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How to Practice Archery
- A way -

Ever felt like perhaps you should practice?

Or that what you are doing feels like you are running around in circles?

I have often spent time thinking about this, and because I spent a lot of time thinking, I have come to the realisation that there is an easy, logical way to practise your archery. 

There will be a development phase, where you get used to shooting your bow and arrow, you will discover new things about yourself. You will then move on to aiming and fine tuning your equipment and after that it is maintaining your craft. A simple as that!

Equipment needed:

  1. A bow and accessories of your choice. Preferably a bow that does not overpower you.

  2. A ball-park-correct-spine arrow. One arrow is enough for the early stages of shooting and until you have established your shooting form, do not go out and buy dozens of arrows that might end up useless. 

  3. Back -Stop. 

  4. About 5 to 10 yards of space.

Stage 1: Shooting form

This is where you spend time to figure out how your body wants to shoot the bow. Shoot from very close to a back-stop and experiment with different parts of your shooting form. Basic Archery shooting technique is a good starting point, but feel free to experiment. Aim for a natural form that works for you. Try to slow down your shooting as much as possible, it will only result in good accuracy. Faster shooting will come in time. As you become a master in playing the mono-chord, you will know when to go fast and when to slow down. Learn from other archers and try something new, and if it works, keep it.  For now, resist aiming at all cost -  This will come later.

Stage 2: Breath Control

Discover you breathing rhythm. Count the amount of breathing cycles you have in 1 minute. One cycle is breathing in and breathing out. If you have more than 4 cycles per minute, chances are you are stressed. Learn to breath by expanding and contracting your diaphragm and not your chest muscles. Practise to breath evenly while shooting.  

Slowing down your breathing improves concentration dramatically. This is beneficial not only in archery, but in life too.

You can start by  slowing down your breathing  before you start a practise session  or between shots. Now experiment with where and how you  can incorporate your breathing into your shooting form.

An example: While I'm drawing my bow I exhale about 3/4 of the way while I come to anchor. Then when I feel comfortable, I tighten my abdominal muscles to force the rest of my breath out - and gone is the arrow. Yours might be different, but I hope you see the benefit in doing this. 

Stage 3: Focus on your form and breathing

This stage is a continuation and blending of the two previous stages. Slow your shooting down and focus on separate parts of your shooting form. The aim is to let it blend into one fluent symphony, where your breathing becomes part of your shooting routine.

Stage 4: Shot Routine 

If stages 1 to 3 has gone according to plan chances are you already have a pretty good idea of your shot routine. Break it down, even take notes. This helps for reference when you have hit some unexplained error in your shooting. Make going over your routine a part of your warm up before practise. I know hunters always say that you don't have time to go through a shot routine when hunting, which is true, but practising it will allow you to commit the routine to your sub-conscious while you concentrate on other things.

I have made and use my breathing as a way to initialise a shot. and as a draw-check. 

Stage 5 :  Setting up your equipment

Warning:  If you  drastically change anything in your  shooting form, chances are that your arrow spine will be affected.  So do not go out and buy dozens of arrows yet, just get to the right spine and after stage 6, you can revisit this part if you have made any changes to your form.

Now that you have established good shooting form it is time to fine-tune your equipment and perhaps enlarge your arrow count. I have found that bare-shaft tuning works best for traditional bows. If you can get that bare arrow to fly straight, a feathered shaft will fly perfect, unless you have some clearance issues.

Stage 6: Aiming and incorporating this into your form

There are various ways of aiming the traditional bow and arrow. From sub-conscious (instinctive) aiming to string walking and all that lies in-between.

Whatever aiming technique you will adopt you will have to spend time to first incorporate it into your shooting form.

Because you have established and practise your form, you can now focus on how to apply a aiming technique into your shooting. What this means is, shoot from close distances to get used to your aiming technique and how it fits into your shooting form.  When this is done you can start exploring shooting from various distances.


Example (my instinctive way): 

  1. I pick my target in a general way. Say I want to hit a dandelion some distance out on the lawn.

  2. I find my balance in stance and my body positioned in a familiar way that I just know will allow me to hit the target. This confidence was build through the first stages. There is no doubt in my mind as to if my equipment works, and the only thing that can go wrong is if I do not execute my shot correctly, or the dandelion moves. But I do not even consider any such events, as I have learned to control just what I can and not worry about, what I cannot.

  3. I grip my bow and place my draw hand on the string. I know exactly where to place my hands.

  4. My bow comes up 1/2 of the way and I visualise the trajectory of my arrow, so that it would hit the target.

  5. I draw a breath, slow and deliberate.

  6. As I exhale, I focus on drawing my bow to anchor, letting the air out of my lungs about 3/4 as I do this.

  7. When all feels in balance, I focus intently on the smallest part of my target and tighten my stomach muscles (core) to get the last 1/4 of breath out...

  8. Then I follow the arrow in flight, until it hits. There is obviously a lot more to aiming instinctively(sub-consciously)  than described above and I will share that with you on another day.


On Aiming Techniques please Consider this:

  • All projectiles, whether it is an arrow, bullet or ICBM, is aimed in exactly the same manner!

  • Projectiles follow a trajectory through space and time. This trajectory is influenced by air resistance, gravity and other forces that arises from Earth’s spin and the super sonic nature of the projectile in the case of bullets and ICBMs- (if you really want to be silly, you can also take into account what will happen if a projectile approaches the speed of light or effects of general relativity).

  • The trajectory of a projectile can be adjusted (aimed) by adjusting a windage (horizontal) adjustment and/or elevation (vertical) adjustment

  • For our case of arrows flight, we can neglect the Coriolis  forces and relativity, and only concern ourselves with air resistance and gravity.

  • How are arrows aimed? - By adjusting the windage and elevation! This is how all arrows are aimed, regardless of your aiming technique, be it gap, point-of-aim, sight shooting or instinctive. Or any other way of aiming you can think of. I am using these terms for aiming techniques very loosely, as every one of them can mean something different to each archer by way of definition or prejudice. I fall into the instinctive group of archers and it always amazes me to hear people compare instinctive shooting with a magical, mysterious force that guides our arrows to a target. Not true, by the way. Instinctive shooting just uses a lot more input from your body’s coordination and an healthy helping of sub-conscious mind to do just this: adjust windage and elevation.

  • Assuming that an arrow has constant windage (left and right) flight. The only other factor that will influence where an arrow hits, is the elevation (up and down) adjustment of the arrow. Read this sentence again. Done?

  • From this you can see the necessity of constant arrow weight and speed for you to be able to make accurate elevation adjustments and send the arrow on the correct trajectory to hit the target. It is as simple as that. The first part anyway.

  • Getting your arrows to the same weight and constructions is relatively easy and does not  require too much skill. What requires more skill and hours of practise is achieving the second part of the requirement, namely constant speed of the arrow.

  • How this constant  speed of the arrow is achieved is solely influenced by what is commonly known as shooting form. Consistent shooting form. Consistent shooting form, will not only produce a constant arrow speed, but a constant arrow velocity. The later is a vector and requires both magnitude (speed) and direction (windage and elevation).

  • I believe that the one aspect of a compound bow, that makes it accurate, more so than any other of its other attributes, is the fact that the bow can only be drawn to a specific draw-length for an specific archer, facilitating constant arrow speed and enabling the archer to reach a consistent form, easier.


I hope this will help you understand that it is not important what aiming technique you use when shooting a traditional bow, but how consistent you can execute your shooting form. Once this consistency is achieved, aiming will come to its right and you will appreciate a good shot not just as a method of aiming, but as part of a whole.


How to Maintain your Craft:

During the first few months of shooting you will improve exponentially. And then you will hit the part where most archers loose interest, because there are not many new exciting stuff happening in you archery. This is when archers will start experimenting with different techniques or buy a new bow, just to keep the mind busy and the honeymoon stage of traditional archery going. No doubt this is good for the bowyer's industry, but you will never achieve fulfilment unless you move past this unfortunate trap set by our ever present  urge to stick with that original excitement. As the old adage go: Be afraid of the person with only one bow(gun).

Here are some tips to help you maintain your craft and become a great archer, a master at your craft:

  • Set up an exercise program. Focus on one aspect of your shooting for a session. Mix it up.  I even have fitness training as part of my daily routine and all is geared up for becoming a better archer and woodsman.

  • Practise smarter, not harder. Know when well enough is good enough, and remember to listen to your body and rest when it wants to.

  • Go shoot at stumps and twigs in the field. This keep practise interesting and hones my hunting abilities. I also rid the world from evil dandelions.

  • Shoot at moving targets. This will train you to recognise when, where and how to speed up your shot, without loosing good shooting form. It will also teach you to remain calm under pressure. You do not have to shoot faster when shooting at moving targets, just more fluent.

  • Attend 3D events. This  a great opportunity to socialise with fellow archers.

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