Friday, November 09, 2018

Long delayed progress report!

There has been an overall improvement in my shooting. Using the system as discribed in my last post, comparing my average scores in April to that in October:

       Inner 10's:   4.73% -   7.25%
                 10's: 11.80% - 17.63%
       9's & 10's: 31.50% - 45.98%
8's, 9's & 10's: 54.63% - 72.65%

I changed to a recurve, take-down bow, but I have now ordered my first longbow. I suspect that I am over-straining the recurve bow as it seems to be designed for a draw of 28 inches and I have a 30 inch draw (it was a relatively cheap bow, so I really can't complain that it developed a small crack). 

The longbow will be much better quality and is something I have always really wanted. My experience with the other bows tells me that I should be able to handle the draw weight I want. The new bow is just heavy enough to be classified as a war bow at 70-75 lbs at a draw of 32 inches. However, at my usual draw of 30 inches it should be roughly what I am already used to.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


It has been quite a while since I last wrote anything and quite a lot has changed. Firstly, I now keep my own way of accurately recording my progress.

The normal way of scoring is that an inner gold scores 10, an outer gold scores 9 and then the inner red ring counts as 8, etc. However, there is a further small ring marked at the center which is normally only used in competitive shooting, to differentiate between two 10 scores. For my purposes I count how many arrows are in or touching this inner circle, then how many (including these) that would have scored 10. The I count the total in the gold target area, then the total (including the gold) that would have scored at least 8. I do not bother counting anything outside of this. I now have three targets set up with a total of 11 small target faces mounted on them. I shoot two arrows each into 8 of the faces and three arows into my third target which only has 3 faces. Rather conveniently, this means that I can shoot a round of 25 arrows before needing to recover the arrows and score them. 4 rounds gives me a total of 100 which therefore gives me the score as a percentage. I normally shoot 300 per day, usually in three separate sessions. (Sorry if this is boring, but that is how I can keep track of any changes in my shooting.)

When I was last writing, I was just getting used to shooting with a 60lb Hungarian style horsebow. By August of last year I was getting on quite well, my muscles had adjusted and I was consistently keeping at least 70% of my shots within the inner red and gold bands of my targets. Then I noticed that the bow was becoming distorted! The core of the bow seems to be a steel spring and the top and bottom of the bow were no longer sharing the same degree of curvature. So in September I started with a new, take-down, recurve bow. Nominally, it pulls at 55lbs at 28inches of draw. I draw to 30inches, so I calculated that should give me the equivalent of my 60lb horsebow. Miscalculated! Turns out that it was giving my 65lbs of pull for my draw length, so I was a little over-bowed once again! Took me a lot longer than I expected to get fully adjusted to this. I reckon that it took me two months before I could shoot this bow with ease and my scores were about the same as with my previous bow!

Then I decided to increase the distance I was shooting at from 10 metres to 13 metres (the furthest I can conveniently do in my garden). The result was a bigger decrease in my accuracy than I expected! So I am now on a new learning curve!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Instinctive skills.

When I first started shooting with my new 60lb Horse Bow I was only getting about a third of my shots in the gold and inner red bands of the target. In addition, my back and chest muscles rapidly became sore. After a month, I am now getting over half of my shots in the inner area. Still not good enough, but my muscles have largely adjusted and I anticipate further steady progress.

I am interested in shooting accurately through instinctive archery, without conscious aiming. The process is the same as in learning to draw accurately without conscious effort and can be illustrated with a little experiment. This demonstrates the link between thought and action (I originally got it from an old book on auto-suggestion).

First you need a target. You can print out the one provided (click on the image for the full size version) or draw it out roughly on a piece of paper.

Next you need to make a simple rod and pendulum. Get a straight piece of light wood about 30 cm long (or a piece of stiff wire – anything will do). You need a weight (a small nail will do), which you attach to the end of the rod with thread so that it will hang about 20cm below the end of the rod.

Hold the rod so that the pendulum is hanging just above the centre of the target. It is a good idea to hold your arm slightly away from your body, so that your body does not steady it (and do not rest your elbow on the table). Hold the rod lightly and as far away from the pendulum end as you can comfortably manage. Relax your arm and - from this point on - ignore your arm! Concentrate on the target! (You will NOT need to make any DELIBERATE movements of your arm.)

Please note that the following exercise does NOT rely on anything “supernatural”.

This exercise is entirely to do with the normal functioning of mind and body. However, please do NOT try to work out how it functions until later (there is an explanation at the end).

Concentrate on the target and start saying to yourself, slowly and steadily, over and over again, “A B, A B, A B, . . . “

(It may help at first to look rhythmically from one end of the A/B line to the other, at the same time.)

After a few moments the pendulum will start to swing along the A/B axis. Don’t get excited, just keep going until the swinging motion is nicely established.

Now try thinking, “C D, C D, C D, . . . “

(you do not have to say it aloud, although it may help at first).

The pendulum will gradually respond and change until it is swinging along the C/D axis.

Again, just keep going until the C/D swing is well established.

Now try thinking,
“Circle, circle, circle, . . . “

Just keep going until the pendulum is steadily swinging in a circular motion over the target.
All these pendulum movements should have happened WITHOUT any requirement for deliberate arm movements - it should have felt like the pendulum was swinging all by itself!

Finally, just think, “Stop”, look at the centre of the target - and relax!
(It can take some time for the pendulum to fully slow down so, after a moment or two, I usually just break off and put the pendulum down.)

How does it work?

Well, the preparations have made it clear that something is supposed to happen with the pendulum. The obvious expectation when you start thinking, “A B, . . . “, is that it is supposed to swing along the A/B axis. So your unconscious mind promptly fulfills your expectations by synchronising the tiny movements that your (unsteady) arm makes anyway. Normally, these movements cancel each other out and so (apart from the odd quiver) the pendulum stays stationery. Since these tiny movements now reinforce each other, the movement of the pendulum will gradually buildup without any noticeable effort on your part (another observer MIGHT notice very slight movements of your arm, but these will be tiny compared to those made if you deliberately swing the pendulum).

This is a very good exercise for training yourself not to interfere with things that are best done on an unconscious level, i.e., learning to think about the desired result and knowing that it will come about without the need for deliberate effort on your part. It is also the way that I try to teach students to draw - to perceive what they want to draw, whilst letting the hand and eye do the rest, without conscious effort or strain.

NB :
There is a twist to this exercise that can be very revealing. You get the pendulum swinging in a circle. Then try to convince yourself that it is very frightening, perhaps that it is "supernatural". You want it to stop, but it won't stop swinging. If you can work yourself into a convincing state of panic, the pendulum will normally swing even faster! This is because your unconscious mind does not understand negatives. The intensity of your fear is interpreted as an even stronger desire to make the pendulum swing harder. Your unconscious mind is simply carrying out what it is interpreting as your wishes.

The moral of this is - DON'T PANIC!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Back on target!

I haven't blogged about my archery for a while because I am still getting used to my new bow. The first effect was that my poorer shots got worse, probably because it was harder to get a smooth release with the heavier bow. Then my muscles started to protest under the extra strain and, as I got sore, my accuracy suffered! I went down from one third of my shots being gold (or touching) to only a quarter!

Gradually my muscles have adjusted and now I am nudging 40% good shots. However, I find I am more accurate if I don't go to the full extent of my draw. I suspect that, at present, I am only pulling about 55lbs. However, that is now coming easily and I think that my draw length will naturally extend as my muscles adjust further.

The important aspect is that the bow now feels more natural to me. I find that I make corrections to my draw with less thought, whereas at first I was very aware of the extra strain.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New bow!

A few weeks ago my bow developed a crack, which I repaired with glue and reinforced with tape. The repair appears to have been effective but, since I couldn't know if or when it would fail again, I thought it was time to upgrade to a new bow. My old bow was an American flat bow, nominally pulling at 35lbs. However, since I draw arrows to my ear, it was actually working out at 40lbs. The new bow is a Chinese made Hungarian style longbow, bought through Amazon. I wanted a stronger bow and this was quoted as being 50lbs at a draw length of 28 inches. However, it has a safe draw length of 33 inches and my own draw length is 30 inches, I anticipated that I could probably get a pull of 60lbs (which has turned out to be the case).

(I have to admit that the price was an important factor in my choice of bow. I would really fancy buying a genuine English longbow but, at five to six times the price, that would be too much to pay unless I was sure that I could handle one of at least 60lbs draw weight.)

The new bow arrived last Wednesday, since when I have been learning to adjust to the bow's particular characteristics. At the start, with my old bow, I was hitting the gold with roughly a third of my shots. This continued with the new bow but the wilder shots nearly doubled in number! I think that this was because the extra power exagerated the effect when my technique was poor.

I have been concentrating on using the new bow and the ratio of good shots to poor ones has improved considerably. However, when I briefly went back to my old bow it was interesting to note how little effort it seemed to require to use it! My accuracy had also gone up to nearly 50%!

In the longer term, I expect the greater power to be a big advantage, particularly over longer ranges. Already I find that I am making adjustments in my technique and the bow is becoming comfortable to use.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


I got quite a bit of practice in today, 400 shots. But the most remarkable thing about it was how unremarkable it was! I scored an average of 35.25% in the gold and 20.25% outside of the red band. That is just 1% improved on two days ago, but the percentage of poor shots has also gone up by 1.75%. However, whilst there were fewer really bad shots there was also very few very good ones. Normally, every so often, things will just come together and I will get a series of shots which just seem to go effortlessly into the right spot. For example, 3 arrows will perfectly place themselves into the inner gold - and that is really what it feels like!  It is as if the arrows decide where to go, I just go through the motions of firing the arrows! But today the spread of the arrows was remarkably even, not too bad, just not very good!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Better Zen!

Yesterday, over 400 shots, I  was averaging 34.25% into the gold, with 18.5% going outside of the red band. Today, over 300 shots, I averaged 44% gold, with just 13.67% outside of the red.

I was undoubtedly more relaxed today, able to quickly settle the bow into the position to shoot, which I think is an important factor. The poor shots often seem to be the result of poor timing, releasing hurriedly or "snatching" the shot. I believe my frame of mind is the important factor in continuing to improve.