More letters are coming in; this is good. If you have a question, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The most recent question is:
Awhile back I was reading Rick McKinney’s book (The Simple Art of Winning Highly Recommended! Steve) and he mentioned that the shot execution is a 50/50 effort between pulling and pushing, but he tended to focus on the pushing. This sort of reminds me of the pushing technique that the Koreans and many of the European countries seem to be teaching (see The Heretic Archer by Vittorio and Michele Frangilli, 2005). What are you thoughts of taking focus off the pulling effort and placing it on the pushing effort?
Also, I have experimented with the closed stance, but I really haven’t noticed a big difference yet. Maybe it’s just one of those things that needs an adjustment period.
Regarding Pushing and Pulling This is mostly psychological. Physically, if you are pulling a 40# bow, you will measure a 40# push and a 40# pull! Think about pulling on both ends of a rope or a piece of pipe instead of a bow. If the push were at all different from the pull, you would have imbalanced forces and the rope/bow would move. So, if the bow (itself) isn’t moving at full draw (and it isn’t; you are still) then the push = the pull. This is where the 50:50 description comes from, but physically it is really 100:100, that is the “push” is 100% of the “pull” and vice-versa.
In essence there is no push and no pull. (Yes, Grasshopper, and there is no spoon.) The force we feel as a “push” is really the resistance of our bow arm to being compressed. (Think about it. If you extend your arm fully to the side, how are you to “push?” When you want to push something, you use a bent arm and straighten it, or you lean into a straight arm. You do neither of these in an archery shot.) The “pull” we feel is not a pull per se but a rotating of our upper arm around the socket in the draw side scapula. The muscles in our back are working to pull the draw scapula closer to the spine (and the draw scapula is connected to the upper arm). So, we do not feel back tension (physically) but back compression, in that the muscles feel tightly bunched up. The tension referred to is “muscle tension,” not physical tension.
So, if psychologically we think of our arm as pushing, we are a “pusher.” If we think of our draw arm as pulling, we are a “puller.” What is actually needed is a focus on keeping the bow arm in proper conformation (without allowing it to be pulled back or bow shoulder raised, so “extended” is the word used) while at the same time being focused on our draw side rotation (some archers focus on the muscle tension in their back, other archers focus on moving their draw elbow in its arc—both of which require muscle activity in the back, they are just focal points).
It is at this point in the shot cycle that an archer’s attention gets divided (and only at this time): part of our focus is on aiming and part on completing the physical requirements for the shot. If, while you are aiming, you are also focused on keeping your bow arm extended, you are a “pusher.” If you are aiming and focused on your muscle tension in your back or on your draw elbow, you are a “puller.” Nobody I know is capable of splitting their focus into three parts: bow arm, draw side, and aiming, so one of those has to be treated with “set it and forget it” (and it ain’t going to be aiming). Either the bow arm configuration is set and then left to its own devices (by “pullers”) or the draw side/tension is so treated (by “pushers”). Neither approach is superior, but you may prefer one to the other; use that one, if so.
Re the Closed Stance You need to have somebody check your alignment (looking for the Archer’s Triangle). Often one’s “line” is much better with a closed stance (as it puts the shoulders into their full draw position with no fighting per se) than with an open stance. If so, shooting with a closed stance and good line, you can get acclimated and accustomed to shooting “in line” and then you can experiment with different stances later, all the while maintain your good line. Having “good line” is one of the most necessary aspects of shooting form to achieve good results; it is far more important and any stance. If your line is no better with a closed stance (and still not “good”), you need to look to potential flaws in your hip or shoulder positions.
Hope this helps! Let me know.