Exploring Balance

Many students, especially younger ones, do not appreciate how important balance is in making quality archery shots. I see this most often in young archers muscling around compound bows that are too heavy. Combine that with a bit too much draw weight and getting to full draw becomes a dance routine.

To help students with their balance, the first task is to expand their awareness. Archers focussed intently upon their targets aren’t getting the messages sent in by their balance system. Here are a couple of things for them to try:

  • Start by having them shoot with their feet together. If they do anything that makes them lose their balance, it will need to be adjusted. (For some skeptical students you may have to demonstrate you can do it.)
  • Have them take their normal stance and then pick up their “away” foot (also known as the back foot) and touch it down on its tip. Basically you are asking your student to shoot off of one foot (with but slight assistance from the other). Again, if they do anything that makes them lose their balance, it will need to be adjusted.
  • Or have them take their “toward” foot (also known as their front foot) and swing it around to the other side of their away foot and set it down. Then shoot again.

Each of these is a variation of the others (so you will probably need only one of these drills;; the others are for the case that one approach doesn’t work: the archer can’t do it, the result is not achieved, etc.). The idea is to make obvious the things the archer is doing that cause loss of balance. The goal is the make the archer aware of the balance issue.

The issue is important because the draw is a large scale movement of the body and the bow. Following those movements it takes some few seconds to resume a still state. (Shots taken while not still have been classified as “drive by shootings.”) The time required to become still is affected by how well balanced the archer is. Obviously, spending a greater amount of time under the stress of the bow because of a jerky or wobbly draw will lead to fatigue more quickly and scores will suffer.

The obvious solution to many young archers is to draw very slowly. This is not a good solution because a very slow draw lengthens the time the archer is under the stress of the draw, just what we are trying to avoid. The best solution is a smooth, strong draw, one that involves a minimum amount of movement getting to full-draw-position and which results in a sense of stillness in very short order. Being balanced throughout the shot gives your archer the best platform from which to perform this action.

But … if they still doubt that balance is important, have them shoot from tiptoes. That will convince them balance is important. (Be sure they are shooting close up because the arrows often go very far afield which is why this drill is not #1.)

 

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Exploring Balance

  1. we have funny wood wobbly boards at our range that tip to one side with a loud *clunk* if one ever so slighty shifts the center of mass. this, and also various other challenges such as wobbly chairs, blocks where you can only stand on one foot and so on are used to train balance and concentration.

    good post!

  2. Wobble boards are great for training, but these drills are something you can do to establish the need for correct form and training. I have had so many young archers tell me “that’s the way I do it,” in response to a form suggestion (after they have had a handful of lessons), that I want to scream. Many seem to think that their personal expression is the key element in their success at whatever they are doing.

    And it is not as if I am an authoritarian telling them how they have to “do it,” to the contrary I am suggesting options for them to consider (try this, try that). I like feisty students who challenge me, but not so much those who don’t even want to participate.

  3. Michael

    Hi Steve, have you got any advice on overcoming mental blocks? i often struggle to commit to squeezing the arrow through the clicker. I’ve worked on the mental program stuff from Lanny Bassham but I’m not quite there.

    • This is hard to answer without watching you shoot.

      The whole purpose of the clicker is to remove the decision of when to shoot and place it onto the clicker and training (it is not just a trigger). My first suspicion is you don’t have your clicker set up correctly. here’s a test to check that. have a mate watch your clicker as you draw through it. The drill is: draw through the click, but when you hear the click, continue to expand as hard as you can without losing good form. Do not let the string slide back on your face or do anything else you would not normally do. Ideally, your arrow point should oly be able to get 1/4″ (0.5 cm) past the rear edge of the clicker. If you can get farther than that, your clicker is too far out. If you can’t get that far, it is too far in.

      The point here is that the clicker needs to be set very close to the edge of your range of motion (in the funny motion we can drawing at anchor). Since you are so close, you will feel a great deal of discomfort in your back (if you are using the correct muscles). That discomfort is what your subconscious mind uses as a guide to what makes a “shot going well.” without that guide, getting through your clicker becomes an athletic event. On good days you will get through your clicker in good order, on bad days you will either pull through too easily (if you are feeling frisky) or struggle to get through at all (if feeling sluggish).

      When the clicker is set right, a short training cycle should get you synced up: it helps to have a mate work with you. The drill goes like this: you will either let down or shoot or count to 1, 2, or 3 seconds and then shoot. I suggest that you let down about every other shot at the beginning and mix in the others randomly. As you work through the drill, reduce the number of let downs until they constitute their ordinary share of the five different possibilities. Your mate tells you which of these to do before you do it. (I have typed out sheets of these instructions for students working alone.)

      The purpose of this drill is to give you control over your clicker. An elite archer pulls through their clicker almost every time in a clearly defined rhythm … but you have to get there in control of a correctly placed clicker.

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