Tag Archives: Tuning

Monkey See, Monkey Do, Part ?

There is an American idiom that goes “monkey see, monkey do.” This is a common comment coming from parents trying to protect their children from copying their children’s peers who do stupid/dangerous things. The idiom basically claims that simple copying is what animals do (comical animals in the minds of children) even though humans do it more.

I have used this phrase myself when describing the main approach archers and coaches have when transmitted fundamental knowledge about archery. We basically copy what successful archers have done. I have used this story in the past as an example of this and it bears repeating: an archer attended the Vegas shoot, but having a rash or something on his bow hand, he shot using a glove to protect his skin. He did very well and when he showed up the next year to the same shoot, he saw several people wearing gloves on their bow hands. He, of course, did not have such a glove as his malady had been cured.

Since we do not know what the source of archery success is, we tend to copy what the “winners” do. My question is: can’t we do better?

This topic came up with a question regarding why various string releases were not being used in Olympic Recurve competition. Why does no one use a thumb release, for example? Part of this, I am sure, is because most of us do not like being singled out as being different. The exception, however, is if one does very well being different. The best example I can think of was Dick Fosbury, a world-class high jumper. Fosbury was almost a circus show because while everyone (and I mean everyone) performed the high jump belly down (in what was called the Western Roll), Fosbury went over the bar on his back! What a maroon! What an idiot! And then he started winning and winning and winning, eventually becoming a stirring Olympic champion (1968 Mexico) causing people to chant for him as he performed. Now, everyone (and I mean everyone) uses the Fosbury Flop or some slight variant of that.

In the case of the Fosbury flop, university researchers studied it and showed it to be a superior form (as it caused the elevation of the jumper’s center of gravity to be lower, actually going under the bar as the jumper went over).

This kind of confirmation is what is missing in our sport. And it doesn’t need to continue this way. We have an Olympic governing body (USA Archery) and a number of other very strong archery associations. How hard would it be to have those bodies create a research program? There are colleges and universities galore around this country. Those institutions have psychology departments (to study clicker panic/target panic/gold fever), engineering departments (to study bows, arrows, tunings, etc.), physics departments, physiology departments, even some sport science departments. Each of these departments has graduate students and undergraduates looking for research projects. Could we not approach these departments with these questions we want answered? Could we not offer some form of funding to support that research (the Easton Sports Development Foundation has been very forthcoming there)? I mean how hard could it be?

As just one example of such a question I give you string finger pressures. I have read in quite a number of books what fractions of the pressure the three fingers should have on the bow string. These are usually given as a set of percentages, e.g. 30%, 50%, 20% on top, middle, and bottom fingers. So, I ask you. Have these been measured or are they just guesses? <Jeopardy music plays in the background> They are just guesses. As far as I can tell, they have never been measured. (I have tried three times to come up with a scheme for doing so and have not pulled that off, probably because I do not know what I am doing.)

Wouldn’t this be a lovely project for a college science or engineering student? Come up with a tab that reports finger pressures on the string. Have a number of archers use the device to see what we can see. A second level experiment might be to give an elite archer feedback from the device to see if that will help them be more consistent. Another would . . . well, I think you get the idea.

Being somewhat cynical, I suspect that we will see “monkey see, monkey do” for some time yet . . . until some enterprising country who is heavily invested in, say, Olympic archery (Korea? France?) decides to pursue a research program to discern what works from what doesn’t and why. Then we will see a stampede of other countries following suit . . . but only if the experimenters are successful, because we will still be committed to “monkey see, monkey do.”

 

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Working on “The Real Problem”

I had a fairly full day of lessons yesterday and a couple of things came up that were instructive that I will share with you.

In one case I had a very frustrated Recurve student who has been shooting well of late, but recently has had a problem with fliers, even clusters of fliers. By this I mean while putting most of his arrows in the gold, suddenly putting an arrow in the blue or black. Sometimes as many as three arrows in a six arrow end were such “fliers.”

“What am I doing wrong?” he wanted to know.

We talked a bit to find out how his shots felt and he said they all felt the same. He also said his tune was “good” and that the environments he had been shooting in were not the cause (wind, etc.). So, I asked “What do you think you were doing differently on the ‘bad shots’?” and he said “Nothing.”

I agreed.

So, before I continue, put on your coaching hat and think on what you think was wrong. I’ll wait.

* * *

Got it figured out?

Here are my thoughts. Please note that I am never sure of any diagnosis. I consider each situation a trail I am trying to sniff out, just finding a direction to go in first, all the while looking for confirmation or at least some response to the changes I recommend be made. (As a former college teacher, I used to joke with colleagues that we were being paid to look and sound like we knew what we were talking about. I do not want to give you the impression that I am some sort of tuning guru.)

Part of my diagnosis was due to knowing my student well enough to know that he was a “blame himself first” person. He took responsibility for everything. Taking responsibility is good but with regard to missed shots, there are three potential clusters of reasons: the environment (wind, twigs in the flight path of your arrow (field archery), hummingbirds (it happens), etc.), your equipment, and you. The key point is that if you do not find the right cause of the problem, anything you do will not only not solve the problem, it will probably make it worse. For example, if you have a form problem and you keep buying new equipment to solve it, well you ain’t gonna solve it.

In this case, I felt the most likely cause of the problem was that he had a “critical tune.” This is a bit of jargon that isn’t easy to explain (but I will try). Consider the variable of bow draw weight. For a given arrow, if you start at a “too low” draw weight you will get poor results, indicated by group sizes or positions, say. If you then incrementally increase the draw weight in steps of a pound or two, and continue to test for group size, you will get better results, better results, better results, and eventually poorer results, then even poorer results. If you were to graph these results you would see a line in the profile of a hill. The line would go up, up, up, then flatten out somewhat and then go down, down, down. At the middle of the top of the mesa just described, you will have the optimum draw weight for this combination of bow-arrow-archer. We call that a spine match (changing the power of the bow to match the spine of the arrow). Tune charts suggest that the top of the plateau of the draw weight “hill” is about five pounds wide (approximately!).

A tuning space graph, this one for brace height. In any tuning space variable, you may have more than one “peak” you can tune onto. To get to the highest peak (best performance) it is important to always start tuning from a well set up bow (set everything back to manufacturer’s specifications).

Now there are a lot more variables in the tune of a recurve bow than just draw weight. If you combine all of the variables into one graph (what I call a “tuning space” graph) what we want is a hill with a flat spot on top and we want a tune that is right in the middle of that flat spot. This provides the most “forgiving” tune we can make. The term forgiving refers to your setup’s ability to tolerate variations in your shot and still produce good results. We are not talking about “mistakes” here, mistakes are things done wrong that you could have done right. The variations involved in normal shooting are the quite small differences from shot to shot, simply because we are not robots. Even if you shoot an excellent group, in that group some of the arrows are higher that others, some are more to the left, right, down, etc. If you shot them all the exact same way and the arrows were perfectly matched, each shot would have broken the arrow of the previous shot and archery would be very, very expensive. We all make shots that are almost the same but not quite the same. The range of the variations starts out large when we are beginners and gets smaller as we become more expert, but they never disappear into some form of perfection.

A “critical tune” is a tune where you are not in the middle of the flat spot of the hill in your tuning space graph, but when you are right on the edge of the flat spot. With this tune if you make a variation that pushes you back toward the middle of the flat spot, well, no harm, no foul. But if you make a mistake the other way, a flier is the result. Think of this as walking along the edge of a cliff. If you trip and fall away from the edge, there is no problem, If you trip and fall over the edge … ahhhhhhh!

So, if this student had a critical tune, what does one do?

Well, you could start by cutting arrows shorter or other drastic things, but I prefer to start with adjustments that can be put back and with small adjustments first, large adjustments later. The procedure is to make an adjustment to see if there is an affect.

My recommendation was for this student to shoot a ten arrow group and count the fliers/note the size of the group. Then I asked him to put a full turn onto his plunger/pressure button and test again, then another full turn, etc. What we were looking for was an effect, a change in group size, number of fliers. So, one turn on—no effect, two turns on—no effect, three turns on—no effect. So the button pressure was set back to where it was. (Because you often have to do something like this and then set it back, take notes!) Next he took a full turn off from his original setting and voila, better group, no fliers. He asked “What do we do now? Were we done?” I suggested that that whole turn (a large change, by the way—start with large changes and only go to smaller ones to refine a fairly good setting) that created better test results might be right next to another setting that would create even better results. One more turn and test, one more turn, etc. The idea was to find the flat spot in button pressure tuning space and try to get in the middle of it.

So, we found that spot and I told him he needed to shoot a bit at that setting before doing anything else. My student wanted to know what would be next if more “correction” was need. I suggested brace height tuning. The plunger button is probably the finest tuning adjustment you can make (I did check that the button was neither too weak or too strong, just but pushing on it several times with a finger). I have learned recently that brace height tuning is a great deal more useful than I thought. I was asked how to do that tuning and I told him that it was done the same way as with the button, shoot for a benchmark group and then add 8-10 twists to the bowstring and test again, then repeat. You are looking for a response. If things get worse, go back to where you started (take out all the twists put in) and then take out twists, test, repeat. Again, you are looking for that plateau or range of brace heights that give you the best results and then you want to be close to the middle of that “flat spot.” Once you find that happy middle ground, you can refine your brace height (or whatever) with smaller increments of change.

Happy student, happy coach!

At the core of this problem, though, was that this archer didn’t trust his assessment regarding his shooting. Everything felt well, but since the arrows hit in the wrong place, he must have done something wrong. He was not making mistakes! Just a subset of his normal variations were causing those shots to fall off the cliff of his tuning space hill. This, of course, gets compounded when you think it was because of something you did, so you begin trying slightly different approaches, which makes for greater variation, not less (you haven’t practiced your improvised new shot) and this results in more fliers and more frustration.

Oh, and please note that we are all tinkers and we will, with nary a thought, make adjustments on our bows: we change the plunger button setting, clicker position, we tweak the position of the peep site in our bowstring (compounders), we rotate the nocks on our arrows “by eye.” Often these usually unrecorded “tweaks” accumulate to being a quite different tune from the one you created so carefully during you tuning sessions. People even change arrows, thinking their tune “will hold.” It won’t.

If you need a resource for tuning procedures consider Modern Recurve Tuning, Second Ed.

* * *

Another student reminded me that archer form is a kind of closed system. Any change you make, has consequences elsewhere. In this Recurve student’s case, he had opened his stance a bit to get some of the tension out of his neck. He reported feeling more comfortable while shooting as a consequence.

The problem that comes from such changes is that anything you do with your stance should not have any effect on the arrangement of your shoulders, neck and head. If it does, you changed something else, too. In the case of the stance, when you open your stance, you are rotating your feet in the opposite direction you need to rotate your shoulders to get into good full draw position. The fact that the archer reported less neck strain simply meant that he wasn’t rotating his shoulders as far as he was previously, ergo his line was poorer (and his groups spread left-right accordingly).

If your feet are open and your shoulders need to be closed (10-12 degrees by my reckoning) then everything in between is pulling the shoulders the wrong way. To get a benefit from an open stance, a great deal of flexibility is needed.

Neck strain is a common complaint of Recurve archers. It is caused by having maximum draw force on your body at full draw, which means you benefit from the bracing that standard full draw position provides (which directs the forces involved down the lengths of basically incompressible bones). But this means we must get very close to our bows and therefore we need to turn our head farther than if we were shooting a compound bow, for instance.

The only solution of the neck strain problem is to create more range of motion (in both directions!) for the turning of your head. Since this involves neck vertebrae which are quite delicate, you should seek professional help regarding the stretching routines needed to accomplish this.

* * *

Both of these students are “of an age” and I am very impressed when older folks want to continue in the Olympic Recurve discipline. Of all of the archery disciplines it is the most physically demanding, requiring the greatest strength, stamina, and flexibility. Light weight, stiff carbon arrows really help. Dropping down from the draw weight shot as a youth, helps, but nobody beats Father Time. As we age we get weaker, have less stamina, and are less flexible. That so many older archers are still shooting this way is very impressive to me.

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How to Learn Archery

The standard approach to learning archery, or really any sport, is to establish a pattern of incremental improvement. Basically this is a “do good, then do better” approach. We teach archers good basic form, not elite archer form, and then we encourage them to make minor changes in their shot, checking to see if these are “improvements” or “just changes.”

These is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach and I do not see that there is anything inherently wrong with it, but it does seem to be wrong to assume this is the only way to learn. There are basic weaknesses in this usual approach. A good example in archery is tuning. Tuning involves making small changes in how your bow and arrows are setup and then testing to see if the new setup is “better.” The problem with this approach is that you may end up with what is called a “false tune.” The approach of “a little bit, a little bit more, a tiny little bit more, oops, too much … back up a little” will find a local “best tune.” But is that the best tune available? This approach is a little like hiking while always moving uphill. You will eventually find yourself at a hill top, but there may be many taller hills nearby. You just had the misfortune of starting on the slopes of a shorter hill. Since it is very hard to get a wide angle view of the tuning landscape we have to resort to starting from a good starting point. In tuning, this is a well set up bow (as the manufacturer recommends, not as your bow has come to be). Trust me, if you start with a bad setup, you will only find bad tunes.

You can also fall into the trap of thinking that you have to be shooting well to learn (“do good, then do better”). Sometimes when you are shooting quite poorly, it is a good time to break down barriers to better shooting.

A way to get off of the “just a little bit of progress at a time train” is to do something really, really difficult, something you thought you (or your student) could not do. One example comes to mind: the thousand arrow challenge. A colleague, Tyler Benner, actually took this challenge and described it in detail in the book he wrote with Kisik Lee, Total Archery: Inside the Archer. Basically the idea is to start shooting arrows (blank bale) at sunrise and before you get to sunset, have shot 1000 arrows. If you have read his account, it is quite brutal. Even if you were to do it with a very light drawing bow, that is a lot of arrows. Even with volunteer arrow pullers/fetchers and a gallery rooting for you, this is very, very difficult. But … if you pull it off, things change for you. Never again will you feel like there is something in archery you cannot do. This is the big payoff.

How many times have you asked a student to do something and their response was “Oh, I can’t (or couldn’t) do that.” It is our out thoughts that get in our way much too often. Whenever some really difficult task is accomplished, it is often the case that rapid progress occurs thereafter. The “really difficult” task can’t be impossible or something that doesn’t get attained, although there are some people who are energized by simply trying something so hard no one expects them to accomplish it.

Such tasks are “doable” yet very, very difficult. We are most definitely not talking about hitting a target at some really far distance one time in 100 shots. Shoot enough arrows and you will hit something just by chance. For many archers this task is shooting a perfect score on a “gettable” round (one that people have already shot perfect scores on) but could be a round that people have almost shot a perfect score in competition and setting the goal of shooting one in practice. Or it might be a scoring level breakthrough (a score of 1400 on the 1440 FITA Round). This may seem like a small achievement, but for the archer who has never reached that point, it is significant. The key, though, is in the preparation and execution. You don’t just keep shooting that round until you get a perfect score, the goal is to always (almost always) get a perfect score or shoot at that level. When you have accomplished something like that, then you feel as if you can accomplish more and, just like a springboard, the accomplishment can launch your archer to new heights.

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What Letoff is Best for Target Archery?

Often as not these posts are stimulated by questions sent in by my students. In this case part of one question included this:

Remember those 65% cam letoff modules? I didn’t notice any difference so I put the original 75% ones back on after a few months. Since using my trainer with two tensions, I see the higher tension seems to go off easier. In addition, I’ve read the higher tension lets you hold on target better. I have noticed even with my stabilizer with different weights I don’t get as steady as I’d like or should be.

Many coaches not raised in the world of compound bows are a little baffled by the concept of letoff. Simple stated, the letoff is the percent of the peak draw weight of a compound bow that you lose getting to the holding weight. So, if you have a 50# peak draw weight compound, if it is designed with 50% letoff, you are holding 25 of those 50 pounds at full draw. If you have a 60% letoff bow, then you are holding 40% or 20#. If you have a 75% letoff bow you are holding 25% or 12.5 lbs.

So, why not 100% letoff, it sure would be easier holding?

In the early days of compound bows (Hint: the 1970’s) compound bows had 35-40% letoff at best. The archers choosing these bows were shooting 40 and 45 pound recurves, holding 40 and 45 pounds at full draw, so knocking off a third or more of that was quite a deal. Shortly thereafter letoff reached 50%, then 65%. When I got started in archery the Compound-Fingers archers were often shooting 50% letoff bows and the release shooters were shooting mostly 65% letoff bows. The difference between the two groups is understandable if you grasp that the fingers do not leave the bow string in a finger loose, the bow string pushes them out of the way on its path toward the bow. If there is very little tension on a bowstring at full draw, where the loose occurs, then there is little force to move the fingers out of the way, which means the string will move much more than we want it to in response to the force exerted on the fingers by the string (action-reaction). This makes for inconsistent wobbly releases.

Bow manufacturers have raised letoffs up to 75%, even 80% but these are not used much for target applications. They are mostly used by bowhunters who may have to wait at full draw for a deer to present itself, for example.

Target archers still need a bit more string tension for the reasons implied in the question and more. As more and more compound archers switched to using release aids, which make our releases so much cleaner, we tended to give back some of that full draw bowstring tension (high letoff = lower full draw string tension), trading it for comfort. The holding weight at full draw which creates the string tension is a force we exert on the bow that (a) makes the bow easier to hold up (as the draw arm is pulling up, somewhat, as well as back), (b) makes the bow easier to hold steady, and (c) gives a reasonably clean release.

In my student’s case, his bow has replaceable modules that attach to the cams that change the letoff from 65% to 75%. (Letoff is an element of design that varies slightly with draw weight and draw length and since those are adjustable, these numbers are approximate.) He is saying that with the 65% letoff modules installed (giving a slightly greater holding weight/bowstring tension at full draw), that the release goes off more crisply and that he seems to be able to hold steadier. He is quite right.

Many cam modules are adjustable to create a wide range of draw lengths. Some adjust the letoff.

Basically there has to be a happy spot in the middle of the letoff range, somewhere where the amount of resistance at full draw is not taxing yet the tension on the string is enough to facilitate a stable hold and release. For target Compound-Release archers this happy middle ground is currently around 65% letoff. As with all things of this type, this is not a dictum, it is just an indicator that the farther you get away from that number the less easy things get. As the letoff goes down (toward, say 50%) the holding weight goes up and so fatigue becomes a factor on long shooting days. If you are in very good shooting shape, this may actually be desirable. As the letoff goes up, the ability to hold steady goes down a little, but if you are rock solid steady, that may be an acceptable tradeoff. So some archers favor higher and some lower letoffs than what most archers do.

If you hear compound archers arguing over “what amount of letoff is best” realize that the discussion is probably pointless as what is best for one person may be quite different for another. It also depends on the application: bowhunting, target, field, 3-D. But compound archers, shooting more complicated mechanisms (bows), have more of an equipment focus than do recurve and traditional archers. Arguing over “what <fill in the blank> is the best …” seems to be a way to talk about their sport and stay engaged. I never pay those discussions/arguments much attention.

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Barebow, Barebow, Barebow

I just got an email from a viewer who had a boatload of questions about Barebow. (Hooray!) I love it when you send in your questions as it gives me ideas about what I should write about, so if you have them, please feel free to email them to me (ruis.steve@gmail.com).

Here’s Dieter’s questions:
So, the questions are:
• Does one have to close one eye when aiming off the point?
• My kind of split vision string- and face walking does work. However, did you come across someone who managed to combine the more “instinctive” split vision technique with aiming off the point brought right below the target without having to drastically alter button spring tension?
• Of course, I could decide for either technique. The benefit of split vision from 5 – 25 meters is, I do not need to crawl down the string and thus do not imbalance the bow. The other thing is losing accuracy on longer distances. I might also improve the closer distances aiming off the point.
• Maybe, my little problem is confusing. However, I’d be glad if you could share your experienced thoughts with me.
Best wishes, Dieter

* * *

And here are my attempts at answers! (Note I assume Dieter is referring to Barebow Recurve.)

  • Does one have to close one eye when aiming off the point?
    My opinion is that this is only necessary if there is a problem with keeping the off eye open. I, for example, shoot right-handed but am left-eye dominant. If I don’t half shut my off eye, I can end up with some bad misses. There are problems with shutting the eye completely (as with an “eye patch”) as this lowers the total amount of light coming into the eyes and therefore affects iris responses, etc. Eyelids allow some light it and people with glasses often resort to putting a strip of transparent tape over the off eye lens. This allows light in to an open eye but no clear image, so if the off eye “takes over” it will be easily noticed.
    This is the same whether you are aiming off the point and or using a sight.
  • … did you come across someone who managed to combine the more “instinctive” split vision technique with aiming off the point brought right below the target without having to drastically alter button spring tension? This is a very complex question. The “split vision” technique, as recommended by the likes of Howard Hill, is not really split vision as much as it is split attention. I am not a fan because while you are aiming that is the only time you are splitting your attention on what you are doing during an archery shot: you are attending to aiming and attending to completing the shot via swinging the draw elbow around, squeezing back muscles, or whatever. Splitting your aiming attention in two results in a three-way split in attention, something I am not a fan of. But then, I am a fan of whatever works, as long as we know what actually works, so if the “split vision technique really works for you, then go for it. (That you asked the question indicates it is not working well enough or under the circumstances you encounter.)
    Two topics are being addressed here in addition. One can aim off of the point several ways. The two primary ways are gap shooting (basically aiming off, with “gaps” being the amount of high or low aiming) and stringwalking. Since the grip of bow and sting do not vary when gap shooting, no adjustment of plunger tension is needed. However, when string walking, whenever the “crawl” (the distance down from the arrow the string is “gripped”) is changed, you are essentially de-tuning the bow. The draw length changes, the draw weight changes, the tiller changes, everything. These changes are small and successful Barebow Recurve stringwalkers focus heavily in finding a bow tune that represents a “happy medium compromise.” Usually, since the shorter distances are shorter and therefore easier (in field archery) they allow for a poorer tune there and set up for a better tune for the longer, and therefore harder, shots.

    Taking a crawl on a longbow.

    So, elite Barebow Recurve Archers who stringwalk have this unavoidable dilemma. Some use plunger adjustments at the extremes of their distances to help with this problem, so you are not wrong in doing that. The ultimate tune, though, for such an archer is one that doesn’t involve such adjustments, so these archers work on their arrows obsessively and their plungers to find a “no fiddling tune” if they can. If such plunger adjustments are required, you need to adjust your shot sequence to make sure that you add or subtract known numbers of turns on your plunger button and then take them off when no longer needed. Forgetting to do these things are mental mistakes that always lower scores, so eliminating the need to make such adjustments reduces the number of possible mental mistakes, which is a good thing … if you can pull it off.
    Sorry, for being so long winded on this one, but that’s the best I can do. Possibly more expert Barebow archers will chime in in the Comments.

  • Of course, I could decide for either technique. Yes, you can. There are some who insist that this technique is better than that technique. I have never seen a case in which this has been proven, unless you put up some form of standard technique against, say, standing with your back to the target. The entire reason we all shoot much the same way, with only minor differences, is that in the 60,000–70,000 year history of archery, the bow has taught us what works and what doesn’t. So, most of what you can find being currently recommended by archers and coaches works! That’s the good news. The bad news is “so does all of the other stuff.”And the only way you can tell “what works for you” is to try things out. Unfortunately, the things being tested against one another are so similar (they may feel really different, but they are not … to the point that onlookers may not notice that you have changed anything) that it takes many weeks of trying out the new thing to see if there is a real effect or not. There are very many things to try, and not enough time and effort to try them all, so you just have to pick.

    What I do know is this: the key factors are whether an archer has committed to a new/different technique and practiced it in and … in my not so humble opinion … simpler is better. If you try an aiming technique and it only works for shorter distances and you need another for longer distances, I would keep looking. What you want is a technique that is the same for all shots you take on a certain course, e.g. WA Field Unmarked shots are never longer than 50 m, WA target shots used to be longer (30-90 m for men) but now seem to have been shrunk down to just 50 m for target events. I would have separate bows set up for the two kinds of events. If I couldn’t afford two bows, I would have two bowstrings and two sets of bow settings for the two events. I might also, depending on budget, have two sets of arrows tuned for two different events. (Consider archer’s arrow choices for indoor and outdoor events as a model.) The gold standard for FITA Field Barebow archers shooting unmarked targets is a single anchor with a single set of crawls from 50 m on down to the shortest shot (don’t remember this … 5 m?).

    I prefer having a single technique for a single event. When I teach stringwalking, we start at close up, determining the archers point on target distance (POT) and then determining their set of crawls for distances inside that distance. Then we change from a high anchor to a low anchor and determine the new POT for that anchor (much farther out) and a set of crawls there, too. (Often the crawls are amazingly consistent, e.g. the same crawl for five meters closer than POT distance for both anchors, which makes memory mistakes less likely). What we hope is these two ranges overlap, covering all of the distances being shot. If they do not, instead of adding a third technique, we look to changing things like draw weight or slight changes in anchor hand position to get what is desired.

My rule of simplicity would rule out string walking as a tool for tackling a FITA Round, for example. There were/are only four distances. It is far easier to determine four points of aim for the four distances (if they are on target) than employ stringwalking with its detuning characteristics. But for a Field Round in which targets are placed at many different distances, having a different point of aim for each target is too cumbersome, there stringwalking shines. So, there are legitimate reasons for having a “bag of tricks” to employ for aiming at various kinds of events as “one size never fits all!”

I hope this helps more than it hinders!

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Barebow Arrow Considerations

There is an upsurge in interest in Barebow, both Recurve and Compound. (Yeah!) This is accompanied by increased levels of confusion regarding the role the arrow plays in the ability to shoot consistently.

Since there are many Barebow aiming variations (gap shooting, “instinctive” shooting, string walking, face walking, etc.) I am going to hop over these variations (all of which create tuning issues) and move to the heart of the matter: aiming off of the point.

Aiming Off of the Point
Using the arrow point as an aiming support brings many advantages and a few disadvantages. One disadvantage is it makes draw length even more crucial. For example, consider that the nock end of the arrow is below the aiming eye and the sightline. The line of sight being even with the arrow point means that the arrow is slanting upward (as it is with other styles, of course). Now, if you draw your bow a bit too far, the arrow slides back and downward lowering the arrow point, causing you to raise your bow up to get the point back to the sightline. Drawing your bow a bit long results in high arrow hit points in that you’ve made the bow a tad stronger, but raising the bow also contributes to high arrow hit points, so this “positive feedback” results in larger errors. Similarly, a short drawn bow, results in the arrow sticking out and up farther, which results in you lowering the bow, another double whammy! (This effect is prominent for longbow and recurve archers, less so for compound archers.)

Aiming off of the point makes draw length control particularly crucial. On the plus side it provides amplified feedback in that regard and so may contribute to better draw length control. There are many other aspects of aiming off the point we leave to your further investigation.

The Effect of Arrow Length
The effects of variations in draw length can be made permanent by choosing a shorter or longer arrow. A longer arrow will result in a lower hold of the bow. A shorter arrow will result in a higher hold. So, for indoor targets, a longer arrow can be an advantage. Indoors, the distances are so short that most bows are over-powered. This results in points of aim (POA) being very low, off of the target face and maybe on the floor where there are few visual clues as to where the POA is. We would like to have a POA on the target face as a face provides many visual cues as to the POA’s location (e.g. a POA at 12 o’clock in the 5-ring). So, for indoors, most people favor a longer arrow. This cause the hold to be lower and the POA higher. Since the length of the arrow is one of the largest aspects affecting the tune, a stiffer shaft has to be chosen to compensate for the extra length.

Outdoors, the distances are much larger, and bows tend to be under-powered. Here a shorter shaft provides a higher hold, a lower POA, and more cast, but we need a weaker shaft so we can cut it as short as we can.

We accept as a given that one’s form will be more consistent when the arrow is near level than when the bow is held with the arrow slanted way up or way down. So, the closer you can create a setup, for you or your student, that is near that situation, the better.

Arrow selection is not a simple matter of just checking a manufacturer’s spine chart and selecting the shaft closest to the characteristics your archer possesses (DW and DL and bow type). In most spine charts, the entire row of choices determined by the DW are available to you. Limited only by arrows that are too short (as they are dangerous). Here is a row from a simplified spine chart:

Compound Bow

21˝ 22˝ 23˝ 24˝ 25˝ 26˝ 27˝ 28˝ 29˝ 30˝ 31˝ 32˝ Recurve Bow
29-35 lb 1214 1214 1413 1416 1516 1713 1716 1813/
1816
1913 2013/
1916
2013/
1916

17-23 lb

Assuming this is the correct DW row, if the archer’s draw length is 24˝ AMO, a 1413 aluminum arrow is recommended. Shorter shafts are possible, but remember the arrow point is typically only about 1.75˝ ahead of the arrow rest at full draw, so a 1214 shaft could be used, cut to 23˝ but I wouldn’t go shorter. Other choices are: the entire rest of the row:
a 1416 shaft, cut to 25˝
a 1516 shaft, cut to 26˝
a 1713 shaft, cut to 27˝
a 1716 shaft, cut to 28˝
a 1813/1816 shaft, cut to 29˝
a 1913 shaft, cut to 30˝
a 2013/1916 shaft, cut to 31˝
a 2013/1916, cut to 32˝

All of these shafts and cut lengths should produce arrows of comparable performance. Keep in mind this is not this simple. As we move across this table row, the arrow shafts are getting heavier and we are losing cast thereby. (There are other issues, but this post is too long already.) All parameters in a spine chart, therefore, need to be taken with a grain of salt and if you desire to experiment with different length arrows, always (Always!) start with a longer shaft and cut it down in stages, testing for tune as you go (a bare shaft test is all that is necessary).

A Note Regarding Young Archers
Archers who haven’t achieved full growth probably should not play around with these ideas. For one, they are still growing and as their height increases, so does their draw length. Ordinarily I like to have at least 1˝–2˝ of extra length on their arrows just for safety (and the ability to shorten the shaft to get a better tune as they grow). These youngsters are better off working on their fitness and shooting form and execution than fiddling with equipment to get a slight advantage.

If a youngster, however, is having trouble “making distance,” the problem may be exacerbated by an arrow that is too long. I have seen some sticking out more than 5˝ past the back of the bow. In this case, a better fitting, resulting in a shorter arrow should help.

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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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Tuning the Genesis Bow Follow-up

QandA logoI got a follow-up email regarding the Genesis tuning problem.

With NASP unfortunately we can’t change the arrow in any way and must use the Easton 1820 “Genesis Arrow” so it seems we’re left to play with nock height and repeatable form. Is that how you see it?

This is the case for official NASP competitions. My previous answer was for the broader archery community and competitions out it the wonderful world of archery outside of NASP. Here’s my answer to this email:

* * *

Yep, it is somewhat of a trap. The idea is to have a level playing field (same bow, arrow, target, distance) and I agree with that. Poor kids wouldn’t have the resources of richer kids to get their own arrows and have them fitted and tuned. But then each kid is stuck with identical equipment and to shoot well, equipment must be fitted to the archer and his/her abilities.

The only way to “weaken” an arrow like the Genesis competition arrow is to increase the point weight, and I am not sure that even that is allowed by NASP rules. The significant factor you seem to have control over is draw weight. If any of your kids are shooting anything less than full draw weight, getting them up to that will help. Also, you can do a little testing to see if there are bigger problems you do have control over. One of the things I see on a lot of Genesis bows are streaks on the arrow shelf and arrow rest. These are little smears of plastic left behind when fletches collide with the shelf/rest. For this reason, you want to clean off those surfaces regularly. A bad loose of the string by a beginner and Whack! there is a new streak. You won’t see it, though, if there are myriad others still there.

So for your really serious competitors, get a can of foot powder spray (it has to be powder). Spray the shelf and rest of their bows and have your archers shoot a couple of arrows. If there are any disturbances in the powder, you have a clearance problem. If you are shooting arrows with press-in rather than glue-on nocks (I think the old Genesis arrows had glue-ons), you can rotate the nock so that the fletch that was hitting no longer hits (since the arrow doesn’t start rotating until it is clear of the bow it is usually the bottom fletch). Re-test and rotate the nock until no more problem. Then make all of the other arrows the same by rotating their nocks into the same position. They make nock rotating tools that have built in guides for just this task (see photo below).

A nock alignment tool. The little notched arm is moved so it touches the index vane only when the nock is correctly positioned.

A nock alignment tool. The little notched arm is moved so it touches the index vane only when the nock is correctly positioned.

Since archers with different draw lengths have different string paths, you will need to test each bow-arrow-archer combination. (Bring lots of rags so that archers can clean up their bows afterward.)

If there are big streaks or the rest is getting hit, check the nocking point height. If the nocking point is too low, they will be launching their arrows “nock low” which is asking for clearance problems.

I do believe that you are allowed to adjust your draw weight, no? Having an arrow that stiff (spine is 0.592˝) would require the bow to be about 40#-45# to be shot correctly at that length, so reducing the draw weight would just make things worse, but turning the bow down just a bit (which changes the string path) may correct for a clearance issue so that may be worthwhile. If there is room to turn a child’s bow “up” a bit in draw weight, that might cure the clearance issue and provide better arrow flight.

 

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Problems Tuning Genesis Bows

QandA logoI get a lot of requests for help and I am glad to provide what I can. One of my readers upbraided me for this because I have been more than a little adamant that archery coaches shouldn’t “work for free.” So, I am being somewhat inconsistent. There are a couple of reasons I do this. For one, I am still trying to learn how to “coach remotely,” so I embrace opportunities to do that. Second, there is so much need for help in the archery coaching community. The main reason, though, is that people are turning to me because they can’t find the help they need. Not that that help isn’t available in every case but that it has been made hard to find. (I really, really, (really) wish the archery organizations would embrace coach support wholeheartedly instead of the current “train ‘em and drop ‘em” approach.) Until such resources are more widely available I will continue to do as much as I can to help those coaches who seek it.

Today’s topic comes from a reader of this blog who seeks help tuning Genesis bows. Here’s his email:

I’ve been darn near driving myself insane trying to learn to understand and tune a bow, specifically the Genesis.

A little background: I’m Level 2 certified wanting to do level 3. Just having trouble finding a training that’s close and works with my schedule having five kids of my own. I’ve read many of your books and in fact own 4-5 of them as resources for me and our coaches. We have a very large NASP program of 95+ in our elementary school from grades 4-6. We’ve been doing NASP for 5-6 years. We’ve won a team state championship in our second year and some individual championships. I’ve not done anything to the bows except yoke tuning and nock point tying 3/8˝ high of zero on a bow square and the occasional serving repair at the local archery shop. Perhaps I should be tying the nock even higher.

I’ve talked to other coaches and have picked up a few tips/suggestions regarding bow tuning and done far too many hours of research. Most coaches, since we’re competing against them, I believe are a bit guarded about sharing too much info. However, it seems almost all of our bows make arrows kick to the left for a RH archer no matter what I do.

For bows that seem to have cam lean I’ve tried rotating the bottom limbs, fiddled with the ATA length by twisting strings/cables, and replaced bushings in the cams. Regardless, I still see arrows kicking typically.

I realize that when pairing archers with bows that are not their own in a program it is not a one-size-fits-all situation. However about 50% of our archers have their own bows and I’d like to be able to tune them properly but cannot figure it out.

Also, once we begin shooting as a team we have enough bows for those who don’t own their own bows to each use one of ours thereby allowing us to individually tune. As NASP has grown it’s become more competitive and I’m wanting to keep up but feel we’re being left behind and want to keep our kids competitive and give them every chance possible to win. I’m willing to do whatever it takes we just don’t know what that is when it comes to bow tuning for the Genesis. If you understand these bows I’d be willing to pay you good money for a private bow-tech clinic if you’re ever in the area, not joking. 🙂

I just read the below link where you mention attaching a guide to bow and arrow fitting to the article regarding but don’t see the text document mentioned. Perhaps it would help. https://archerycoach.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/porpoising-and-fishtailing-follow-up-and-the-acg/

Any guidance or assistance is greatly appreciated!

And here is my response:

* * *

The document mentioned in that post was attached to the email sent to the correspondent, not the post. I have attached it to this email in the hope it might assist you.

Everything I am going to say from now on applies to right-handed bows. If you are dealing with a left-handed bow, you have to switch left and right. ;o)

Your kids arrows are flying to the left and you can’t tune it out because the arrows are too stiff. The “Genesis formula” (my term) is to make a bow and arrow combination that can be shot by a great many people. So the bow has zero letoff, which allows it to be shot by people with widely different draw lengths with no adjustment (not so with a bow with letoff) and an arrow that is too long and too stiff for people with short draw lengths so that it will be long enough and not too weak for people with longer draw lengths. But arrows that are too stiff for a particular situation will fly off to the left. Arrows that are too weak, will fly off to the right. (Remember that left and right directions have to be switched for left-handed archers.) Since most youths fall into the shorter draw length category, most arrows used for the Genesis (especially the “Genesis Arrow” are too stiff and will fly to the left no matter what you do to the bow.

This is because the farther you draw a bow, like this one, the more energy is stored in the bow. The more energy stored, the more energy is given to the arrow when shot and the stiffer the arrow needs to be to receive it. (Imagine a whippy thin arrow being shot from a very stout bow–the arrow might break upon release!)

“So, in tuning, we set up the bow and tune the arrow.”

So, in tuning, we set up the bow and tune the arrow. (Little tweaks of the bow may take place for fine tuning purposes, so this is just a generalization.)

The hard thing with kids is that they are still growing. If you fit them for arrows (see attachment) “correctly” they will over the next six months, grow an inch or half an inch and their draw length goes up accordingly and now they arrows are too short (for safety) and too weak (as the bow is now “stronger” because it is being pulled farther). What we recommend is to fit arrows to youth’s bows that are one spine group stiffer for each extra inch of length you choose. By choosing to use an arrow that is 2-3 inches longer than usual, if you didn’t choose a stiffer shaft, the arrow would be too weak. But with those stiffer shafts, when the youth grows and needs a stronger arrow, that extra length allows the arrows to be shortened (making them stiffer) while still being long enough for safety.

Standard bow setup for “fingers” shooters is to have the bottom of the top nock locator 1/2” above square. The purpose of this is to launch arrows a bit “nock high” to avoid clearance issues with the arrow rest. Genesis bows are not what one would call high precision bows, so some cam lean and other less desirable attributes are to be expected and really don’t contribute to your issues. The problems you are having are likely due to just arrow shaft stiffness mismatches.

I hope this helps.

Steve

PS We are working on a series of e-booklets explaining all of this and the attached document is to be part of that, from which we expect to make a little money ($1.99 per booklet?), so I ask that you don’t share the document SMFAwith your colleagues. Of course, if you learn the knowledge provided in it, you will be free to share that with your fellow coaches. ;o)

PPS We have done bow maintenance and tuning workshops before and we might be able to set something up if you would like (we are not so far from one another geographically). There are, however, people in your community who might be able to provide this service cheaper (we need to recover travel and lodging costs, etc.). The purpose of this e-booklet series mentioned above is to provide much of the information you need. I also strongly recommend the book “Simple Maintenance for Archery” by Allan Anderson and Ruth Rowe. It contains step-by-step instructions for many of the tasks need for tuning and maintenance (with photos!). It is now out in a second edition (photo is of first edition).

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One More Time (Arrow Tuning While Changing Draw Weight)

QandA logoI got this question as part of a larger issue from one of my Olympic Recurve students:
My Arrow cut length is 29.25˝, so if I buy these new shafts should I cut them at 30.5˝ for now? Or should I cut them at 31˝?”

This student is working his way to a higher draw weight but wants to explore different arrows at the same time. Here’s what I said (with slight modifications).

* * *

My standard recommendation is to make the draw weight change first, then fit yourself for new arrows. (Shooting to accustom oneself to a higher draw weight can be done blank bale and need only take weeks or at most a few months.) But the question here is basically: How do I fit arrows to allow for a higher draw weight in the future? So, that’s what I will address.

apple-arrow-saw

An arrow saw. This one is made by Apple.

A start is to fit your current draw weight and cut length in the new arrow’s spine chart. Then move up one spine group on the chart (stiffer) and then add 1˝ to the cut length or move up two spine groups and then add 2˝ to the cut length. It all depends on how much draw weight you want to add. Roughly 5# = 1˝ of cut length, so if you are looking to go up five pounds, then you need just one spine group and one inch of cut length more than you are shooting now to allow for that change.

This is based upon how spine charts are set up by the manufacturers. They basically define spine groups, defining them by each inch of shaft length or 5# of draw weight for recurve bows. (There are some variations in the draw weights; Easton just made significant changes in their target recurve chart draw weights, for example.)

By buying an arrow that is stiffer, then cutting it longer you can create an arrow that is the same spine as the shorter weaker shaft that would be an exact fit. This arrow will shoot well and as you crank the draw weight up, you can shorten the arrows as you do so, keeping them reasonably well tuned. If you go up five pounds of draw weight and cut off that extra inch of shaft length, you have an arrow that is one spine group stiffer which is required at that higher draw weight.

Longer arrows than needed can also stretch the usable limits of a riser-attached clicker. While such changes are being pursued, using a clicker attached to one’s sight extension bar may be helpful. When arrows are cut shorter, the clicker needs to be moved in the exact amount of the cut.

This is a lot of fussing, but the advantage is this: it is very hard for archers to ignore where they arrows land. If one is shooting an untuned bow, the arrows will not group well and the archer will often think it is because they are doing something wrong and change their behavior for no reason other than their bow is not tuned. So having a reasonably tuned setup at all times can be beneficial.

 

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