How to Prevent Archery Training Injuries

ArcheryInjuriePrevention

In the previous post, we talked about some of the most common over-training injuries amongst serious competitive archers. While archery is generally one of the safest sports around, competitive training programs can lead to a greater risk of overuse and over-training injuries in the shoulder. In this post, we will cover some preventative measure you can take to make sure your archery training is injury-free. By following this program, you can expect to continue your competitive career decades into the future.

 

Be Gentle in your Training

 

It is common for some people to take a competitive approach to their training. You may want to be good at the sport, but it is important not to overdo it. Often, we start training and continue until we hurt. Since you take a break between each shot, often you do not really feel the effects on your muscles from the shots you have taken until the next day or the day after. As it turns out, rest is more important to training than actually shooting arrows.

 

Shooting 100 arrows in one day will likely not do much for your overall skill. But shooting 10-30 arrows every other day for the next year will reinforce the neural pathway between your brain and your muscles in a way that is safe for your body. Over time, your shot routine will become so ingrained as to be almost instinctual. So, don’t over do it in your training sessions, just keep it consistent. A good rule of thumb is to always leave your session feeling fresh and confident that you could shoot more.

 

Use the Right Equipment

 

Another important way to be gentle in your training is to use a bow with an appropriate draw weight. If you are a bow hunter you may choose to shoot a compound bow with a 70 lbs draw while you are in the field. This is to ensure a clean kill with as little suffering as possible caused to the animal. But drawing such a heavy bow in training is a guaranteed way to sabotage your training and damage the tendons of your shoulder joint.

 

Instead, go with a draw weight you know you can pull easily 15 times in a row without tiring. If you really want to find out the appropriate weight, find a bench and a dumbbell and perform a one-arm row with your shooting arm. If you shoot right-handed, put your left hand and knee on the bench, with your right foot planted firmly on the floor. Pick the dumbbell off the floor with your right hand, and use your core back muscles to pull the weight up to your chest. Start with a light weight and work up, to a weight that you can easily row 15-20 times. This is a great weight for your training bow.

arm-bent-over-row

Naturally, wearing an arm guard and the right release tab or glove will also help avoid a lot of pesky injuries, like bruises from the string or corns on the finger tips.

 

Cross-Train

 

Easily one of the most important things you can do to supplement and injury-proof your archery training is to include archery as just one component of your fitness or sports program. Cardio like running, cycling, swimming, or rowing help lower your blood pressure and pulse, and train your breathing, which can give you more patience and endurance in the shot.

 

Swimming and rowing have the added benefit of working both shoulder joints symmetrically, potentially maintaining or increasing range of motion, a common complaint amongst veteran archers.

 

A combined program of weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, and yoga is also of great benefit to the archery athlete. Since competitive archery is a one-sided sport, physiologically speaking, adding a resistance exercise program to your training is a great way to restore balance and maintain range of motion through the upper body. Be sure to include resistance exercises that strengthen the shoulder, back, and rotator cuff.

 

Warm-Up & Cool-Down

 

Another key training secret that will keep you in the game, especially as you get older, is to warm up and cool down before and after every training session. This can be as easy as doing a few ‘practice shots’ without the bow, doing arm circles, and/or stretching out the upper body, shoulders, and forearms. To cool-down simply follow the same process.

 

Surgical tubing is inexpensive and makes a great resistance band for warming up and strengthening your shoulders and rotator cuff joints. Tie one end of the band to a tree or stationary object, and stand beside the tree with the other end in your hand. With your elbow bent at 90-degrees, use your shoulder to rotate your hand away from your body. Then use your other hand to rotate the band into your body. Perform 10 repetitions with each hand and then switch sides.

Internal RotationExternalRotation

The 3 Most Common Archery Training Injuries

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It is rare to associate archery with injury, minus the odd down range friendly-fire when someone is not paying attention or observing safe range practices. And, in fact, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) archery is statistically less dangerous than golf or fishing, but slightly more dangerous than bowling. However, for someone in a competitive archery training program, overtraining injuries become more and more common. What is worse, if you are a woman, you may be at a greater risk, as you will see soon.

 

When drawing an arrow, an athlete may be pulling a force of 50 lbs. or more with their lower and mid-back muscles, and shoulders. Considering that an archer may shoot as many as 30 arrows in an average training session, that adds up to pulling 1,500 lbs. with only one side of your body. If you are someone who trains daily, you’re at 10,500 lbs, again typically using only one side of the body.

 

Your shoulder is made up of only three bones, the humerus, clavicle, and scapula, beyond that there is a series of ligaments, bursa, and layers of muscle tissue that join these bones together. The intricacy and lack of bone tissue in this area of the body is what gives us such incredible range of motion with our arms; enabling us to throw, do the backstroke, and most importantly shoot our bows. However, this lack of bone structure also means the shoulder joint is more prone to injuries if overused and not treated appropriately.

 

Over time, the amount of force your back and shoulder are pulling can not only cause muscle imbalances, but can lead to a variety of training issues in the drawing arm, shoulder, and back. This is especially true if you do not have good technique when you shoot, because you may be misplacing all of that force in a position that is detrimental to your shoulder. Here are the most common issues noted amongst competitive archers.

 

1. Shoulder Impingement

ArcheryShoulderInjury

Impingement occurs when the ligaments can become tight or inflamed. This causes the acromion to rub against, or ‘impinge’ the underlying tendons and the bursa which acts like a cushion between the head of your humerus bone and your rotator cuff. This can cause pain in the shoulder that can prevent you from comfortably shooting. According to one study, 25% of archers who have been in the sport for a decade or longer showed signs of shoulder impingement.

 

2. Tendonitis, Bursitis, and Rotator Cuff Tears

 

If not treated and allowed to heal properly, shoulder impingement is only the first of a series of shoulder injuries that progresses to tendonitis and bursitis. Tendonitis is when the tendons of the shoulder joint become inflamed or damaged. While an impingement may give you pain when you lift your arm overhead, tendonitis you may begin to feel throughout the day and more intensely at night.

 

In worst case scenarios tendons in the rotator cuff can actually tear partially or fully as a result of over training. These injuries could be come chronic, require surgery, and/or possibly take you out of the sport. If you feel pain in the shoulder at any point during your archery training it is important to halt training until you have seen a physician.

 

3. Loss of Flexibility and Shoulder Asymmetry

 

A chiropractor friend of mine once told me a story about a patient he had. When looking at him from the back, he guy’s right side and shoulder looked like that of a body builder, while his left side looked like that of an average joe. The patient, as it turned out was a state champion recurve archer who was complaining about pain in his back and right shoulder.

 

While this athlete was incredibly strong, and even able to perform through the pain, his is a cautionary tale about not taking a balanced approach to your training. As it turned out, the chiropractor’s prescription was to shoot using the opposite hand. Meaning, since this particular archer shot a right-handed bow, he was to incorporate shooting a left-handed bow into his training as a way to balance out the musculature in his back and shoulders.

 

Loss of flexibility and range of motion in the drawing arm has also been reported in a significant portion of competitive archers. After studying the training programs of archers with and without injuries, deficits were noticed, including a lack of cross training and training using non-archery-specific exercises.

 

Women at a Greater Risk

 

To all of our lady archers, your risk for injury may be greater due to the differences in female anatomy. Since women typically have smaller bones and less muscle, the shoulder joint is more prone to over training injuries. Having a gentle training program that includes plenty of non-archery related cross training is key to keeping your shoulders strong and health, and keeping you in the game.

 

If you are suffering from any of the above injuries or health issues it is important that you cease training, give your shoulder rest, and get the diagnosis and advice of a professional. Taking a little time off from training to rest now is far better than not being able to train ever if you continue to train with an injury.

 

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series “How to Prevent Archery Training Injuries” to find out how you can design a personalized, injury-proof training program.

 

Read Next: How to Prevent Archery Training Injuries

Top 10 Movies to Inspire Your Archery Training

We at MyArcheryClasses.com are so excited to be able to offer you premium archery video content on the site, we decided to write a blog post that is a little more fun than our usual fare to celebrate. These are the top ten archery training movies to get you inspired to hit the range and perfect your skills. You will no doubt find something for everyone on this list, and should be able to find most or all of these on an on-line streaming source, or at your local specialty video rental shop. Please feel free to leave a comment if notice any titles that are missing from this list.

 

10. Braveheart

While much lighter on archery scenes than many of the other movies you’ll find on this list, this epic period film from Jew-hater Mel Gibson does have a couple of great mass archery scenes. If your interest in archery is at all historical or based on its use in traditional warfare, this is a great, albeit long movie to stir your brave heart.

 

9. 13 Assassins

While primarily about swordplay, this movie set in feudal Japan is about 13 samurai who are on a mission to assassinate the sadistic Lord Naritsugu who is intent on bringing war to a relatively peaceful Japan. There is a lot of great Kyudo-style archery in this movie, although the action does not really pick up until about halfway through. My favorite scene is when the 13 assassins trap over 200 enemy samurai in a small city and eliminate close to half of them with their arrows.

 

8. James Clavell’s Shogun Mini-Series:

The Shogun mini series is based on a novel of the same name by James Clavell. The mini series aired on NBC in 1980 and followed the adventures of an English ship captain’s experience after being shipwrecked in Japan. In one particular scene, the captain, John Blackthorne, has made the statement that 100 British musketeers could defeat 500 Japanese archers.

Lord Buntoro, a master archer, goes to Blackthorne to  defend the reputation of his Japanese archers. John Blackthorne then challenges the samurai to a shooting competition. Without consulting her husband, Lord Buntoro’s wife and translator advises John Blackthorne against this, saying simply “You will lose.” Blackthorne then suggests that Lord Buntoro exhibit his skills the next morning, and then cheers Lord Buntoro with sake four times, obviously trying to get him drunk.

Upon realizing Blackthorne’s intent, Lord Buntoro then angrily calls one of his foot soldiers to bring in his bow and arrows, and says that tomorrow is too long to wait. Lord Buntoro then fires three arrows through a paper door, leaving only a single trace hole in the paper. Upon checking outside, he finds the archer has placed all three arrows into the exact same spot in the gate post several meters in front of the house. John Blackthorne then asks that “the arrows be left in the post forever, to remind [him] of a Master Archer.”

 

7. Avatar

In case you have been living under a rock the past few years, Avatar is a movie about a paraplegic Marine that is sent to an alien planet to inhabit an ‘Avatar’ that looks like the native humanoids on the planet via some kind of neural connection. I knew this was going to be a great archery training inspirational movie when the main character, Jake Sully, arrives on the alien planet where the movie takes place and is greeted by a large mining vehicle with man-sized arrows lodged in its tires. There are a lot of great archery scenes in this movie, including shots executed from the back of a flying dragon-like creature.

 

6. The Avengers:

The Avengers is an archery inspiration primarily because of Jeremy Renner’s character ‘Hawkeye’, his James Bond-esque archery gadgets, and impressive yet mostly unbelievable shots. Hawkeye’s assortment of weapons and gadgets are anchored by a spring-action collapsible bow, and a quiver chock full of arrows with impressive capabilities. Said capabilities include: an arrow that can interface with a conveniently ill-placed USB drive, a grappling hook arrow head, an arrow that can melt alien metal, and an arrow that contains some kind of fragmentation shell.

During the film, Renner’s character executes a no-look shot while facing the opposite direction from his target, a grappling-hook armed shot while falling from a skyscraper, and a number of other long-distance shots of superhuman (read: computer generated) effort.

Personally, I’d like to see a sequel to Avengers that touches on Hawkeye’s backstory. Like many superheroes, Hawkeye was orphaned and taken in by a traveling circus. While serving in the Big Top he honed his archery skills as a trick act (he also picked up acrobatics and fencing), which he later co-opted originally as a villain, but later as an Avenger and occasional love interest of Black Widow. While he has no superhuman powers, Hawkeye is of exceptional physical conditioning. The draw weight on Hawkeye’s bow is reported to be 250 lbs.

 

5. Princess Mononoke

This 1997 movie by famed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, has a number of intense (and a bit gruesome) archery scenes. The story is set in feudal era Japan, and follows the journey of a young warrior as he tries to navigate the divide between humans and the forest gods who compete with each other for resources. Shortly into the movie, Ashitaka must use his archery and riding skills to fight a demonized forest god in the shape of a giant boar. However, his entanglement with the beast leaves his arm infected by the demon, giving it unpredictable yet superhuman powers that play a huge role in his shooting ability (including the ability to sever limbs and heads with arrows). Being anime, the movie is a little cavalier with violence, so you might give this a watch on your own before sharing with the kiddos.

 

4. The Host / Goemul “Monster”

As we’ve mentioned in the past, Koreans love archery. This Godzilla-esque B movie features a mutated river monster that terrorizes the banks of the Han River, running right through the middle of Seoul. A humble, unsuspecting family owns and manages a small shop on the boardwalk of said river. When the monster first appears, it kidnaps the daughter of bumbling store clerk Gang-du Park. His family, including Gang-du’s activist/escape artist brother, Han-Il, and Olympic Archery Bronze Medalist sister, Han-Joo.

The movie really picks up at the end, when the family uses flaming arrows, molotov cocktails, and melee weapons to fight the monster. This movie was tragic, funny, and scary, sometimes all at once.

 

3. Hunger Games

2012 saw a tremendous upsurge in youth involvement (especially true among girls) in the sport of Archery almost entirely because of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of novels about children being forced to fight to the death like little teen gladiators. Ask any 5th grader about Katniss Everdeen and they will be glad to tell you about her impressive archery skills.

The constantly amazing Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss in the film adaptation. A year prior to filming, Lawrence began her archery training under the tutelage of Olympic competitor Khatuna Lorig. Over the course of 15 training sessions, Lawrence went from shooting 20 at first to 50 arrows per session right before filming.

And for the most part, it paid off. While there’s a lot of moving around while shooting, there are some great and technically-correct scenes, including one where Katniss (irresponsibly) shoots through a crowd of people to knock an apple out of a roasted pig’s mouth. In sum, primitive archers and rovers will love this movie as it primarily takes place in a forest.

 

2. Brave

Yet another incredible winner from Pixar, and probably one of the most technically correct archery movies ever created. It is a heart-warming story about a mother and daughter who are at odds about the daughter’s refusal to marry. When the mother is turned into a bear, her daughter, Merida, must use her wit and her bow to restore things to their rightful place. The highlight: after several suitors compete in archery for Merida’s hand, she herself looses three arrows that hit the bull’s eye every time, including a final slow-motion shot that splits an already-fired arrow in two. You can tell the geniuses at Pixar spent a lot of time studying arrow flight for this shot, as this shot is incredibly realistic, down to the gyrations of the arrow around the bow and in flight.

 

1. War of the Arrows

This movie wins the Number 1 Archery Training Inspiration Movie spot, because it is truly non-stop archery action. To sum it up, the action begins when the main character  Nam-yi is out hunting during the day of his sister’s wedding to his adopted brother. During the wedding the village is attacked by an invading army, and Nam-yi’s sister is kidnapped. Using his archery and stalking skills Nam-yi sets out to destroy the army one-by-one, hoping to save his sister. The action scenes in this movie are pretty incredible. Most of us western archers use a mediterranean grip when shooting (one finger above the arrow and two fingers below, hooking the string). The main character uses a pinch grip, and twists it in order to make his arrow curve and bend in mid-flight. Aside from a poorly computer-generated tiger, this movie is the benchmark in archery movies.

 

For more premium archery training footage, check out the techniques and training tips we have available on our new archery videos page.

 

LASTLY: Just as a side note, NEVER try to do at HOME what you SEE on TV or MOVIES. Pretending to be a superhero and doing a backwards, no-look shot is a good way to f*ck up.

So You Wanna Become an Archery Coach?

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Derek D. Meitzer/Released

“No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.” – Peter F. Drucker

To succeed in any endeavor in life, you must have a caring and knowledgeable coach. A good coach can help you make the most of your archery training, identify weak areas that you may not be aware of, and prevent you from overtraining and causing injury. The best coaches encourage and support you as you grow in your sport and as an athlete, which is why it takes a rare personality and, often, a soft touch to be a coach. As John Wooden says, “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” If you believe you have what it takes to be an archery coach, this post will help you prepare for the journey ahead.

The sport of Archery depends on caring, capable coaches who introduce the sport to young archers. In the United States, archery coaches and instructors are certified under a single regulating body, USA Archery. The USA Archery certification program prepares coaches to help athletes successfully and safely develop their skills and abilities as they progress in competition. Instructors who possess a certification have been trained and tested in archery skills and safety, and it is an important credential for professional or semi-pro coaches to market their service.

Whether you are an aspiring coach yourself, or you are looking for a coach of your own or for your children, knowing a little bit about the credentials behind coaching in the sport of archery will help you make wise choices to help you achieve your goal. There are 5 tiers of archery instructor certifications, as follows:

Level 1 Coach

The Level 1 or Basic instructor specializes in introducing basic safety and archery skills to beginners. Typically this type of certification is for instructors who would like to work for summer camps, boy or girl scout organizations, or parks and recreation departments.

To receive a Level 1 certification, you must first take a 4-12 hour course in range safety, set-up, and commands, basic equipment information and care, and the fundamentals of shooting. The only pre-requisite to this course is that you must be at least 15 years of age. The required course for a Level 1 certification costs between $30 and $50 on average.

Level 2 Coach

While it would seem intuitive that you must first pass a Level 1 certification before moving on to Level 2, that is not the case. As long as you are at least 18, have passed a background check successfully, and are a current member of NFAA or USA Archery, you can begin your Level 2 course. While Level 1 is not a pre-requisite to the Level 2 certification, a Level 2 coach is certified to teach Level 1 courses. Typically the Level 2 coach is found in more established archery classes, such as J.O.A.D., college archery clubs, or larger community clubs. This certification also costs between $30 and $50.

The Level 2 course is typically longer than the Level 1 course and covers the bow shooting cycle in finer detail, adding a little more depth to the archer’s technique. The aspiring instructor will also be trained how to fit equipment to their athletes, how to set up, tune, and repair equipment, and how to teach regular archery lessons as well as the Level 1 Instructor class.

Level 3 Coach – National Training System Certified

Whereas the Level 1 and Level 2 certifications primarily dealt with archery instruction in a class setting, the Level 3 certification focuses more on athlete development on an individual basis. All Level 3 coaches are eligible to teach Level 1 or 2 courses. In order to become certified, the candidate instructor must be at least 18 years of age, and have held a level 2 certification for at least a year. Alternatively, if the instructor has three years of experience as an archery instructor, they can ‘test out’ of their Level 2 certification. Level 3 certifications require membership to one of the major certifying bodies (NFAA or USA Archery), and a successful background check.

The Level 3 certification can cost around $250 for over 20 hours of instruction on coaching philosophy, archery training plan development, competition prep, bow tuning, and competitive psychology. Holding a level 3 certification means you will spend less time working with beginner, youth, and amateur archers, and start focusing on athletes who are hoping to take their competition to another level.

Level 4

After an instructor has served as a Level 3 coach for 2 years and they are ready to take their career to the next level, they can advance to a level 4 certification. This certification makes the coach eligible to work for the USA Archery national training camps and the International Team Staff. Level 4 coaches can also teach Level 1 and Level 2 certification courses.

The Level 4 course costs just under $500, and will most likely require travel and a hotel-stay for the week-long duration of the course. This course focuses intensively on sports science, including biomechanics, sports psychology, nutrition, training cycles, and the National Training System.

Level 5 – Elite Level Coach

When a coach has reached the pinnacle of their career, including at least two years as a Level 4 instructor, and a record of successfully coaching three or more archers to a national podium place, top 10 ranking, or Olympic, World, or International team placement, he or she may be eligible for their Level 5 certification. Rather than taking a course, a Level 5 certification is self-paced and self-directed to highlight the candidate’s ability to coach athletes to a high level of performance. Typically the coach will be required to pursue higher-level training, including the ASEP Coaching Principles certification, and the USCO Safe Sport certification. The Level 5 certification also requires training and supervision from a mentor or through a Coach Observer Program. In short, the Level 5 certification is the pinnacle of an archery coach’s credentials.

Pre-Requisites

Every certification except the Level 1 certification requires a background check through the USA Archery organization. Many of the archers a coach will work with in their career will likely compete in youth leagues. Anyone who works professionally with children is required to submit to a background check. Successfully passing a background check is a strong credential and will help ease the minds of the parents of athletes you may work with in your career.

Additionally, all but the Level 1 certification require membership in either USA Archery or the National Field Archers Association. These organizations provide a lot of valuable information regarding training and competitions, and can serve as yet another credential to market yourself as a highly qualified archery instructor.

Expiration and Renewal

Every one of the above certifications is good for three years from the date of your certification course. You can usually renew your certification every three years by teaching archery classes consistent with your certification (Level 1 – Summer Camp, Level 2 – J.O.A.D., Level 4 – Archery camps and attending continuing education). The cost of renewal is usually as low as $30, and may require a re-check of your background screening.

If you have a passion for archery and working with athletes from all walks of life, becoming an archery instructor can be an intensely rewarding career. Though it takes time and dedication to improve both your archery and your coaching technique, there is no greater thrill than seeing your athletes excel in competition after months or years of careful training.

The South Korean Love Affair with Archery

While the national sport of South Korea, is somehow, weirdly, the online video game ‘Starcraft’, Archery comes in as a close second. The tiny nation comprising the southern half of the Korean Peninsula has become a world superpower of archery. Nationally competitive archers in South Korea enjoy the same lifestyle and professional relationship with their sponsors as NASCAR and Formula 1 drivers in other countries. This articles examines how archery became the ‘real’ national sport of South Korea.

 

Korean Archery’s Olympic Dominance

 

The sport of Archery made its first appearance as an Olympic sport in 1904, and was later excluded for over fifty years until 1972, when men’s and women’s individual archery was finally re-instated as an Olympic sport.

24-year old Korean archer Ki Bo-Bae, engaging in a favorite past-time amongst Korean Olympic archers: eating gold medals.

24-year old Ki Bo-Bae, engaging in a favorite past-time amongst South Korean Olympic archers: eating their many gold medals.

Not long after in 1979, high schooler Kim Jin Ho won a women’s team gold and South Korea’s first individual gold medal in the Archery World Championships in Berlin. This began a movement in South Korea that catapulted the small country to superpower status in the sport. Largely under the guidance of national head coach and future archery guru, the South Korean team would win a combined eight Olympic golds from 1984 through the 1996 Games.

 

One of Lee’s most famous athletes, Kim Soo Nyung led the women’s Olympic team in the 1988, and 1992 games with a total of four gold medals. She was only 17 at the time. She also won consecutive individual and team world championships in 1989 and 1991. After winning a silver medal in the ’92 Games, Kim retired from archery to start a family. In 1999, she was called back to the sport and led the 2000 Olympic team in winning her third team gold, and an individual bronze. Kim is widely considered the best female archer of all time.

Nom Nom Nom

Nom Nom Nom

Cultivating a Culture of Winning

 

According to British archer Larry Godfrey, there are roughly two British archers who have shot over 1350 points in an Olympic round, whereas in Korea, there are over 50. Much of this can be attributed to the size of South Korea’s national physical education program, and the monetization of corporate-owned teams.

 

Korean school children receive their introduction to archery while still in elementary school as part of the national physical education curriculum. Children who demonstrate particular talent in their archery classes are invited to join a youth development league, and will train up to two hours a day. Through middle and high school and into University, the level of competition continues to intensify, weeding out those with less ability and motivation.

 

The best of the best collegiate archers may be scouted and recruited by any of 33 corporate-sposored teams. Similar to auto racing in other parts of the world, companies like Hyundai and LH Corp. sponsor archery teams, providing their archers with a decent wage and a pension solely for competing for their team.

 

In other countries, few competitive archers make a living from their sport. In fact, in most countries, archers need to be Olympic gold medalists before they will receive enough income (primarily through product endorsements) to cover their cost of living. In Korea, however, many professionals make a very comfortable living without ever competing for the national team.

 

In short, Koreans have an advantage in the sport simply due to the sheer numbers, particularly youth, involved in the sport. In other countries, the number of nationally competitive archers can be counted on one hand. In Korea, there are over a hundred. There are also over 300 regional teams, and over 1500 archers in a country slightly larger than Indiana. This talent pool is simply too large for many countries to compete with.

 

Elite Archery Training

 

The National Training System of South Korea was created by the godfather of archery, Kisik Lee. Although the training system has been scrutinized due to Lee’s religious coaching methods (he baptized Brady Ellis, for Christ’s sake), the system has consistently produced results. Lee partnered with a biomechanics engineer to examine the forces placed on the body when practicing archery.

Brady Ellis receiving the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Brady Ellis receiving the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Based on this research, Lee developed a 12-step shooting cycle that deconstructed the shot down into basic biomechanics processes. Certification in this Training System is required to become an archery instructor under the USA Archery organization as well as the National Field Archery Association.

 

Although their training is largely based on scientific research, an incredible amount of importance is placed on training each archer’s nerves and their ability to conquer fear and perform under pressure. In teaching the shooting cycle, instructors recommend aiming primarily subconsciously. The general rule is to focus only about 10% of their attention on the target, attributing 90% to the muscles in their core back and fingertips.

 

This requires an ability for intense concentration, in a variety of conditions. To train for this, Korean archers undergo a variety of eclectic exercises, including training at night, in the rain, and in the bull pens of noisy and crowded baseball games. Athlete’s engage in high diving and bungee jumping as a method of training themselves to deal with fear. All of these exercises are meant to put the athlete’s outside of their comfort zones and prepare them for stressful situations in competition.

 

A Genetic Pre-Disposition

 

Some theorize that the Korean advantage is entirely genetic; that Koreans have a highly refined sensitivity that  gives them greater control in their fingertips and awareness over their body as a whole. If true, this could very well be a strong advantage in a sport where the smallest distance can be the difference between a score of 9 or 10 points.

 

This argument has gained weight due to the success of Im Dong-Hyun who due to a visual impairment has retained only 10% of his sight. Currently ranked as the Number One male archer in the nation, this ‘blind’ archer claims that being able to see the target is entirely secondary to what goes on behind the bow.

 

Can Korean Archery be Defeated?

Oh Jin Hyek knows if he ever runs out of food, he's always got his gold medals

Oh Jin Hyek knows if he ever runs out of food, he’s always got his gold medals

Other countries who hope to be as competitive would be wise to adopt a similarly extensive kids archery and youth development program. In the states, there have been some movements towards archery classes in schools programs, and J.O.A.D. is certainly available to children who seek out the sport. But these programs have nowhere near the reach of Korea’s archery programs where children are assessed, identified, and cultivated from a young age.

 

Many countries have increased their spending in the sport, including India’s 61-Million-Rupee incentive to any archer that can bring home an Olympic gold. In America, the steady rise of Brady Ellison has been fueled largely by sponsorships from sports equipment companies like Easton. In fact, the arrow manufacturer just last year signed a deal to build a new 40,000 square foot Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. The fact that the U.S. was able to poach Korean head coach Kisik Lee in the late 90s is statement enough of their willingness to spend on Olympic dominance in archery.

 

And yet, nightmares of the South Korean dominance in the sport fuels the archery training of athlete’s all over the world. With a winning streak like no other, the South Koreans do not appear to be anywhere ready to give up their title as world’s greatest.

How to Design and Build Your Own Archery Training Range

What would your personal archery sanctuary look like?

What would your personal archery sanctuary look like?

Every serious archer eventually gets the longing to build his own archery range at home. There may not always be a public range close by, and many ranges require you to pay membership dues or expensive range fees. Having an archery range at home that is free to use any time of day can be a great asset to your archery training.

 

Designing and building your own range will provide you with a convenient training dojo, as well as a sense of pride and self-satisfaction. Perhaps the biggest benefit of the home archery range, however, is that there are no rules against drinking a cold beer while you shoot with your friends and family. Here are some considerations for designing your own archery range.

 

Archery Range Design

 

The process behind designing a range is similar, though much reduced in scale and scope, to the process used by architects to design buildings. An investigation is undertaken regarding the restrictions on the project. What and where is the space? What are the limits imposed by building codes? Then the designer must make a series of decisions about the space. In the same way, you must first start with an investigation, and then make some decisions of your own.

 

The Space

 

First, you must decide where you will build your range and start analyzing the dimensions and properties of the space. Clearly an outdoor range is the most cost-effective option in terms of space, but if you are resourceful, it is not impossible to build a space indoors on the cheap.

 

A few years ago, my wife and I lived in an apartment with a long narrow hallway. In complete violation of our lease we assembled duct-taped frames of stacked corrugated cardboard, layered it with two outdoor rugs, and a commercial kitchen standing pad. While there was some minor damage to the drywall, for reasons I’ll go into later, I’m happy to report that we did get most of our security deposit back.

 

At a minimum, for a target shooting range (I’ll go into how to build a field archery range in a later post) you need a lane that is at least 30 inches wide by 20 yards long. Most ‘certified’ archery ranges, as defined by the NFAA, require a target butt (the arrow stop) that is at least 40’’ square or 48’’ in diameter if using a circular butt. You will need either a backstop immediately behind the butt or be able to see for 25 yards beyond your target.

 

Take some measurements of your space, and start thinking of what you can do with it. Will you be able to sink posts into the ground to build a stand and backdrop for your target? Will you need a deeper target butt to cushion arrow impact in an indoor range?

ArcheryTarget

The Materials

 

Often the best materials for building an attractive archery range are those that you find or repurpose. It certainly doesn’t hurt your finances, either.

 

Backstop – According to the NFAA, a backstop can be any material that will not damage arrows that are overshot or pass through the target. Commonly, large sheets of plywood are used in competitions. Many larger tournaments will also use a heavy closed-mesh curtain. Wooden pallets are usually free and readily available and when taken apart and typically sanded, can be reconstructed to make a beautiful range, for as little as the cost of sand paper, and perhaps some wood sealant or stain.

 

If shooting on level ground, the backstop should be at least 8 feet tall, and a minimum of four feet wide. Alternatively shooting downhill into an earthen berm makes for one of the best backstops. However, unless you are a bow hunter who shoots from an above ground deer stand, it is not advisable to solely train shooting downhill. When shooting in competition, you may find yourself undershooting the target simply due to conditioning.

 

For this reason, level-ground ranges are typically best for competitors and general training. If you have some outdoor space with a little geography available to you, bow hunters and field archers might consider a portable target they can carry around. This allows you to shoot from different angles and altitudes, and across a variety of shooting environments.

 

Target Butt – The primary consideration when deciding on the dimensions of your butt (all joking aside) is what is behind the target? If you have interior drywall behind your target, like my apartment hallway range, you will need a deeper butt (again all joking aside), to stop the arrow before it does any damage to what is behind it.

 

Our flimsy cardboard backstop consisted of four layers of disassembled cardboard boxes reinforced with duct tape at the corners and creases. We probably needed at least 2-3 times more butt (last one) to protect our apartment’s drywall, and our security deposit. Additionally, we found a scorpion between some of the boxes when we eventually took it down. These are some of the things you have to consider.

 

Corrugated Cardboard – when stacked in layers of 6’’ or more makes a good, inexpensive butt that allows for relatively easy withdrawal of arrows.

Hay bales – another inexpensive choice that provides excellent depth and clean retrieval. Keep in mind that if left outdoors and not protected from moisture, hay bale can be susceptible to rot and mold. In this case it will need to be replaced.

Foam – Many cheaply made commercial targets are simply plastic or burlap bag filled with Styrofoam. Styrofoam can often be found cheaply by asking local furniture and electronics stores, or if you are uber-resourceful, dumpster diving. The disadvantages? It can ‘goop up’ on arrows, particular those of composite materials, and will fall apart over time. Actually, the biggest disadvantage is that god-awful, nails-on-a-chalkboard sound arrows make when they are being withdrawn.

Other Materials – There are literally hundreds of different materials including recycled forest and agriculture by-products, recycled plastic, or tightly bundled cloth currently being sold commercially as target material.

 

The Target

 

Finally, you have your target. This can be simply painted on the target butt, but will need to be repainted periodically as the target deteriorates with regular shooting. Paper targets are inexpensive and easy to store and replace. Another benefit of paper targets is that you can use regular circular competition targets, animal targets, or even the classic bad guy with a gun target. For Christmas I got these Zombie targets, and after watching Walking Dead, they have seriously inspired my archery training.

 

The one concern about paper targets is that if they are going to be left on the target for days at a time, they will need to be shielded from the sun and rain. This can often be done with scrap wood or corrugated metal, and can also protect hay bales from moisture if they are kept off the ground.

 

Extras

 

Once you have analyzed the requirements of your space and selected your materials you are free to add your own flourishes to truly make your range your home. From custom-built PVC bow, arrow, and drink holders, to a sheltered shooting patio that allows you to shoot in all weather, to lighted targets for night shooting, the options are truly endless. I personally, have always dreamed about a Japanese style meditation and tearoom attached to a shooting porch and a covered standalone target butt stand.

 

What does your dream archery range look like? Let us know in the comments!

Instinctive Archery Lessons – Unleashing Your Subconscious

blonde-bowhunter-live-from-mount-olympus

Get in touch with your Wild Side

 

When watching an archery competition, it is standard to see an archer take anywhere from 10-30 seconds to set up his shot, aim, and release. Most competitors believe that they have to follow a step-by-step routine, making sure every component of their shot is perfectly aligned while carefully aiming their arrow downrange. However, our primitive forbears in this sport rarely shot this way. For instance, a primitive archer could starve or be killed by an enemy arrow if he took 30 seconds to line up his shot. Instead, the primitive archer relied on his subconscious instinct to guide his arrow. This article lays out some archery lessons for anyone who wants to learn how to fire off a shot faster and more accurately. While learning to shoot instinctively is ideal for bow hunters who want to improve their skill and reaction time for next season, instinctive shooting is also of great benefit to the target archer as well.

 

Not Just for Hunters

 

According to Olympic coach Kisik Lee’s archery training system, during the aiming component of every shot the archer should focus primarily on their drawing muscles while remaining only slightly aware of their sight pin and its relation to the target. The ideal ratio is to focus 90% on your back muscles and 10% on what you are seeing. By training your instinctive shot, you are exercising your subconscious aiming abilities, making you a better all-around archer.

 

Pre-Requisites to Instinctive Shooting

 

Arguably the most important requirement for an instinctive archer is that he or she uses a bow that matches the archer’s dominant eye. For instance, if you are left-eye dominant, you will need a left-handed bow, and vice versa if you are right-eye dominant.

 

The reason for this is that, if you are using a right-handed bow and are left-eye dominant, you will be required to close your left eye in order to aim using your right eye. To put it simply, your aiming eye needs to be on a perfect line that runs from the tip of your drawing elbow through the arrow, all the way to the target. With both eyes open, you will be able to take in more information about every scenario in which you are trying to make a shot. For more information about how eye-dominance effects your shot, click here.

 

Additionally, you should have a firm grasp on basic technique. It is important that you have complete control over your shot before you start firing arrows willy-nilly, as it were. At the very least, you should have a consistent and strong stance you feel comfortable shooting from, a consistently smooth draw, and a ruthlessly consistent anchor point.

 

How to Shoot Instinctively

 

Without having seen instinctive archery in practice before, it can be kind of difficult to comprehend. How can someone just launch a projectile without first carefully aiming with the precision of a sniper? Well, it may be simplifying a bit, but it’s similar to how you throw a baseball or shoot a basketball. You simply ‘point’ your attention at whatever you’re shooting at and align your body to do the same.

 

In instinctive archery, rather than aiming your arrow like you would a gun, you are simply pointing at the target you want to shoot and using your peripheral vision to gather as much information about what you are shooting as possible. For instance, with both eyes open you are able to see the direction and speed at which your target is moving, or if there is anything that could potentially obstruct your shot.

 

As long as you are shooting down your line of sight, it is not difficult to send the arrow where you want it to go. It will almost certainly take some getting used to, but by making small adjustments to your technique, shooting instinctively will gradually start to feel more natural. Experiment with a slightly wider stance to give you more stability, and lean in slightly toward your target. Remember to always anchor your arrow in the same place every single time you shoot (just inside the corner of the mouth works best for me).

 

To practice instinctive archery, try to limit the amount of time you give yourself to aim your shot. To make it easier on yourself, try to shoot ‘on beat’. For instance, give yourself a beat to nock your arrow and mentally prepare for the shot, one beat to draw the arrow, a beat to aim, and a final beat to release. This will teach you to rely on your instinct rather than mentally working through a checklist to prepare and execute the shot.

 

Finally, shooting at moving targets is always a great way to practice shooting instinctively. Whether you use an archery target launcher, suspend a pendulum to swing in front of your target, or just hunt small, moving game you are certain to develop your instinctive abilities with regular practice.

 

As a result of learning instinctive archery, you will learn how to improve your aim in target competition, and drastically increase your hunting accuracy. Stay tuned for more instinctive archery drills and tips!

How to Buy Arrows: 4 FAQs About Arrow Length

Arrow length is one of the most important factors of an arrow's flight.

Arrow length is one of the most important factors of an arrow’s flight.

The commonly held belief is that an arrow should be just equal to, or slightly longer than, the bow’s set up draw length. Following this convention, most would assume that if a bow has a 28-inch draw, it should shoot a 28-inch or longer arrow. However, this is not always the case. Technology has improved so much that this traditional convention may not always be the best for your particular rig. You might find that the best arrow for you is slightly shorter than the draw length. Here are a few questions to ask to help you buy arrows correctly.

 

1. What kind of riser do you shoot? 

 

There are a lot of factors at play when determining optimum arrow length, but a good place to start is with your bow’s riser. The ‘riser’ is the handle component of the bow to which the limbs attach. Traditionally risers typically use a molded plastic ‘flipper’ arrow rest. With a traditional riser your arrow, along with the center of your firing line, will lie right next to the riser, potentially causing some interference to the arrows flight.

 arrow-centerwbroad

Alternatively, you may have a cutaway riser, that provides a larger shelf for the arrow, and the riser is moved to the side. With this type of riser, your arrow and its flight path are spaced far enough from the riser that there will be no contact with the riser and the arrow’s fletching. This is the most common type of riser amongst modern compound bows.

 

So what does this have to do with the length of arrow you buy? Well, if you purchase arrows of a length equal to your draw length, the insert of the arrow should line up perfectly with the front edge of your bow’s riser. However, if you are using a cutaway style riser, you can shoot arrows that are less than the draw length. Compare this to a traditional riser, which requires you to use an arrow slightly longer than draw length so that the tip of the arrow extends beyond the front of the riser.

 

2. Do you shoot broad heads or other specialty tips? 

 

If your bow features a traditional riser then your arrows must be at least as long as your draw length if you ever hope to shoot broad heads or other specialty, large-diameter tips. Otherwise, every time you draw the arrow, the broad head would catch on the front of the riser and stop your draw. A half-inch to an inch longer than your bow’s adjusted draw length should work just fine.

 Broadhead

If your bow does have a cutaway riser, you can be a little more flexible in how short of an arrow you use, simply because a cutaway riser can easy accommodate a broad head. Most competitive compound shooters trim their arrows as short as possible in an attempt to make their arrows as fast as possible. The general equation is: the shorter your arrow, the lighter it is and the faster and farther it will fly. For this type of riser, buy or trim arrows that are a half-inch to an inch longer than your arrow rest.

 

Some small game tips require that you use longer arrows regardless of your riser type. For instance, Judy Points and Condor Tips, very wide hunting tips meant for shooting small game require arrows longer than the draw length even if you are using a cutaway riser.

 

3. What type of arrow rest do you use? 

 

Particularly with cutaway risers, the type of arrow rest in operation will also need to be considered when determining optimum arrow length.  In older rigs, archers used to use a device known as an over-draw that would extend the arrow rest further back. This was done to allow the archer to shoot shorter and faster arrows.

 

While no longer in use, the over-draw and other types of arrow rests require different lengths of arrows even if draw length remains consistent. For instance, the traditional arrow rest will position the arrow 1-2 inches below draw length. If you use a whisker biscuit style rest, you can use arrows 2-3 inches less than draw. Finally, the Muzzy Zero allows for arrows up to 4 inches less than draw, almost even with the rear of the riser.

 

Regardless of the type of riser, the easiest way to check for this is to simply draw and hold an arrow while a friend makes a mark on the arrow where it sits on the rest during full draw. Finally, as a general recommendation, give yourself a half-inch to an inch of ‘confidence’ space beyond your rest. Over time, your bowstring will relax and stretch, and you will be left with arrows that are too short.

 

4. Should I trim my arrows myself? 

 

When you buy arrows for sale, you have the option of either having the arrows shipped to you at the ideal length, or more commonly, the arrows you buy will intentionally be left a few inches long so that they can be trimmed to length. Usually there is no extra fee for an archery shop to trim and add inserts to your arrows.

 

If you have carbon arrows, keep in mind that they must only be cut with a high-speed wheel saw using an abrasive disk, such as a Dremel tool. Using a hacksaw or plumber’s saw can splinter the carbon fibers in the arrow, making them a potential safety hazard to shoot. With the right equipment, and always measuring twice, trimming your arrows to fit your custom setup is far from difficult.

 

Stay tuned for most posts on buying and selecting the best gear for your archery training!

Arrow Safety – How to Inspect and Buy Arrows

Prevent this from happening. Always check your arrows before firing.

Prevent this from happening. Always check your arrows before firing.

While the above is certainly a rare occurrence, there is an archery related accident at least once a year a year. Commonly, a hunter or target archer using a bow designed to propel an arrow 270 feet per second fails to check, size, or properly nock their arrows, and the incredible amount of force splinters the arrow or causes bodily injury. Luckily, you can prevent accidents like this fairly easily in just a few steps when shopping for arrows for sale, and before firing. Here are a few tips.

 

Inspect Arrows Before Use

 

With proper care, an arrow can last for years with regular shooting. However the physical forces placed on an arrow can be intense, and shafts can become damaged, making them extremely dangerous to fire. The most common way an arrow is damaged is from an incoming arrow striking an arrow that is already in the target. A good rule of thumb is to never assume any arrow is safe before firing it. It is your responsibility to inspect and care for equipment before using.

 

The best and easiest way to inspect your arrows is to use the Flex Test. To perform the flex test hold the arrow with one hand on either end and gently flex the arrow away from yourself and other people. Listen for any popping or cracking sound and visually inspect the arrow for cracks, splinters, dents or nicks. Rotate the arrow and flex again until you are confident the arrow is in good condition. If there is anything wrong with the arrow, it is better to be safe than sorry. Destroy it.

 

Buy Arrows that are the Right Size

 

It is vital to buy arrows that are of sufficient length. In general, this means the end of the arrow shaft (not including the tip and the plastic insert) should be flush with the front of the riser or at least an inch in front of the arrow rest when at full draw. This is a complex subject, but we will discuss draw length and how it relates to arrow length in future posts.

 

If you adjust your draw length or stop, please keep in mind you may need to trim or buy new arrows. Over time your bowstring will naturally relax into a longer draw length. Proper maintenance, and regularly replacing your bowstring every few years is a good way to avoid this.

 

Properly Nock Arrows

 

Finally, some accidents happen simply because the arrow nock is not properly seated on the bowstring. If your arrow is not nocked correctly the arrow will fall or partially fall off of the string during the draw, which could result in a dry fire, or during the shot, which could result in equipment or bodily damage, or an unintended flight path. Make sure you hear the nock ‘click’ into place on every shot. Also, be aware some newer nocks have a double click procedure before the arrow is properly seated.

 

You Assume the Risk

 

It’s easy to blame the arrow when an accident like the above happens. But, ultimately as the shooter of the arrow, you assume the risk. Every brand, type, price, size, or model of arrow can fail if damaged prior to shooting.  Don’t ignore the flex test. It does not take much time to inspect your arrows while shooting. Simply test the arrows as you are walking back up range.

 

Putting Fears to Rest

 

Now, the image above is meant to shock you into testing your arrows and buying proper equipment, but in truth these types of accidents are not statistically probable. In fact, they occur with such low frequency as to be considered a ‘freak’ accident. In fact, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, Archery ranks among the safest sports in the world; slightly riskier than bowling and ping pong, but safer than golf or fishing.

 

Given that archery is truly a martial sport, and the fact that its participants range from children as young as 5 or 6 to senior citizens and scores of beginners each year, archery’s safety record is pretty impressive. Injuries occur in every sport. The key is to make sure you buy arrows and equipment that suit your body, and properly check all equipment before use.

One Eye Wide Shut – Archery Training and Eye Dominance

'Ole Vlad has struggled with Eye Dominance Issues for Ages...

‘Ole Vlad has struggled with Eye Dominance Issues for Ages…

All my life I was trained to shoot a bow with my right hand. In decades of shooting I never gave a second thought to the need to close my left eye while I shot. It wasn’t until I started researching Instinctive Archery that I realized a bow can and should be shot with both eyes open. In this article we will give a full examination of eye dominance and its significance in your archery training.

In general, if you are right handed, you will be right eye dominant, and the opposite applies for southpaws. However, in some cases (mine included), the dominant hand and eye are opposite. For anyone looking to compete in shooting sports, this can pose a minor obstacle.

 

Which Eye is Dominant?

 

To determine which of your eyes is dominant, form a loop with your thumb  and forefinger and hold it out in front of you. With arm outstretched, look through your hand-circle at a fixed point in the distance. Now close one eye. If the fixed point jumps and you can no longer see it, the eye you closed is your dominant eye. If the fixed point did not move, the eye that is open is your dominant eye.

 

You may be wondering why this happens. Well, human sight is binocular, meaning we gather visual information through two ‘viewers’ or eyeballs that are a set distance apart (~3 inches). Since we have this distance between our eyes, both eyes cannot maintain a direct line of sight on the fixed point.

eyedom1

Instead, when both eyes are open, your dominant eye sees the physical object that you are looking at while the other eye simply adds depth and clarity to the image.

 

Eye Dominance in Archery Training

 

For casual archers, shooting a right handed bow despite being left eye dominant (or vice versa), may not impede training at all. The archer can simply close their dominant eye and sight through their non-dominant eye. I have even heard of some archers drawing the string to the other side of the face. (I have not tried this, but it seems like it would be really awkward. I’d love to hear your comments if you have tried it yourself or know anyone who has.)

 

However, most serious (read: competitive) archers shoot with both eyes open. If you have ever watched a higher level Archery Competition such as the Olympic Archery competition, you may have noticed the archers soft gaze through both eyes, the string pulled snug against the upper lip and nose, perfectly bisecting the archer’s line of sight.

 

The reason for this is that shooting with both eyes open provides a brighter, clearer, and larger field of view, even if you are looking through a sight. While your dominant eye is focused acutely on the target, your non-dominant eye is filling in the gaps of the image.

 aiming_issue_double_image

This is incredibly important when hunting, shooting at moving targets, or instinctive shooting because it provides greater visual context for your shot. For instance, you may have the peep sight focused on your target, a large mule deer’s flank, but you may not see the tree that will take your arrow as he bounds behind it.

 

Additionally, shooting with both eyes open allows you to follow your arrow’s entire flight to the target. When you shoot with one eye closed it is almost impossible to see the arrow’s flight. This is because the bow springs forward at the moment of the shot, and the peep sight will often obscure the shooter’s line of sight to the arrow.

 

Choosing the Right Bow

 

Since your dominant eye always commands your sight line when both of your eyes are open, most archery shops will recommend choosing a bow that matches your dominant eye rather than your dominant hand.

 images

Whenever you sight a bow, your goal is to line up all your sighting elements: your eye, the sight pin and any peep sight, and finally the target. To do this, your sighting eye needs to be directly behind the string. If everything is lined up properly, your visual sight line will parallel your arrow’s flight path.

 

When both eyes are open, the string must be aligned with the dominant eye in order to keep the line of sight and flight path of the arrow roughly equivalent (not accounting for parabolic arc of the arrow).

 

If, on the other hand, both eyes are open and the string is aligned with the non-dominant eye, the line of sight will have shifted about three inches (the distance between your eyes) from the flightpath of the arrow. As a result the archer will adjust his aim, pointing the arrow dramatically in the direction of the dominant eye.

 

Archery shops and professionals know that right-handed bows are designed to be sighted using the right eye, and the opposite is true of left-handed bows. If you have an eye and hand dominance conflict, you have a decision to make. Do you choose a bow that capitalizes on the strength of your dominant arm and learn to shoot with one eye closed, or do you take the time to learn to shoot left-handed so you can keep both eyes open.

 

For beginners, the choice may be fairly easy as you do not have any deeply ingrained habits to unlearn. Shooting with either hand will probably feel equally unfamiliar at first, so it is wise to choose a bow that matches your eye dominance so that you have plenty of time to develop the habit of shooting with both eyes open.

 

For veterans who only know shooting with their dominant hand, the choice may be slightly tougher. That is the case for me. Over the course of the next few weeks I will attempt to answer this question. After decades of shooting right handed with one eye squinted, I will try to learn shooting with a left-handed bow and both eyes open. Please stay tuned as I document my progress!

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