Good news! If you’ve been practicing archery consistently for a very long time, this article is one long, extremely specific compliment to you on how you handle the world. Reading it will reinforce all of the fundamentals you carry with you to every situation in your day-to-day life.
If you’re new to archery, or looking for yet another reason to give it a try, think about how archers are some of the best problem-solvers on the planet. Like with many other sports, the high degree of personal agency and accountability, as well as the layers of meticulous fine-tuning, set up flexible, productive pathways in the brain.
Being an Archer, Even When You Don’t Have Your Bow:
In the archery community, “focus” is one of those words that is used so frequently that it doesn’t look or sound like a real word anymore after a while, but the omnipotence is not without due cause. It’s because the skill, in all its conditioned glory, is underappreciated in the rest of the world. Where society sees “focus” as a given mental state, it is a learned tool to archers, and absolutely fundamental to the process.
To focus, one must first slow down. In real time, it’s impossible to channel every bit of training into a single stream between you and your target. If your thoughts wander, your arrow will, too, so it is essential that you cut down your thoughts to the target and one or two factors that might affect your arrow (like wind).
To solve a problem, set a clear target and focus in on it.
Detail seems like a paradox to that Zen-like focus. In actuality, it’s like a duck in a lake. The focus is above the surface, the duck gliding across the water in a smooth motion. Attention to detail is like that duck’s feet- working rapidly so that the duck can move at all.
The minutiae never end, and every archer has complete control. From breathing, gross motor strength, fine motor capability, and posture, to grip, bow tuning, and equipment care, to the sense of being one with your system, understanding what the tension is telling you… a million well-honed habits go into that one perfect shot. In archery training, neglecting to address each detail carefully guarantees total failure.
Controlling a bow is the epitome of thinking small- and big-picture simultaneously. And it doesn’t end at practice. The training is there for muscle memory, allowing the motion to help you think, not the other way around. Outside your head, something will happen that you didn’t consider. As an archer, you are constantly looking closely at the target, refining your approach, and learning from each adjustment.
To solve a problem, meticulously hone each detail that will get you to the solution, and don’t stop adjusting until it is perfect.
What do dance, learning musical instruments, golf, and archery all have in common? Among a few other skills, they require a level of dedication unimaginable to somebody who has never had the privilege of being frustrated by their craft. Luckily for you, the struggle is only too familiar, but you know that harder work means better results.
At the moment, the work centers on precision, not speed, and training takes a similar pace. Mastery feels elusive even after years of devotion, pushing you to work still harder. Once you step back, though, the reward is obvious.
The social roots of determined effort are perhaps the most valuable aspect. Self-teaching is an option, but there are few (if any) archers who never learn something from somebody more experienced than they. Whether that is through formal lessons, quick tips, or casually discussing a mutual passion, you learn from the people around you.
To solve a problem, take your time, learn from those who have solved your problem before, and never let up on your pursuits.
To put it plainly, archery simply is not a natural skill. Picking up a bow for the first time (especially a longbow), it seems like it will never lose its awkward feel. Initially, you feel that surely, the stance the instructor taught you are bound to break something. You doubt that you will ever be able to control something with such uneasy handling, but you keep at it and, soon enough, it fits you just fine.
As a gangly beginner, archery is intimidating because people can see you struggling. You grit your teeth, knowing they’ve been there and they’re better for it. Even past the initial phase, it is uncommon to go an entire practice session without trying something very new to you. It’s a challenge to de-program habits that were yielding some results in favor of new approaches that may or may not yield perfection, but improvement is impossible without that gamble.
To solve a problem, embrace that discomfort because it means a breakthrough is around the corner.
Almost every second of archery training is about everything that happens before you release the arrow, but it is a pointless pursuit if you don’t let it fly. Vast portions of your time and energy, behind one arrow, hit or miss the target in the ultimate moment of truth.
Strangely, while every other aspect of archery requires that you slow your mind, this action requires a split-second decision free of hesitation. What’s more, it’s based on intuitive timing, when the tension in the bow is telling you that it’s time, much more than it relies on rigorous training.
Once the arrow sails off towards the target, you no longer have control over it. Before, every aspect was the result of steady focus and carefully calculated motion. Now, there is a stick flying through the air, and you have to have the confidence that you set it on its course properly.
To solve a problem, recognize when it’s time to stop planning and get moving, and trust that your focus, meticulousness, effort, and toils will all produce an effective solution that hits your target.