The Wisdom of Your Body

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Our bodies in archery contexts are very dependable, but problems arise when our minds drift off topic. This is why mental programs are usually just things to do with your mind to keep you on topic but not micromanaging.

In archery we have the aphorisms “trust your shot” and “shoot your shot.” How the heck would you shoot something other than your shot? Can’t you trust in that?

Actually, no you can’t. You cannot just leave your body on “autopilot” to do a complicated task. This was reinforced in me while walking our dog. The dog is on a leash as we walk down to the beach or park. And every few seconds he looks over his shoulder as if to confirm that we were still with him. The pull from the leash, while not great, is still there and should be a sign that there is still someone holding it, but our dog takes a peek every 5-7 seconds to check just in case. This is kind of how we operate. We have a trained-in procedure but subconsciously we keep checking to see if this is still what we want to have done. We know we can change our mind and a sure sign of that is our conscious mind is thinking about something other than what we are doing. So we, like that dog, seem to have a regular check in to see what the conscious mind is thinking about. It is where much of the subconscious mind’s orders come from, after all.

So, we need to follow along as our bodies do what we trained them to do, not being in control of those movements, but monitoring them.. Then we can trust our bodies.

A second aspect of this topic is that we can’t train our body to do something it cannot do. We can train it to do things we didn’t know we could do. Discovering we can do something we didn’t know we could do almost always flows out of actually doing that thing.

When we ask our bodies to do things it cannot do, what we get are: discomfort, pain, injury, etc. When we ask our bodies to do something it hasn’t done in a while, we can get some confusion. This is why I suggest to my students that they start their shooting warm-up, practice or competition, with a couple of letdowns. This acts as a wake-up call to your archery muscles in the form of . . . Remember this? I don’t recommend shooting either of the first two shots for a number of reasons. First, since your muscles are unlikely to have been activated before shooting, no matter what you did to warm up for your shooting session, these shots are not going to feel at all right, nor will the arrows land in reasonable locations. I recommend that my students’ first warm up shots be blank bale (or off target in a more formal setting). The reason is that our minds cannot ignore the target. If you shoot your first arrows at a target face and score an 8 or 9 (or 4 on a five-point face) your mind will immediately start thinking about adjustments. But this is when we are trying to get our shot process up and running as memorized. We need to be focused on shooting our memorized shot, not on tweaks we might make during competition. And we especially don’t want to start tweaking our process based upon the outcomes of low quality shots.

Part of learning how to score is recognizing phases our bodies go through when shooting and working within those. Also, learning to listen to our bodies is very important. I teach my students that if something hurts when shooting they should stop as something is wrong. There are more subtle signals than pain to learn to hear also.

There is, indeed, wisdom in your body. Don’t ignore it; use it.


Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “The Wisdom of Your Body

  1. Tom Dorigatti

    Well Done, Steve!
    I remember back when I was shooting really, really well. I made it a point indoors to follow the “2 letdown rule” I had self prescribed. I did this for the first two “shots” on the first practice end regardless of whether or not it was competition. Then, when the first scoring end came along, I also did the two letdowns on that first end as well. This was a full pullup, anchor, hold on target and let down for each of the first two pulls.
    For outdoor shooting, I did it on the first practice target, but not the second. Then, for the first scoring target, I followed the prescribed “two letdowns” before firing that first shot for score. It wasn’t a pull up, hold on the target as long as I could and then let down. It was basically “shooting the shot”, but without the final “shooting the shot, shot”.
    That became a part of my shooting regimen for many years.
    Then after things went awry with the heart surgery, for some reason, I abandoned that and never thought about it….until you brought it up above!
    Another trick I used OUTDOORS, some of which was to save my arrows from getting damaged, was to avoid the negatives. I would intentionally set my sight either “hot” or “cold” for 3 or 4 yards so that there was no way I was going to hit the spot. I shot for GROUPS and not score, and if I had damage, it was from me, not others. In addition, I could pull my own arrows, too, and prescreen arrows that may not be shooting with the others. The other reason was a bit of a “psyche job” for my competition, too. By intentionally shooting high or low by a bit, my competition would think me or my site settings might be “off”, giving them an advantage. I sometimes went to great lengths of aiming at the top of the dot for one shot, the bottom, then the left edge and the right edge which protected my arrows, haha.
    The last reason for OUTDOORS was that I knew that most practice bales were never measured in correctly. I knew my sight setting were right on, and I didn’t need the negative planted in my brain by shooting “dead on” what the brick said and my arrows being high or low. I watched many of my competitors scrambling and adjusting their correction pin…while shooting on the practice bales only to get out on the course and be all fouled up.
    I knew how high or how low I would shoot in half yard increments, so if I set my sight “hot” by a yard, I knew where my arrows should be impacting. I NEVER trusted practice bales, and I NEVER made any sight adjustments on practice bales.
    The two pullups, hold, and let downs also got the butterflies out of my stomach and I knew that my first scoring shots would be more effective that way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And now you reminded me of something. Back when I was shooting well, I can remember the 15 yard target on the field range that I would shoot my four arrows in the X, aiming for upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right. I have still never telescoped one of my own arrows (or really anyone else’s. I have knocked off quite a few nocks and had that done to me, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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