Shooting Gloves and Releasing the Pain

One of the things I’ve found whilst shooting with a glove is that my fingers, especially the tendons that connect my finger tips to the rest of my hand, the ones that go over the interphalangael joints, become tender. The longer I shoot the more painful it becomes.

This happens because I have a habit of cradling the string as I draw in the corner of the joint which leads to the string cutting into the tendons. As an added bonus because I’m cradling the string in my joint as I release the string rolls across the tendon and then across my full finger tip which adds to further discomfort.

To try and remove this discomfort I’ve done a few things. The first is to fit a thicker string on my bow. My orginal string was 10 strands and I’ve added a few more so it’s now at 12. As the string is now thicker it’s less likely, I hope, to cause finger pinch. This however, comes at a cost as a thicker string leads to a slower bow which in turn will effect the flight of the arrow, this isn’t ideal. 

The second thing that I’ve done is purchase a thicker shooting glove so that my fingers are better protected. The issue I found with this is that with a thicker glove you loose dexterity in your fingers. Now for me the main reason why I shoot with a glove and not a tab is that I like the added agility a glove gives me, it brings me closer to a more intimate shooting experience and I don’t want to loose this by shooting with a thicker clumsy glove. I tried a number of different gloves that weren’t quite right but eventually I found the Bodnik Speed Glove that gave me an ideal balance between protection and dexterity. The speed glove does this by placing a fine layer of canvas material over the fingers. This canvas layer is soft enough that you can bend your fingers easily yet thick enough to protect you fingers from the string pinch. It’s a really excellent glove and seems to have helped eliminate the pain I was experiencing. As an added bonus it’s also very smooth so my release seems to be a little more consistent.

The third, and last thing, that I’m trying to do is change the area of my fingers that I’m using to draw the string. So instead of the string resting on my joint and tendons I’m now trying to rest it just above them on the bottom of my fingertip pads. This, like all technique changes, is a work in progress as thinking about where my hand holds the string when I draw puts a conscious thought into my shoot sequence that can and has thrown everything else out. This will go eventually as it just a matter of making that conscious action a subconscious one.

A combination of a thicker string, new glove and a change of technique has removed all of the discomfort I had when drawing and shooting for a prolonged period. This in turn has allowed me to get more out of my shooting as I can easily lose myself in the moment of the shot and not be “pulled back” to reality with a physical discomfort. Losing myself in the shot where everything else just drops away is the heart of archery and hopefully, one day I’ll be able to achieve that state everytime I shoot.

Cup Meet Arrow

The tension last night was palpable as it was the second ‘courtesy cup challenge’ and after last week’s rollover the jackpot had risen to a hefty £16, an amount that could change lives.

I lost the coin toss, again, and Robyn my longbow buddy opted to go first. He approached the line drew and released but his shot was just underneath the cup. It was my turn, I approached the line, stared at the cup like a dog stares at a stake, nocked my arrow, drew and released. The arrow flew through the air like a gracefull flying phallus straight into the cup!

As it landed, I went ape shit! The crowd may or may not have started chanting my name either way it didn’t matter as the arrow was in the cup. I was rich… and then I heard ‘I think it went through the side’ which by the ancient rules of our forebears, that I made up in last week’s blog, meant that the hit didn’t count. I may as well have shot my arrow into the air conditioning unit. Defeat hit me like a week old wet fish in the face. My last two arrows after that didn’t even bother the cup and luckily neither did Robyn’s.

The pot rolls over as I live with the knowledge that I was so close to life changing jackpot. 

The Courtesy Cup Challenge

My last was a good shoot I scored a new personal best on Worcester with my Bodnik Phantom flatbow and then competed in the inaugural ‘Courtesy Cup Challenge’ which is so prestigious that two archers have only ever competed for it.

‘So what is the Courtesy Cup?!’ I hear you all shout in fevered anticipation followed by ‘tell us more for we desire this knowledge over everything’; so in my aim to not disappoint you, my dear reader, I will tell you a story, a story of high adventure, loss and woe and then ultimately a story of redemption. It sounds good, doesn’t it? So here goes….

Each week I always end up, as you do, shooting with the same archer, we both shoot an English Longbow and over time we’ve seen each other go through the peaks and troughs of our archery journey. As a big bonus we also end up chatting and gently ribbing the compound and recurve archers. It was from one of these chats that the idea of the ‘Courtesy Cup Challenge’ arose.  The ‘Courtesy Cup Challenge’ is a simple idea which boils down to at the end of each shoot we’d pin a small drinks cup to the target and shooting only an English Longbow try and get an arrow into the cup with, as ABBA advised, the winner taking it all and the loser having to fall. The agreed rules are as follows.

  • English Longbow only
  • No sighters
  • Target at 20yrds
  • Arrows that pass through the side of the cup don’t count
  • 3 arrows only
  • Coin toss to decided who shoots first
  • Shoot one arrow at a time then leave the line and then the next person goes
  • After 3 arrows the person with most arrows in the cup wins

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Now to make this a little more exciting we decided to put a little wager on the outcome so each week we put in £3 each, so between us that’s a lofty £6 a week with the winner taking all. If no one wins outright or if it’s a draw after 3 arrows then the pot rolls over to next week, I suspect the pot will roll over a lot!

Archery for me has always been about relaxation and fun, I want to shoot well but I also love shooting – even when I’m shooting bad. The ‘Courtesy Cup Challenge’ is just another way, that may get expensive, of having a little fun whilst shooting a bow. Are there any little games you guys play when you’re out and about with your bow?

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Holding On

The last two times that I’ve picked up my bow and gone shooting I’ve come away feeling great. My groupings are getting tighter and I’m more or less placing the arrows where I want them to go. All in all I feel like I’m progressing.

I have a problem though and it’s that I’ll shoot a few good arrows and then I’ll shoot a truly awful one that will hit an area where I never expected it to. This happens fairly regularly, as well, which means that it dramatically affects my scoring. What makes it even more frustrating is that I know that when everything is right I can string togeather some really good shots, so in my mind I have the ability but I just need to nail the consistency. 

As you can see below the first two arrows were all of the place and the third and last of end was perfect.

Last night after shooting a Portsmouth and being afflicted by the same issue I decided that I needed go back to basics and look at my shoot sequence to find the problem. My shoot sequence is as follows.

  1. Approach the target.
  2. Get comfortable.
  3. Look at my target and start to concentrate on my breathing to clear my mind.
  4. Nock an arrow.
  5. Stare the shit out of where I want to put the arrow whilst not to braking eye contact.
  6. Start the draw.
  7. Once my hand gets to my anchor point release.
  8. Hold everything in place until a second or so after the arrow hits.
  9. Reflect.
  10. Go back to step one.

When I started analysing the shoot sequence I realised that as soon as my hand got to the anchor point – step 7 – I was holding at full draw for a second or so longer than what I should be. This I feel was adding a few seconds where my hand could unconsciously move or more worryingly give my conscious mind the opportunity to take over my aiming. 

My shoot sequence is the way it is so that I can give my mind the time and space needed to work the aiming out before I draw, but by holding at full draw for a prolonged period I was effectively robbing myself of the preperation that had taken place before that point. On top of that I was tiring myself needlessly as I was holding the bow for too long at full draw which made the shots taken at the end of the shoot shoddy.

With this in my mind I made the conscious decision to release as soon as I’d settled at my anchor point. Adding a conscious motion and thought back into my shoot sequence wasn’t ideal as it gave my conscious mind time to try and take over the aiming. This wasn’t something I wanted but until the anchor and release section of my sequence is nailed and becomes routine it will have to be something I put up with.

By eliminating the hold I ended up shooting some really tight arrow groups. They were slightly off target but I think that’s down to putting the conscious thought of ‘anchor and relase’ into my sequence. So for the next few shoots I’ll be concentrating on this which will hopefully improve my groups and arrow placement. Time will tell if it works!

Bodnik – Phantom 

In October to celebrate my birthday my wife bought me a new bow. I’d been dropping hints for a few weeks so the decision came down to what bow I would like. I’ve been shooting my self-yew English longbow for a year now and I really love it, it has a draw weight of 55# at 28″ and is a pleasure to shoot.

My choice came down to getting a new English Longbow and increasing the draw weight as a step to building up to warbow poundage or try a field bow. I decided against the warbow option as I’d need more space and shooting time to get used to the poundage than I currently have. Once that decision was made it came down to what field bow to get.

After watching lots of YouTube videos and reading up I decided to go with the Bodnik bows by Bearpaw as everything I had seen and them about them was really positive.

After I’d narrowed the bowyer down it then led me to my next question, which Bodnik bow would I buy? Everything I’d heard about the Quickstick, Slickstick, Mohawk and co was excellent, there was a lot of reviews and alot of information so I knew that if I bought one of these i’d have an excellent bow.

The problem, however, was that everytime I browsed the bows on the Bodnik site I was always drawn to the Phantom. It looked gorgeous but there was very little third party information about it to be found on the net. I did find two third party reviews that although were positive made me feel a little apprehensive as there are so many reviews out there for the Slickstick and Quickstick that it was a worry that there was a derth of information about the Phantom.

I mulled my choice over for a few days and decided to just dive in and order the Phantom, I was already in love with how it looked and I knew that if I didn’t buy it I’d regret it. So what follows are my thoughts on the Phantom.

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Stats
Bow Length: 54 inches

Draw Weight: 20 – 55 lbs

Handle: Black Mycarta

Limbs: Bamboo with white Curly Birch

Grip: Locator Grip

String: Whisper String

Brace Height: 6 3/4 inches

Warranty: 30 years Bodnik

I ordered my Phantom from the Longbow Shop which with the strength of the pound at the moment worked out being a cheaper than ordering direct from Bodnik. I placed my order for a 55# Phantom and was told that it may take upto eight weeks to make. I was therefore a little surprised that around three weeks after order my bow is was made and sent from Germany to England.

Out the box.

wp-image-103819381jpg.jpgThe bow out the box comes with a Bodnik Whisper string which has a copper nocking point pre fitted. I’d have preferred the nocking point to have not been fitted as it was really out when I was setting up the brace height of the bow. Another slight disappointment was that the bow didn’t come with a bow bag, naively I expected it too.

The bow handle is made from black mycarta with the limbs being bamboo and curly birch which makes the Phantom extremely light. Aesthetically I think the bow looks amazing with the contrast of white from the curly birch and the black/brown of the mycarta.

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I’ve been using the Phantom for a few months now which has given me the time to get a real feel for the bow and how it handles. The first thing that immediately hit me was how short the bow was. At only 54″ it’s light and small enough to shoot in tight spaces without catching your limbs on branches or bushes – or the bow limbs of the person next to you if you’re stood on the shooting line. As the bow is light and short it’s not surprising that it’s relatively thin as well. I haven’t found this to be a problem but it does mean that the arrow shelf is smaller than you may expect.

The Phantom is also a very quick shooting bow, arrows leave this bow like bolts of lightening with zero hand-shock, it’s an absolute pleasure to shoot. The bow is also fitted with a Bodnik Whisper string which makes the bow super quiet. If I’m honest I could have probably got away without fitting the beaver balls to the string as it’s quiet enough but beaver balls are ace so I fitted them anyway.

The one thing that I didn’t really get a long with on the bow was the grip. Firstly, it wasn’t on tight enough so the bow twisted at full draw and then when I tightened it the leather string snapped. After this I removed the grip totally which isn’t an issue for me as I normally don’t use a grip anyway.

In closing I really love this bow as it encapsulates what traditional archery is to me. For me traditional archery is about you, your bow, your arrows and the moment, everything else just gets in the way. The Phantom is light, short, quick and powerful meaning that you can just grab it along with your arrows and go. With the Phantom you’re not compromising portability for quality, the bow looks stunning and like all Bodnik bows it comes with a 30 year warranty.

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Concentrate

They’re moments when you’re told something that is so obvious you wonder why you weren’t doing it in the first place. These moments are eureka moments where something falls into place and your archery level jumps up a notch. At the start of your archery journey these moments happen regularly as you pick up new techniques but as you progress, and develop habits, they happen less frequently but they still do happen.

One of these moments for me happened a few months ago when I was told to concentrate on the end of my shot, on the moments from my arrow leaving my bow until after the arrow hit the target. It’s true that whilst in flight I couldn’t influence the arrow hitting the mark but by not keeping full concentration until after the shot landed I was effectively not concentrating on the full shot.

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I’ve discovered that archery is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one. If your head is not where it needs to be you’ll shoot badly. Going back to my shooting, I had incorrectly conditioned myself to see the shot as everything up to the point where the arrow left my bow. As soon as the arrow was released I was beginning to think of the next shot and not concentrate on the arrow in flight. Which meant that even if I made the ‘perfect shot’ I couldn’t rely on my memory to subconsciously store the information about how I achieved that shot as I wasn’t giving myself the time to process the actions and the feelings I’d just experienced.

Muscle memory is a key component in archery as it relies heavily on developing consistency in every element of the shot processes in order for you to put your arrows where you want them. In order to help develop muscle memory, you need to give your mind the time to process the rhythm, movement and feelings of your last shot, whether it is a good shot or a bad one. By losing concentration half way through the shot process, because I’d convinced myself to think that the shot was over after the arrow was released, I’ve been limiting my ability for my subconscious mind to recall the shot I’d just made as my conscious mind had been thinking about the prep for the next shot.

What I’m now trying to do is see the shot process as starting from the moment my eyes focus on the target until a second or so after the arrow has hit. When the arrow leaves the bow I’m staying fully focused on the target and keeping my bow hand and release position in place until after the arrow hits. I’ve found that this approach has really helped with my consistency and my ability to self-evaluate my shots and it’s also made my overall approach to archery a lot more relaxed, which can’t be a bad thing.

The Archer’s Paradox / Parody

Welcome all, to this my inaugural blog, of the Archer’s Parody. This blog is intended to catalogue my trials, tribulations and, hopefully, the odd triumphs in my journey through the world of traditional archery. It will include my musing around my technique, my thoughts on the equipment I use and the books I read. Hopefully, it will also capture the rare moments of clarity where everything aligns perfectly (the moon, the stars and the universe) and I get it! My hope is that this blog will be an area where I can reflect upon my experiences whilst at the same time provide a little insight or at the very least be entertaining. 

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So why the title? Well first, there’s the wordplay with the archer’s paradox. The paradox that can only happen on traditional bows such as an English Longbow or a bow where the shelf is off centre and this blog will be solely concerned with traditional archery. Secondly, I called the blog Archer’s Parody as I’m still very much an apprentice archer so my skills are a mere parody of my archery heroes that I try to emulate.

In closing, I would really appreciate your thoughts and feedback.Thank you for reading and enjoy your shooting.