m sure it’ll come back to bug me when/if I get better/serious with archery.

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