Should You Shoot Slowly or Quickly?

I think there is evidence that most people are better off shooting more quickly. The one piece of evidence I can recall is from Kisik Lee’s first book. He reported an experiment in which two expert archers (both male) shot three arrows through a chronograph, first using a full two minutes and then using only thirty seconds. The chronograph readings for the six arrows (two sets of three) were reported for each timing. There was more variation when more time was taken. There was almost no variation at all when only a short time was allowed.

I would hope this experiment is repeated, with more arrows shot and with a wider spectrum of archers and archer abilities, plus a wider range of times in which to shoot. This would either confirm the initial results or possibly point out that our thinking is too simplistic. (Anyone interested?)

This “finding” that faster is better, however, affected the entire Korean archery program. I remember seeing a video of a woman shooting shown at a Coach Kim seminar.  (Coach Kim was Korea’s women’s team coach for many years.) Coach Kim asked what was wrong with her form? I could find no flaw whatsoever and said so. He responded that it was “very sad” but she shot too slowly. They tried to speed her up but she could not. They thought it was part of her personality. So, they never took her overseas to perform (no Olympics, no All-Asia Championships, no WCs, etc.). She also was a two-time winner of the All-Korea Championships! The Korean’s argument for why it was important to shoot faster is that then pressure had less time to affect one mentally. (As if the All-Korea Championships is not enough pressure to discover this flaw in an archer.)

What Do You Mean by Quickly?
So, if the evidence indicates that we would be better off shooting more quickly, what does that mean?

A metronome, Mr. Frodo!

I suspect that you have also already heard that our shooting tempo is personal. I have said that often enough myself. What I might not have made clear is that one’s personal tempo is actually a range of tempos, not a single tempo one must shoot at. So, if one is to explore the tempo that is best for a student, or yourself, to shoot at, one needs to find that range of tempos. To do that, I recommend some kind of training support.

It may be due to my musical training but it seems that tempo is best altered using such supports. I was taught that professional musicians learning a new piece of music first focus on getting the notes right and in the right order, then they set up a metronome and worked on getting the piece to the right tempo, then they work on nuances. When I was taught to use a metronome, it was done thusly: first you find the metronome setting that matches the speed of the piece as you learned it. Then you play the piece (or rather the few measures) several times after having turned the metronome up a click, then another click, then another. Sometimes two clicks is allowed, but one inches one’s way to a quicker tempo a little at a time, striving above all to not lose the correct notes or the correct sequencing.

Professional musicians can do this much quicker than can amateurs, and certainly much faster than fumble-finger amateurs like me. In any case, this is what I recommend. This is necessary because we do not seem to have a built-in tempo regulating or measuring mental ability. So, while exploring faster tempos, I recommend that the starting point being measured (wherever the archer is now), then a step more is added to the metronome and shots taken (more than a few are required), and so on. When a session is carried over to the next day (as this will take more than a few days I expect), I take off a tick or two from the metronome and restart, then continue ramping up the tempo. When you reach a point that the archer is flummoxed by the tempo, or feels very rushed, you have probably found his/her upper limit. (Obviously you want to take notes.)

Once the range of tempos is discovered, a tempo has to be selected to tested. If you are ambitious, you might test the slowest tempo against the fastest. To do this, shoot ends, a number of them, at each tempo (alternating back and forth would be the best science but might confuse the archer). Once you have a set of ends at each tempo, which tempo resulted in better scores, better groups, etc.? Testing a large range of tempos may be too much to ask, so you might want to start in the middle of the range and then test half way from the middle to the high end. We are suspecting that the faster rhythms will be “better” but we still need some evidence that that is so, especially if the archer is to commit to this new shooting rhythm. Since the actual work of locking in a new tempo will be substantial, it pays to take the time to identify the new tempo and establishing that it is, indeed, better.

How to Lock In the New Rhythm
Once you have a new rhythm you will want to lock it is. Possibly you will practice using a metronome for many moons. (There are metronome smartphone apps and you can use ear buds to have the ticking going on while you shoot without irritating your fellow archers at the range.) A number of people report that using a snatch of a song that is well known also works. The song’s rhythm has to match your student’s shooting rhythm, of course. Since it is easy to delude ourselves, test your students by having them use their snatch of song to help regulate their shooting rhythm while you observe with a metronome ticking in your ear to see if they are being reasonably consistent.

When learned to the bone, these supports do not run constantly in the background mind of an archer. They only come up when an archer loses their shot or is working through a recovery program. Once things settle into “normal” shooting again, the song goes away.

2 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “Should You Shoot Slowly or Quickly?

  1. I had noticed that most South Korean female archers do shoot very quickly once the clicker sounds. I had just chalked that up to holding a lot of draw weight as most are 42-46 lb. draw weight and some more than that. Good to know it is a planned way of shooting encouraged by the coaches there. It does make a lot of sense for several reasons as you have brought up here. I think it would also apply to compound target shooters, too even with the mechanical release.

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    • Everyone tends to be quick after the clicker. The Korean women arte fantastically consistent. I took a video of them practicing at an event and put them on a stopwatch. Each archer shot at a consistent timing, down to the fraction of a second often enough. Amazing.

      On Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 3:38 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

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