Anchor Away

Last week I changed my anchor point from the corner of my mouth to behind my ear. You often see medieval depictions of archers drawing their bow behind their ear and it is these depictions that the modern warbow archer has looked at for guidancance.

Luttrell Psalter f.147v – British Library

At the moment I am no where near a warbow draw weight but it is something that I aspire to.  So whilst I save up for a heavier bow, at 80# @31, I thought I’d try and nail down the drawing technique with my lighter 55# bow.

Now, I don’t know anybody in person who shoots from behind the ear or for that matter shoots a heavy bow so I’ve been watching videos of warbow archers on youtube and bothering @keoghnick on instagram.

From my online observations it looks like the archer has a much narrower stance than the modern stance, to the point where the front leg is placed slight further forward than the back. As you place your arrow on the bow you learn forwards at the hips and as you move back into an up right position you stretch your back, push with your bow arm and pull with the draw arm and then slightly lean into the draw. This allows you to use your back muscles and not just rely on those in our arms. No movement is wasted in the draw process as it all helps get the bow back. Leaning into the shot also seems to allow your back to bear more of the weight much like a weight lifter would have an arch in their back as they do a deadlift.

I decided to try and video myself drawing this way so that I could see what my form was like. I didn’t knock am arrow as I don’t have the space to loose in my garden but it did give me a good guide to what I was or wasn’t doing. The video can be found here, I tired embedding the video but I gave up after a few attempts.

One of the things I found strange was the feel of the bow when I drew without an arrow nocked, it was probably physiological, as I was concentrating on the draw, but the bow felt really heavy. Another thing I noticed was that I was bringing my draw arm up and over leading to a rotation of my shoulder. This is something I’ve never consciously done before so I need to stop doing it before I overload my shoulder.

I’ve now been shooting from the ear for a few sessions and I can honestly say that it’s really comfortable. It does take a while to get used to the motion and the anchor but after a while it started to feel really natural. As an added bonus that extra inch or so added to my draw is leading to the arrows traveling quicker and faster. All in all I’m happy with my progress and as the weeks go on I’m hoping my technique will become more refined.

 

 

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.