Efficiency in Archery

I was reading a book on Barebow today and came to the tuning chapter and the first thing said was “You should first strive to develop a reasonable (reasonably? SR) good and biomechanically efficient shooting form.” This is in perfect agreement with my aphorism that “you cannot tune any better than you can shoot.”

My gripe is with “biomechanically efficient shooting form.” This was a misnomer the first time it was uttered and still is. It sounds impressive but it is just . . . wrong. What makes it wrong is the word “efficient.” Nobody gives a rat’s ass whether or not they are being efficient. To be efficient is to minimize the energy expended so that X shots take less energy than they did before. Does anybody actually care about finishing a tournament fresh as a daisy?

Ask any archer “Which would you choose: finishing twelfth but feeling energetic at the end or finishing first and being dead tired?” Is the answer even in question?

Athletes have never cared much about efficiency except in endurance events and then that was never a primary goal; it was a means to the end of getting higher finishes.

What we have learned in the last half century is that biomechanics, the study of human movements using the tools of physics, can help us identify what optimal archery form is. (Prior to that we lived in a “monkey see, monkey do” world of copying the form of people who did well and, of course, we still do to a large extent.) Of course, no one actually shoots this way, with “optimal form.” Being human beings we can only approximate good form. And, trust me, good form is all that is needed. One does not need perfect form to win. What one needs to win, is the ability to repeat their process precisely under varying conditions.

If you need any evidence for this, just look at the form and execution of the champion archers in your style. All of them have either full blown form flaws or, at the very least, quirks. Some seem to have nothing but quirks. Perfect form isn’t need; good form is.

Repeat after me: “this is not a back tension release aid, it is a triggerless release aid.”

This is not the only misnomer in archery. Compound release archers have had “back tension release aids” marketed to them for decades. The marketers didn’t invent the term, but it sure sounds like a deal to me—if I buy one of these things, I will be able to shoot with back tension. Uh, no. No release aid requires back tension and all release aids can be shot with back tension or without it. Shooting with back tension is something an archer does and a release aid can’t force them to do it. I do not use the term “back tension release aid” and I recommend you don’t either. I use the term “triggerless release aid” which is, at least, accurate (none of them have triggers).

Oh, “biomechanical efficiency”? What we really want is biomechanical effectiveness. Archers will spend a great deal more effort, that is be less efficient, if it means that their arrows land in the center more often. Effectiveness has a straightforward measure (higher scores), efficiency does not.


Filed under For All Coaches

3 responses to “Efficiency in Archery

  1. I shoot barebow and I strive to shoot “effectively” from the first shot to the last. Using a primitive tool to come to the same end repeatedly under a multitude of conditions is the most difficult thing I have ever done – but the most rewarding. All the jibberish and gimmicks go out the window when you have to make that one shot count at the exact moment when opportunity calls.


  2. Coach Rama

    Hello Sir.
    To start, I know about the Biomechanically Efficient Shot Technique (B.E.S.T.), as I travelled to Germany to attend a seminar on this method, given by one Ki Sik Lee.
    As a Level 2 State registered Trainer specialising in physical preparation, this course piqued my interest and so I scrapped the money together to attend.
    Upon my return to Mauritius, I endeavoured to apply ‘the techniques’ but in short, eventually found them not to be as relevant as I had been led to believe by a world class coach 🤔
    As a specialist in the field of physical preparation, knowledge of the human physiology, biology and psychology is applied to each individual based on their morphology and lifestyle (working and student individuals).
    This area was completely left out of the seminar that I attended, which caused me no end of concern but then the course was about ‘techniques’ and the ‘KSL Shot Cycle’. No disrespect to Mr. K.S. Lee for his methods, after all he has produced more champions than me.
    From my point of view, effectiveness and efficiency could be replaced by consistency, after all, we are trying to make the last shot as good as the first.
    The beginning, middle and end of training, practice or contests is played out in the brain. After all, this mass of water and fat is what controls the body.
    Funny story for you. I attended a competition (recurve) and witnessed a mind game first hand. Two top archers knew that they would end up in the final and one new his mental game wasn’t as strong as the other.
    What the weaker one did, was genius. Knowing his opponent had just come out of an abusive relationship with a woman, he invited the lady to attend the competition. She came and the outcome was as planned.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello again, Coach Rama!

      The label BEST for Coach Lee’s shooting technique was not created by Coach Lee, it was created by USA Archery people as a convenient label for his techniques. So, Coach Lee shouldn’t be blamed for the misnomer.

      And, as to producing champions. He did much better in Korea which has a massive system backing him up. He did okay in Australia while he was there. He has done poorly in the U.S. Prior to his coming we fielded a full Olympic Team, men and women, almost every year. Since his coming we have not fielded a full women’s team, so we cannot enter the Women’s Team event. We have sent teams with no women at all. This is not a good performance.

      I have heard a lot of mind games, but that one is … well, sort of evil genius level. Is “all fair in war and archery?”


      On Wed, Aug 19, 2020 at 11:52 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



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