A Recurve Dead Release Spotted!

Video of the 2017 Shoot Up Finals for the Barebow division at the Lancaster Archery Classic in Lancaster, PA has been posted on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39ppQpTQcz4). Recurve Barebow is more popular around the world than it has been in the U.S. (driven, I suspect, by the popularity of compound archery in the U.S.) but Barebow is on a rebound now and more and more people are attracted to it. Featured in these final matches are: Dewayne Martin, Scott Bills, Bobby Worthington, and John Demmer III.

Interestingly, DeWayne Martin shoots with a dead release, something very few recurve archers can pull off. (More and more I am coming to the conclusion that there are no absolutes in archery (e.g. You must use a “live” release in Recurve.), just some things make shooting “more or less difficult.”

View the video! Flinches! Creeping! Tape on the nose! Tournament nerves! Stringwalking! (Although the announcers were somewhat clueless about the advantages of a crawl.) At 29:18 a close-up of John Demmer III’s quiver (current WA world field champion) shows arrows with two different fletching patterns. This would not be allowed in a WA shoot. The Lancaster Archery Classic uses a mixture of NFAA rules and their own. (It is a private shoot, they can do as they wish. If they apply for a sanction from one of the governing bodies they would have to conform to that association’s rules. Note Many people do not know that the Vegas Shoot, while owned by the NFAA, is a private shoot with its own rules.)

John Demmer III, the eventual winner, and an elite Barebow archer, shoots with a tilted head. You don’t have to do it right, you just have to do it over.

If you shoot Barebow or your students do, watch this video. This gives you a good idea of what is possible, at least indoors. It gives you an idea of what “the best” can shoot under pressure and then you can determine how you stack up or how close your students are.

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Personalizing Recurve Limbs

Recurve limbs tend to confuse beginners, intermediate archers, some accomplished archers, and even some coaches!

Sources of the Confusion
This will be about three-piece takedown recurve bows as they are the most common choice of target archers. The riser has a top limb and a bottom limb attached. These limbs come in three lengths (short, medium, long) which combined with various length risers, you can make the following bows:

Riser ► 23˝ 25˝ 27˝
w/short limbs 64˝ 66˝ 68˝
w/medium limbs 66˝ 68˝ 70˝
w/long limbs 68˝ 70˝ 72˝

Confused yet? (There are risers of other lengths!) Did you note you can make a 68˝ bow three different ways? (Generally, the shorter the limbs, the faster the bow, all other things being equal.)

The limbs then come in typically two pound (2#) increments over a fairly wide range of draw weights: e.g. 14#–48#. So, if you get “long limbs” and put them on a 25˝ riser, to make a 70˝ bow, and those limbs are listed at 32#, will you have a 32# bow?

Maybe.

Recurve limbs have their draw forces measured at 28˝ of draw. (Unless the bow is a youth bow for which it is common to measure the DW at 24˝ or a traditional bow, which are often measured at 26˝). Confused yet? But how many archers have a draw length of exactly 28˝? My guess is not too many. My guess is that most archers will have either longer or shorter draws. If their draw length is longer than 28˝, the draw force “in hand” will be higher than the weight listed on the limbs. If their draw length is less than 28˝, the draw force “in hand” will be lower than the weight listed on the limbs.

Well, if their draw length is exactly 28˝ will that be a 32# bow? Uh, maybe. Making limbs is not a perfect science. If a manufacturer makes a limb that is 31.5# do they discard it? No, they do not. It is “close enough” to 32# to warrant a 32# sticker and it goes in the pile with the rest. Now, don’t go all ballistic on the manufacturers about their sloppy manufacturing tolerances. These are quite reasonable numbers. If they do go “out of tolerance,” the limb is scrapped. And, if we insisted on perfect limb poundages, the price of limbs would skyrocket as so many would have to be rejected as not being “perfect.” (Since they can’t be recycled, so “Make another one, Bill, that one didn’t pass muster.” And if you have to make three to get one perfect one, do not expect them to be cheaper.)

FYI The manufacturers do not measure draw force like you do, they have a machine that clamps the butt of the limbs, fixing those in space. Then they place a force, in the old days this was a weight, on the limb tip and measure how much it bends. These “limb tip deflections” correspond to draw weights of assembled bows (the lower the LTD, the higher the DW).

What You Can Do to Lessen the Confusion?
As a coach, you can help get archers into a proper-sized bow. Youths need to avoid bows with too much mass as their bow shoulders aren’t very strong yet. Shorter archers need shorter bows, etc. Once an archer is fitted with one size of bow then you need to be able to address changes.

If they grow much taller, they may be ready to move up from, say, a 23˝ riser to a 25˝ riser. (Shorter risers have smaller sight windows and if the bow has a low draw weight, too, there may not be enough room in the sight window for all of the aperture positions needed. Longer risers are better for many reasons, but they are also longer and heavier than shorter ones.)

An Aside Bowhunters often use risers that are 20˝ or even 19˝ long. They can get away with such short bows, because their bows have to have a minimum draw weight of 40# (typically) and the shots they are taking are from fairly short range (20-30 yards).

Confused yet?

Changing riser lengths is a rare event (buying a new riser of the same length doesn’t pose fitting problems). Changing limbs is much more frequent. Enter the adjustable limb pocket! The first mass produced adjustable limb pocket was introduced by Hoyt archery, and which was so popular, the design was stolen worldwide; we now call it the International Limb Fitting, or ILF. This design was for a limb that pressed into the pocket, with a click stop, and a pocket that allowed the angle the limb made with the bow to be varied a little. Prior to the invention, you screwed the limb bolts in and out to attach and detach the limbs and if you wanted to make a limb angle change, you had to make (saw, carve, whatever) small wedges to slip between the limb and the riser and then screw down the limb bolts trapping them in between. This was more than a little bit of a hit or miss procedure.

An ILF Limb Pocket on a modern recurve riser.

With the new ILF design, the limb bolts were locked in place with a lock screw and the limb had a notch in it so it rode up to the bottom of the limb bolt (the butt having a “rocker” designed into it).

Note the rocker built into the limb butt. This allows an ILF limb to rock toward and away from the archer, restricted only by the position of the limb bolt.

When the limb bolt is “backed out,” the limb angles back toward the archer. This increase the brace height a little and lessens how much the limb gets bent at the archer’s full draw. Both of these lessen the amount of energy transferred to the arrows. But you can only do this so much before it becomes dangerous, so typically the draw force can be only reduced about 10% from the printed maximum on the bow. This amount of limb lean is so small that it is hard to see whether a bow’s limbs are “cranked down” or “cranked out” visually while they are being shot.

So, here is our quandary: recurve limbs (once a length is settled on) have their draw weights rated at 28˝ of draw (which your archer doesn’t have), may be slightly less or more due to manufacturer’s tolerances, and can be anywhere from the highest value of draw weight for those limbs to about 10% less than that depending on the limb pocket settings.

Got that?

If your head is spinning, you are not alone.

Try This Here’s a system that can simplify the situation for you and your archer. To use it you need a reliable draw weight scale (all measures must be made on the same scale). Here’s how to do it:
1. With your archer’s current bow, crank the limb bolts all the way down counting how many turns are being made in the wrench. The reference point for “turns” is the limb bolts all of the way down, so when we get there that will become the new reference point. If it takes three (3) full turns to get them all of the way in, then the limbs were “at” three full turns out from bottom.
2. Measure the draw weight of the bow at your archer’s draw weight. If they use a clicker, put one of their arrows on the bow and pull until the clicker falls off. Easy peasy. Write this number on the limbs with a Sharpie/permanent marker.
3. take 10% off of that full draw weight measure and write that number down next to the first one. That is the draw weight range for your archer’s limbs at that draw length. (Set your archer’s bow back to its original state when done.)

Moving On Up
If they want to increase their draw weight once they are “bottomed out” on their current limbs, they need to buy limbs of the same length, four pounds (4#) heavier. The previous limbs were bottomed out, the new limbs will be backed out, typically maximally. So, if moving from 30# limbs, you move up to 34# limbs and back them off fully (10% of 34 is 3.4 pounds) which gives your archer a net 0.6 pound draw weight increase, which is easily doable and he/she can crank it up from there.

No matter what their “personal draw weight” is, use the ratings on the limbs to make purchases. So, if the limbs were marked 28#, you move up to limbs marked 32#. Whatever their personal draw weight max is, it also will be increased 4# (approximately).

Their personal draw weight, the “weight in hand” is what you need for fitting arrows, etc. The marked draw weight is only used to identify limbs for purchase.

But, Wait, There is More!
Here are two sets of limbs and their maxes (in hand) for that archer:
26# limbs        29.5# max
28# limbs        31.5# max
He also has a pair of 30# limbs, can you estimate what they would measure maxxed out for this archer?
I came up with 33.5#. In each case the difference was about 3.5# and since all of these numbers are fairly close together, that pattern should continue. When the limbs get up over 40# I expect slight differences.

Now, just for fun, take off 10% from each of those max DWs to give a range for each set of limbs.
I get:

26# limbs 29.5# max 26.6# min
28# limbs 31.5# max 28.4# min
30# limbs 33.5# max 30.4# min

Can you see that the 26# and 30# limbs cover the same range (26.6#–33.5#) as these three do? There is a small gap from 29.5# to 30.4# when the swap from the 26# limbs to the 30# limbs is made but that is a reasonable “jump.” This is why it is recommended that you buy limbs in 4# increments (another blessing from the ILF system).

Note Realize that often more that 10% can be removed from a set of limbs so that gap is often much smaller.

Safety Note Never exceed the number of turns allowed in the manufacturer’s instructions!

If you try this system, let me know how it works for you or your students.

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Breaking News! Archery is Counterintuitive!

I got the following email from my best student this morning:
“Okay coach, explain this one to me. Increasing my bow weight seems to make my arrows shoot more to the left. Compounding my confusion is that tonight I got the groups to move back to the right by tightening my plunger. Count me confused and dazed!
Cheers

If this has never happened to you, you haven’t been in archery very long. The student in question shoots Olympic Recurve, so you have that as background. Here is what I answered, expanded for this post).

* * *

A bow is a closed system, when you change one part, many others are affected. (Memorize this!)

You got two counterintuitive responses to things you did. The problem is that ceteras parabus was nowhere to be seen. (Ceteras parabus is the principle that “everything else was the same.”) When you make a single change to a bow, you make other changes, too … always! There is no such thing as “everything else was the same” when working with bows.

For example, you increased your draw weight. I do not know how much but it was not a fraction of a pound is my guess. When you screw in the limb bolts, you change the angle of the limbs to the bow (making the limbs more upright as it were). This results in a lower brace height. (Plus more tension on the string at brace, plus …) The brace height is one of the determinants of the point in space at which your arrow’s nocks separate from your string at the end of the power stroke. Since the string’s path toward the riser is a flattish “S curve,” the change in the point of separation of the string and nock is complex. If the nock comes off more to the right from where it did previously, the arrow ends up pointed more to the left (the point has enough inertia that it doesn’t move as much as the nock end). If the nock comes off more to the left, the arrow will be pointed more to the right. (Think about it.) I have also to point out that when the arrow separates from the string it is no longer touching the arrow rest.

“Coaches need to expect counterintuitive responses to equipment changes.”

When you change the bow’s draw weight, you are also changing the efficiency of the bow due to a spine match or mismatch. I think I told you about the compound archer who lowered his draw weight (just a half turn on each limb) only to have his arrows hit higher on the target. What happened when he lowered the draw weight,  he created a better spine match (arrow to bow), which created a more efficient transfer of energy from bow to arrow which made up for the energy loss from the change in draw weight and more. These are the kinds of counterintuitive things that can happen.

If we had created a perfect spine match for your bow before (unlikely, such things take a great deal of time and effort), we no longer have that spine match. When you finish your draw weight changes, a complete re-tune is necessary because so many things have changed.

If you think the string goes straight toward the riser, think again. (Yeah, this is a stringwalking Barebow archer, but I get to exaggerate for emphasis, don’t I?)

A general consequence of this situation (reality actually) is coaches need to expect counterintuitive responses to equipment changes. This is because of the reasons stated and because what you were taught were often oversimplified rules of thumb. For example, “weak arrows fly to the right, stiff arrows fly to the left.” and “If you lower the nocking point, you will raise the hit point of the arrow on the target.” (All of these are for right-handed archers.)

These equipment aphorisms were intended to get you down the road until you could think through such problems without needing them. From a perfectly tuned bow, if the nocking point is lowered a slight amount, the arrow will hit on the target lower than it did previously. But if you lower the nocking point enough, the rear of the arrow will start hitting the rest or arrow shelf and where those arrows land is anybodies guess.

All of those pithy little rules need to be taken with a grain of salt. And, they need to be thought through as they are all true … up to a point. By thinking them through they provide an entry to better understanding of archery equipment. If you do not, they become unreliable crutches. (I am speaking from experience here. If I had a nickel for every mistake I made, I could have retired earlier.)

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What are the Advantages of Having a Heavier Bow, Like 50lb Compared to 30lb?

The question in the title comprised the entire question asked. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of these considerations and such considerations also depend upon application. You didn’t say what your particular application is, so that makes any answer I provide longer. (If you want short, pithy answers, ask detailed questions. ;o)

For example, if you are a bowhunter, most hunting regulations specify a minimum draw weight for hunting, typically 40# or so. Thus, a 30 pound bow would be illegal to use, a major disadvantage.

In general, hunters prefer higher draw weights and target archers lower draw weights. (As with all such broad statements there are many exceptions.) The reason for this difference is that a target archer may have to shoot one hundred or more shots in a single day but a hunter merely a handful. For some reason, a compound bow peak weight of 70# has proved popular for deer hunters. This is excessive as these bows will drive an arrow through the body of a deer, the most common large game animal in the U.S., and out the other side (still traveling at high speed). Possibly this very high draw weight is due to manhood issues amongst the bow purchasers or is possibly just a manifestation of hunters buying whatever everyone else has.

Whew, 53#! Just whew!

Olympic Recurve archer Brady Ellison shoots a very high 53# bow setup and is doing very well for himself. Most everyone else is shooting a lower draw weight, the women being typically about 10# lower.

In general and for target archers:

Positives of a Higher Draw Weight for Target Archers
A higher draw weight produces a crisper release of the string. (The string supplies the force to move the string out of the way and the more force available, the straighter the path of the string.)
A higher draw weight produces a flatter arrow trajectory. (This allows an archer to stay closer to perfect form for longer shots, not requiring as much bow elevation.)

Negatives of a Higher Draw Weight for Target Archers
A higher draw weight produces more fatigue. (Drawing a 70# bow is the equivalent to exercising with a 70# weight. How many repetitions can you do and execute with the same form on your last shot as you had on your first?)
A higher draw weight produces more tension at full draw. (Even compound bows suffer from this effect: a 70# bow with 65% letoff still has 25# in hand at full draw. A higher “holding weight” shortens the amount of time an archer has available at full draw and stresses the full-draw form of the archer. Obviously a recurve or longbow archers has an even higher load at full draw.)

In the past, high draw weights were the only option to increase the power and cast of a bow. Many of the English bowmen of the past were shooting bows of 100#-125# of draw. But that was then and this is now. Now, lightweight and extremely stiff carbon arrows allow high arrow speeds to be produced at much, much lower draw weights.

So, unless you have aspirations of being a very, very serious target archer (one who trains many days a week) my recommendation is to consider the goal of finding the lowest draw weight bow that will allow you to shoot your last arrow in any set with the same form and execution as you had on your first. Higher draw weights than that require serious physical training to be successful (which can be achieved by shooting, but that means many days per week of shooting).

“My recommendation is to consider the goal of finding the lowest draw weight bow that will allow you to shoot your last arrow in any set with the same form and execution as you had on your first.”

The overwhelming popularity of compound bows in the U.S. is driven by the difference in peak weight and holding weight of those bows. Low holding weights lower strain on the archer at full draw and increase the time available to aim while providing high arrow speeds because of he high peak weights. But too high of a peak weight will wear a compound archer down in a longer competition, resulting in mistakes that cause point losses no one likes. The same is true for recurve and longbow archers.

Choose wisely. The worst thing that can happen to an archer is to be overbowed (too much draw weight) because it distorts form and literally sucks the fun out of shooting.

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Should Coaches Necessarily Be Good Archers, Too?

I was watching a golf instruction video and the coach giving the lesson demonstrated what he was talking about by hitting the shots as described. All of these coaches, even when quite old, still play very good golf. When the PGA certifies its coaches, there is a score requirement, that is coaches need to be able to shoot a very good score on a course whose difficulty has been determined (no cherry picking of a really easy course to set your mark, the easier the course, the lower the score required!).

“If you are a coach what should be expected as to level of your expertise with bow and arrow?”

In contrast to that requirement, in all of my coach certifications, and there are a good half dozen of those, I have never been asked to demonstrate my skill as an archer (or as a coach for that matter). I have only been asked to demonstrate my knowledge by passing a paper and pencil test.

And even further extreme is the professed belief of many compound archers that if a coach is not a current or former champion, they have nothing to teach them.

So, if you are a coach what should be expected as to level of your expertise with bow and arrow?

In golf, there are specialists who deal with the equipment: fitters, club makers, technicians. In archery, not so much, so coaches need to know enough about their equipment, its repair and replacement, set up, etc., to be able to help their students. Archery coaches also need to know about form and execution, competition preparation and strategies, and a lot more (training, nutrition, the mental game, etc.).

And, archery is a sport in which “feel” is important, so experience is necessary. An archery coach who has never shot a bow and arrow is at a distinct disadvantage in being able to communicate regarding how a shot feels. So, my opinion is coaches need to be able to shoot, or needed to have shot enough in their lives to address all of these issues. Further, if you want to coach, say, traditional archers, you need to have some experience shooting traditional longbows and recurves in traditional manners. Do you need to have tried every technique you might want to communicate to a student? Well, in a word, yes. Tried certainly, mastered, no. Mastery only comes from years of practice. Most coaches have a major discipline (recurve, Barebow, compound-release, traditional, etc.) and in that discipline they need to have developed a fairly high level of skill. Do, they need to be “championship level?” I do not know what that means, or rather, it means something different to different people. I have taken medals in tournaments with the word “championships” in their name, but I was hardly an elite archer, ever.

Some times the best coaches come from the cadre of those who were “less successful” but tried everything to become more successful and, hence, are more knowledgeable. I consider myself one of those.

Nobody “knows it all.” So, if you find yourself in the position I found myself, where there were many students seeking help in a discipline that was not your forté, then take some lessons in that discipline, acquire (borrow, buy, rent, whatever) the required equipment and give it a try. Sign up for a tournament in your new style to put some pressure on the pace of your learning. My specialty is compound but I have had more fun competing in recurve and longbow events (possibly because there was no pressure to try to win) and I certainly learned a great deal from those experiences. I got such a baptism, from a bloke who was encouraging me to learn traditional styles by him getting me to sign up to participate in USA Archer’s Traditional Nationals. He even made me a longbow to compete with. I was not in good physical shooting shape at the time and it was a long two days (York, American, and Clout Rounds) so I got very tired, but I had a blast … and I learned a great deal.

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Casing the Joint, er, Bow

I just received a number of emails from a concerned new compound archer as to whether a “soft case” would be adequate to protect his bow on bus rides, etc.  Well, there are bus rides and there are “bus rides” if you know what I mean. In Costa Rica I saw potholes the size of Volkswagens, so bus rides can be perilous. (Heck, some of the larger ones in Chicago can swallow motorcycles.) But allow me to address ordinary, civilized bus rides and car rides, and so on and what kind of bow case you might want.

Right off let me say you do not need a bow case … at all. I have carried bows around naked in my car. I have carried takedown recurves in pillow cases. This is not a “must have.” I would call the purchase of a bow case, a “prudent purchase.”

Hard plastic bow cases tend to be much less expensive that aluminum cases. Some come with wheels so you can roll them through airports. Note there is room for arrows and stabilizers and quivers and binoculars, etc. inside of the case.

I do not recommend that my students carry a naked bow on public transit as that act can attract the wrong kind of attention. So, a bow case serves to mask the contents of the case and people who are not familiar with them might think it was a case for a musical instrument or something.

Bows receives some bouncing around traveling in a bus or car, so a bow case protects your investment in a fairly expensive sporting good. So, it has that merit, also.

When traveling by plane I put compound bows in a plastic “hard” bow case. This is because luggage is stuffed into cargo holds in airplanes and then a hired gorilla jumps up and down on it to make sure it is packed tight. (Just kidding! It just seems that way!) I honestly do not want the cargo in an airplane I am traveling it to shift around, so I want them to pack it in safely. But that means you have to protect your bow from having a small mountain of luggage piled on top of it. If you expect to be traveling by air, consider a hard case for your compound bows.

A soft bow case can be a bit pricey but the less expensive ones tend to be less than the hard cases. Note the number of “side pockets” which can hold equipment. If you are flying I would put anything I put in a side pocket in a hard case of its own (sight case, etc.).

When I travel locally, I always use a soft case. They are lighter, easier to pack, and can take quite a beating. I prefer padded bow cases, as the ones that are not padded don’t provide much protection. Bows have become quite a bit shorter over the last 20-25 years. When I first got into archery, compound bows were 44˝-46˝ axle-to-axle in length. I found a good supplier of high quality bow cases on the Internet that were 52˝ in length and all of my bows fit. Today, bows are much more likely to be less than 40˝ ATA and so bow cases sold today are considerably shorter. The only “long” one I was able to find after a quick search was 46˝ long which would fit a bow of about 42˝ATA. If you put an old bow in one of these cases, one end of the bow sticks out. That end is not protected at all.

So, measure the full length of your compound bow, not just ATA, and make sure the case you are buying is 1˝-2˝ longer than that. If it is padded, it will protect your bow on car or bus trips. Most of these cases have a large side pocket that will accept arrow tubes and stabilizers.

 

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Paying Attention to Hands

If you have read this blog at all you probably know that I follow golf coaches a lot, mostly because there are few archery blogs of any value (which is changing … slowly). The similarities between golf and archery are many, the primary difference is in golf, the golfer supplies the energy to the ball whereas in archery the bow does that work on the arrows (after being loaded up by an archer). But a comment by one of my favorite golf coaches, Darrell Klassen, really struck a bell:

… your hands are the body part designed to start almost every motion. Doesn’t matter the sport. Baseball, hockey, golf, tennis, football. You start every action with your hands. You don’t even have to think about it. Next thing you know, all the other parts come into play. Feet, legs, hips, shoulders…they all do their bit.

“The kicker is this (and this is where most of the mags just don’t understand). You can’t manipulate the sequence. Thinking about a part (like you shoulder turn) screws up the whole darn thing. There is however, one part of the sequence you can (and should) manipulate. Guess what that is? Yep, your hands. Thinking about changing what they will do (like their speed, direction, angle, start position etc) will change the whole sequence.

“Manipulate your hands, and you can create any shot you want. And your body will just follow.

In archery, our shot sequences have a step called “set your hands” which we often gloss over, but this step is critical to consistent accuracy. If the angle your bow hand makes on the bow differs, or the angle stays the same, but the position shifts left or right, the effect on the shot is significant. If the fingers on the string or release aid, change position or shift in the amounts of force each finger delivers, the effect on the shot is significant.

I work with quite a few Barebow archers who walk the string. A crawl that varies by as little as 1/16th of an inch will change the distance allowed for by 2-4 yards, all other things being perfect.

The positions of the hands on the bow and string/release are critical aspects of archery shots.

The key thing to realize here is seen in Coach Klassen’s comment “Manipulate your hands…. And your body will just follow.” If your hands aren’t quite right, there is a cascade of adjustments your body makes to make the whole movement conform to the desired outcome (the one you are envisioning in your mind).

Our hands contain many, many sensory nerve endings. The diagram (right), common to biology textbooks, is an attempt to show the relative concentrations of these sensory nerve endings. Note that our faces and hands have out-sized concentrations of the ability to feel temperature, pain, and pressure (the only three kinds of sensory nerves). The nerves we use in archery, of course, are pressure nerves. Because so much neural processing is dedicated to the data coming from out hands, a great deal of life energy is allotted to dealing with that information. So, if our hands are not quite right, we will squirm, inch, nudge, jiggle, or flat out shove other body parts to make them right. All of which are disastrous when looking for consistent accuracy with a bow and arrows.

So, if you have a student struggling with consistency, look to their hands; spend some time on their routines of placement, refine these if necessary. More than a few Olympic recurve archers have made a tattoo mark on their bow hand to aid them in lining their bow with that hand. Yes, it is that important.

 

 

 

 

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How Does Remote Coaching Work?

I thought you might benefit from seeing a few exchanges between a student-archer/colleague and a coach (me) showing you how “remote coaching” goes. I did not include all of the photos/videos of the student for reasons of privacy and to keep the length of this post down to something reasonable. Note The student is working with a local coach and learning NTS Recurve and consulting me on the side (because he/she can). This discussion took place over several days.
Steve

* * *

Student
My coach has me working on basically bringing my draw hand down (on the draw) and then back up and under my chin once I was about to anchor. I was kind of hunting around for my anchor. I still am! I was also working on not moving my head around to try and find my anchor too. In trying to make this change to drawing under my chin, I started holding my bow hand too long. Chaos…

Coach
I can’t remember, were you shooting with a “corner of the mouth” anchor before? If so, learning to get to a “low anchor” aka “under chin” or Olympic anchor can sometimes be a struggle. A key point people tend to leave out is that if you are going for a low anchor, your chin needs to be higher than with the side of the face anchor. Ideally we would like to have the jaw line horizontal but not everybody is shaped that way. To give you an idea as to how much the chin has to come up I urge female archers to “channel their inner haughty princess” to get about the right angle.

Also KiSik Lee, or his co-author, confused a lot of people with his first book which had photos and words indicating that one needed to draw 2-3 inches below the chin and then come up. In his second book he corrected that to 1˝ or a tad more … in other words, just under the chin. The key points are you want to get to full draw quickly, into a position you can feel in your back and shoulders, then find your anchor position quickly. Often students, in an attempt to be exacting, work too slowly (trying to be oh, so correct) and as a consequence run out of energy on each shot, hence the feeling of struggling. The draw needs to be smooth and strong and quick but not rushed. Honestly, most men tend to draw too fast (at first) and most women tend to draw too slow (at first).

If you look at YouTube videos of some of the Korean women, you will see smooth, strong, confident draws that are quite quick but there is no rushing involved. Of course, that is what many tens of thousands of practice shots will get you, so don’t expect that level of performance. (They are, in effect, professional archers who train and compete six days a week.) But you can see in their form what the idea is that you are striving for.

Once you have practiced this a lot, you will find it is easier to relax unneeded muscles while executing your draw which will make it even easier.

For some reason, many coaches do not point out that you should do the bulk of your practice on a new form element with a stretch band or a very light drawing bow. (I use a 10# bow a lot in my coaching.) Once the student (You!) gets the hang of the move, then you can move up from 10# to 14 # to 20# to full draw weight quite quickly. It is much harder to try to learn a new move at whatever your full draw weight is.

Student
Yes, when I first started writing to you I was using a high anchor and started having string slap issues when I switched to a low anchor. Soon after I started corresponding with you, I found a coach. I believe I asked if you had heard of him, but I guess the archery world is big (even though it can seem extremely small at the same time). Ah, one thing that is bugging me is that I can’t seem to get my hand snug along my jaw. I do use a stretch band and I’m having success there. But once I put on my finger tab and pull my bow my hand seems to be nowhere near my jaw. I’m getting nice contact between my lips and the string though. I’m not sure if I’m putting too much emphasis where it’s not needed.

I have been watching Khatuna Lorig and Mackenzie Brown. My coach wanted me to especially watch Mackenzie because her coach uses the NTS. You’re totally right about drawing too slowly. I am guilty of this and it does make me tired. When I see pros shoot, they come to full draw so fluidly that it’s hard to see the “steps.”

I still have the 19# recurve bow I borrowed from my summer archery club. I’ll try and work with that after I work with my stretch band more.

Coach
Many people have a steep jaw line and the NTS “recommendation” of a lot of hand contact along the jaw is just not possible. (You need a bit of a square jaw for that to happen—see the photo of Coach Kim Hannah, her jaw line is more vertical, so she can’t do the full NTS anchor position.) Have your daughter take a still picture of your head and shoulders at anchor to see what you have going. A video isn’t necessary (unless you would like that).

Regarding the string slap, did your coach talk to you about rotating your elbow so the crease is near vertical?

And if you are using a ledge on your tab I would suggest you reconsider that. The only use for a ledge is if you are having trouble reaching the target. If not, take it off, put it in a Baggie, label it and set it aside for experimentation later. A ledge really interferes with the NTS “hand along jaw line” position.

Also, these tabs that are providing places to put your thumb and little finger are just providing leverage for digits you do not want involved at all! (IMHO, of course! ;o) We teach beginners to make a Girl Scout salute (same as the Cub Scout salute but I like to tweak the boys). From there, they are to curl their fingers and slide them up under the arrow. This makes a classic three-fingers-under string grip. Once they reach anchor, they are allowed to break the contact between their thumb and little finger (by relaxing them) and voila (see photo—see pad of thumb and little finger nail touching). Once they get used to these positions they can adopt them with little effort and attention. The little finger is loose and is just in a relaxed (curled) position. The thumb is slightly extended but it ends up below your jaw line, out of the way. If the thumb is up anywhere else, it blocks getting into a good anchor position.

Looking at your photo at anchor, you chin is up nicely, maybe a bit too far! If you were to lower your head a tad, you would get a “nose touch” that is the string would touch your nose. As long as this doesn’t affect your release it gives you feedback as to whether your head is in the right position.

Note, also, in the second photo that the string and arrow are gone and your hand has not had time to move much, so who cares what it does thereafter? By observing the movement of your body parts after the release, though, you can infer the conditions during the release. We would like to see the string hand move straight back away from the target and stop with your fingertips just under your ear. This is not something you do, this is something that happens determined by using the correct muscles to pull the bowstring directly away from the target and then your fingers giving way when your back muscles are still flexing. Since you can only move so far in that position (range of motion) your fingers end up under your ear and stop because your shoulders cannot move any farther.

You look good in this photo.

Student
Thank you very much for the feedback. I have been concerned about the nose touch too. I will try to angle my head a bit and see what that does. My coach said it sometime almost looks like I’m moving my head away from the string. I’ve been trying to think about the release too; not plucking the string. I’ll continue to work. 🙂

Coach
If you can pluck, you are either out of line or not pulling with the right muscles. The release is something you shouldn’t think about. Observe it (take videos, whatever) and then adjust things. If your hand moves in any direction other than straight back, it is not your release that needs fixing, its your line or the muscles you have chosen to use.

The nose touch is not an essential. Play with a light weight bow . Get to full draw and move your head around. The key elements are that you have to have your head turned far enough (so your nose doesn’t block your vision), your eyes need to be level (for optimal vision), and your chin needs to be up (just a little bit, as we discussed before). Everything else is nonessential. So, if you can get all of that and a nose touch, it is gravy! Enjoy!

PS One of the joys of archery is you can do some rather hard work and see a benefit in short order. Often in work or family matters, projects go on and on and on (teenagers!).

Student
I picked up my 19# bow to work on this. So luxurious to have more than one to choose from. I find that when I work with the stretch band and I release it, my hand does go back to my shoulder. When I release with my bow my hand ends up somewhere around the right side of my chest. I’m working on it in a relaxed way.

Coach
The key is your draw elbow. If you maintain the arc of your draw elbow through the shot, it stays high and your hand will slide back until your fingertips are no farther back than under your ear (end of the range of that motion). This is the true end of the shot, for your body. We wait until the bow finishes its “bow” as a bit of overkill because that bow’s “bow” has information in it that tells us about the forces acting on the bow at the time of release, and … well … enquiring minds want to know such things. In order for your hand to go back farther, touch your shoulder, etc. your elbow must drop downward, which is a movement unassociated with the shot itself and so does not affect the shot and is, at best, an affectation, but one that misleads because how well you do that movement doesn’t tell you anything about the shot.

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Nutrition and Archery … Yeah …

If you haven’t noticed, Lancaster Archery Supply, our favorite on line target archery retailer, has a rather extensive blog running. This is something I have encouraged, so I was intrigued enough over a new post to check it out. The post was Proper Nutrition Fuels The Successful Archer by P.J. Reilly.

Unfortunately, the author lost me almost from the beginning. The first subsection is on “hydration” which begins:

“The human body is nearly two-thirds water. To maintain proper hydration levels, it’s recommended people drink as much as 10 glasses of water per day. That’s especially important if you’re going to be active and outdoors in the sun.

“Studies have found that athletes who don’t drink enough can see as much as a 30-percent reduction in performance.”

Anyone who even mentions the completely bogus recommendation to “drink 10 glasses of water per day” causes my mental ears to perk up. This is not a case of being thorough and including a full spectrum of recommendations; this is including a clearly debunked factoid in a serious publication. (This is so seriously debunked that Oprah highlighted it in one of the issues of her magazine.)

Following a misleading factoid with a misleading claim about hydration, got me to put on the brakes. “Studies have found that athletes who don’t drink enough can see as much as a 30-percent reduction in performance” should be stated as “athletes who drink so little as to experience serious dehydration can see as much as a 30-percent decrease in performance.” Actually, I do not know where the “30%” came from as I have seen archers succumb to heat prostration (severe dehydration combined with overheating due to poor perspiration) who could not perform at all, which is a 100% decrease in performance.

When it comes to the subject of nutrition and archery I have yet to see any formal studies done. They may exist but someone frequently searching for such information (me) hasn’t found even one. Consequently articles about “archery and nutrition” are cobbled together from generic information and information garnered from studies on other sports. The author of this blog post, to his credit, mentions these things at the beginning of his article, but then plows ahead any way.

So as not to be a nay saying nanny with his knickers in a twist, I do have some recommendations regarding competition day eating and drinking. Here they are:nutricious-foods

  1. Since the signs of dehydration are so hard to pick up in its earliest stages, it is best to preclude the possibility. This is especially the case on hot, dry days as can be encountered in desert areas, but hot days elsewhere, too. I tend to sip a prepared beverage frequently during an outdoor competition. The beverage is any sports drink (e.g. Gatorade) that I can stomach, diluted 50:50 with water. The sports drink supplies minerals lost through sweating as well as a little energy (carbohydrates) and, of course, water. The dilution of those drinks with water has been shown to accelerate the uptake of those nutrients.
  2. With regard to eating, I like as much as anyone a freshly prepared hot dog, Sloppy Joe, or any of the other foods prepared for participants at a shoot. But if I am trying to compete seriously, I prepare my own food. I eat a combination of vegetables (carrot sticks, celery, radishes), slices of cheese, and strips of some meat protein (turkey, chicken, beef, etc.). I chose these because they are readily available in any city I might be competing in and because they are very, very unlikely to spike my blood sugar. If you consume a larger number of easily digested carbohydrates, you will get a recognizable “burst of energy” (also called a “sugar rush”) as your blood sugar rapidly increases. This is followed not very long after by a stretch of lethargy (also called a “sugar crash”). In a sport in which our goal is a steady performance, one in which our last arrow is shot identically to our first, such metabolic highs and lows are counterproductive. So, I avoid like the plague sugary breakfast cereals, candy bars, granola bars, sodas, and other too sweet foods, on competition days.

That’s it. With regard to diet in general, not just for competition days, I have been researching the topic for decades and there is very little that can be said definitively, which is sad. The science of human nutrition has been polluted by politics from its inception. Economic interests have held sway over good science. For instance, no mammal has a need for milk after it has been weaning, yet public nutrition “experts” still recommend children drink milk in substantial quantities. The reason: a powerful dairy lobby. To be fair, some nutritionists recommend milk as a more healthy alternative to sugary soft drinks, but the current ad campaign touting chocolate milk as a sports beverage is part of a greater effort to sell something no one needs.good-calories-bad-calories-cover

Then, on top of that, bad science and politics has dominated the science attempted. This is sad to say as I am a scientist. When I first read about some of the shoddy, politicized work in this field I got very angry and had to stop reading (several times). That scientists didn’t follow the facts, going where they lead, because of political reasons is very, very offensive. For example, the “low fat” craze fueled by bogus research into heart health was never correct and has been very harmful, leading to an obesity crisis in the U.S.

If you want to learn more about this topic I recommend Gary Taubes’ “Good Calories, Bad Calories.”

Do check out the Lancaster Archery Blog; there is gobs of good information there. But, like all blogs, including this one, take them with a grain of salt.

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Back Tension from Different Anchor Positions

QandA logoI got an absolutely fascinating question about anchor points just yesterday. Here it is:

Hi, Coach Ruis:
I am working on my anchor point and back tension. I typically use a split finger/chin/nose anchor point for my Olympic bow and sight. I also recently acquired a Samick Sage recurve I use for roving/stump shooting. I have been trying to figure out string walking/point of arrow aim for my Samick for stumping.

I started to use a three-fingers-under/corner of the mouth anchor to reduce the string walking crawl sizes relative to a split finger, under chin anchor. Using the corner of the mouth anchor and string walking, my crawls decreased ~75% in size. My precision using the corner of the mouth anchor has also improved noticeably over my under chin anchor (and the bow sounded much happier when loosing).

My question really is about back tension. When using the three-fingers-under/corner of the mouth anchor, all of a sudden I can easily feel the barrel of the gun through my upper back relative to the chin/nose anchor. My draw length increased a full inch using the corner of the mouth anchor, so I am guessing this is the cause of the new positive upper back sensation.

I am thinking that if I could get this sensation with my Olympic bow/chin/nose anchor, this would be a very good thing. How can I make this happen?

* * *

There are quite a few changes going on in both of these anchoring positions. One you do not mention is draw arm position. When using a “high” anchor, corner of the mouth or higher, your draw arm position is different. (Stand up, assume the position of your low, under chin, anchor and then switch to the high anchor position and note the different positions of your draw arm at full draw.) The whole purpose of the low anchor is to be able to shoot longer distances. Back when everyone “shot off of the point” the line of sight across the arrow point and the point of aim (POA) fixed the arrow point in space somewhat. To get more distance it was necessary to lower the back end of the arrow, hence the lower anchor position for longer shots. This draw arm position affects the use of muscles in your back.

Shooting long distances also results in upper body tilt, which changes eye angle and lots of other things that affect “feel.”

Another point you do not mention is head tilt. In order to get a workable low anchor, I must tilt my head up slightly. If I use the same head position as I have with my high anchor for my low anchor shooting, my string fingers, positioned under my jaw line are on a surface sloping down, so when the shot is loosed, the top finger slides along the jaw line … downward which creates resistance and drag. By tilting your chin up slightly the path the string follows as the string flicks them out of the way is cleared.

Such are the sources of different feelings (along with the ones you mention).

My impression is that the high anchor encourages involvement of the muscles somewhat higher in your back, which when bunched up due to contraction are easier to feel. The low anchor involves muscles lower in your back which I suspect are somewhat harder to feel. (When archery coaches talk about using muscles lower in your back, they are referring to muscles lower … in your upper back.) So, I suspect that the difference in “feel” is real and you basically do not want to have the same feeling of back tension in both because that would mean you were using the same muscles when your arm angle was different.

If shooting Barebow as you describe (which I love) is relatively new to you, then the sensations in your back are relatively new and hence more noticeable. With time they might fade to the same level of feeling as in your high anchor shooting. Also, in many shooting techniques, surrogates for back tension are employed. For example, many of the Koreans focus on the feeling of the position of their draw elbow instead of the feeling in their backs. To some extent this is because the feeling of tension in the back diminishes due to humdrum regularity.

Another possibility is that you might need to open your stance when shooting Olympic Recurve. If you are particularly flexible, you may not be engaging your back muscles enough to get a strong feeling. In Rick McKinney’s book, “The Simple Art of Winning,” he claims that having an open stance allowed him to “get into his back” better. I found this puzzling at first, until I found some pictures of Mr. McKinney (in his prime) with his open stance and his draw elbow 2-3 inches past line. If he had been using a square stance, his elbow would have been even farther past line which have had negative influences on his shots. Unfortunately, their success lead to the adoption of the open stance by almost everyone, but this is a source of problems. In McKinney’s and Pace’s cases the open stance reduced their ability to get in line, which lead to a stronger feeling of back tension, strong enough that they could use that feeling to tell whether they were in the correct full draw position. If you are not as flexible as they were, this would be a mistake as it would probably reduce the quality of your alignment (as it does for hundreds/thousands of archers, young and old, I observe).

The only way to tell whether this is in play for you is to experiment a bit. I like to use a 10# bow for this, but any light drawing bow will do. Start with a square stance and draw to anchor and see what your back feels like. With a 10# bow you can play a little, moving your draw arm and shoulder around and feeling the effects of those position changes. Then open your stance by 10 degrees and repeat. Then another 10 degrees, etc. McKinney shot with about an 80 degree open stance when he was shooting in stiff wind (the torsion in your trunk helps stabilize your stance), so you can go as far as you want with this experiment … or as far as you can. ;o) The key thing is if you get a better feeling in your back with one of those stances and you can maintain good line, then this is something you might want to incorporate into your shot. The key element, though, is maintaining or achieving good line. In the Chicago area, you can recognize almost any recurve archer who has worked with me as they probably shooting from a closed stance. (Orthodox sources on form and execution do not even mention closed stances any more.) A closed stance makes it easier for you to get in line and after my students learn to shoot with good line I encourage to explore any other stance they want, as long as they maintain good line.

Is this enough food for thought? If not, do note that high and low anchors do change draw lengths (and affect tunes thereby). For compound archers changing from “fingers” to “release” or the reverse also affects draw length.

 

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