Training for Accuracy, Part 2: Technique

Requirements for accurate shooting can be split into two parts: aiming and technique. Part 1 concerns various aspects of aiming an arrow. This post is about the motions of a shot.

Once we have correctly aimed our arrow, we need to make sure that the arrow will stay on its designated flight path. This means applying a shooting technique that is as unobtrusive as possible, and will not interfere with the arrow’s orientation any further after aiming.

Every element of shooting technique will influence accuracy, so it is very important to always pay attention to our whole body. I have listed here the most important elements that come in my mind.

First of all, the bow hand:

  • The Grip. The grip on the bow needs to be stable enough so the bow does not jump in any direction when we release. However, if the grip is too tight, we will inadvertently jerk the bow sideways or upwards during the release. Another problem is “grabbing”, which happens often to beginners who have gotten the hang of a loose grip, but feel like they will drop the bow on release. In order to correct a grip mistake, first determine the optimal grip through experimentation. In order to remember the correct grip, use the geometry of your hand and the relative position of prominent features to the bow. In order to practice a loose grip, using a bow sling is reccommended.
  • If your bow has a high recoil, the grip is extremely important! You need a tight grip with which you can transfer the energy away from the bow and prevent it from jumping.
  • Traditional archers, watch out for the finger! It needs to keep still while the arrow slides over it, so you do not poke it away from its path. It also needs to be in a position so it does not lead the arrow on a curved path, that means it should not exert any horizontal force on the arrow. Furthermore, make sure there are no “speed bumps”! Some say you should shoot off your knuckle and that may work for some archers. But if you have big, protruding knuckles like I do then it will result in arrows launched on a rather erratic flight path. I reccommend shooting off the side of the bottom section of the index finger, there is a nice, smooth, horizontal surface there.

Next, the bow arm:

  • Keep pushing! Keep the bow arm rigid after the arrow is released, so your bow does not move. That way you will not push the arrow away. Practicing with closed eyes can make you more aware of unintentional movements.
  • The Elbow. Make sure to turn your elbow outwards. Also, the bow arm does not have to be stretched to the maximum for any reason. Introducing a minimal bend at the elbow helps turn it outwards more. This will prevent the bowstring from hitting your arm (when that happens it is not only painful but also affects accuracy) and also strengthens the bow arm support.

The shoulders and back muscles:

A straight back and low shoulders are crucial to accurate shooting, as well as avoiding injury. The tension in the back needs to be kept up during the whole shot process. If it slacks prematurely, the arrows will go to the side and over longer distances may drop. Pushing the shoulderblades down will form a good load path across your back. It is very important to use your shoulder as primary drawing muscle, in terms of accurace this will decrease *shakyness* with a stronger bow, and allow for more accurate movement of release. In order to be able to do this well over a long time it is advisable to train back muscles with daily exercises. Also, flexibility should not be forgotten about! Good flexibility will improve the back form. I think yoga and archery go very well together as complementary sports.

A very good way to practice good back form is by using the *archery coach’s magic broom*. If your coach (or anyone else you have enlisted to help you) can hold a broomstick to your shoulders and arms making surface contact across the whole length, and pointing at the target, you have a good form.

The bowstring arm and hand:

  • Arm tension. This is crucial for a clean release. With the release, your hand should ideally not move at all. In practice that is difficult to impossible, so the little movement that does creep in should be backwards, parallel to the arrow, because this signifies that tension in the arm has been kept up all the way. If the bowstring arm slacks prematurely, it can result in erratic flight paths, and is a common source of fishtailing too. Shooting with a strong bow (as long as it is not too strong for you) will force you to keep up tension in both back and arm. Someone can help you practice this by lightly pulling your elbow back while you shoot.
  • Release hand. Just like the arm, the hand should also only move backwards slightly. Be careful not to wave or slap. Stick to your anchor. This way fishtailing can be reduced.
  • Fingers! Make sure they move as a unit, and move in a single, quick motion. If there is noticable friction between your fingers and the bowstring on release, examine your glove/tab for a source, and if there is nothing wrong, practice a clean release. Again, training with closed eyes can help be more aware of what you are doing. A clean release can make a lot of difference. Good finger coordination is also extremely important. Make sure you release exactly when you intend to, and only then. That way you will only ever fire an arrow when you are fully prepared.

I hope this was helpful, please feel free to add anymore suggestions in the comments! Happy shooting, fellow archers :3

kitty hugs to all~

~Joouna

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