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Here is a 10-step guide to shooting with proper archery form to help you become a proper archer.
Archery refers to the sport where people use a bow to shoot arrows at a defined target.
While it was used for hunting or combat in the early years, archery is a prestigious and competitive sport.
It is also part of the Olympics for a hundred years.
While it appears to be a sedentary activity, archery involves the entire body and is a high caloric and aerobic activity which is great for maintaining fitness.
It also helps in developing cognitive and motor skills as well as reflexes.
Archery is a wonderful activity for people of all ages and it’s an excellent sport for children, however dangerous it might seem.
Children who are exposed to archery at a young age develop stunning reflexes and hand-eye coordination which are only a few of the various benefits of archery for children.
It’s highly important to maintain the proper form which includes a few factors that you need to take care of.
Archery also has a proper set of techniques that you need to apply to develop a form that you can repeat again and again.
Table of Contents
One thing that is key in all target sports is the stance.
This refers to the standing position which you employ to aim, draw the bow, and release the arrow.
A good and proper stance should provide you with stability.
It should be one which you can repeat as many times as you have to.
If you’re unable to maintain the same stance, chances are that your target will waver too.
It’s not just about where you place your feet.
While maintaining the proper stance, the responsibility lies on your head, neck, back, shoulders, hips, and knees.
It all starts with the foot position.
Foot position determines the posture which makes you stand comfortably and doesn’t put too much pressure on your joints.
The posture depends on the person’s height.
A typical proper posture requires the archer to place their feet approximately shoulder-width apart, with their knees slightly bent.
The feet should be evenly leveled and perpendicular to the arrow.
When the bow is fully drawn, the hips should be parallel to the arrow.
Other focused stances include an open stance, in which the archer’s feet are slightly staggered and the front foot sits behind the rearfoot, and the hips open towards the target.
A closed stance also features staggered feet, but the front foot sits ahead and the hips are closed towards the target.
It’s important to have your legs at shoulder-width, or at a position where your weight is evenly distributed between your feet.
If you get the stance right, you’ll have gotten a major portion of your game right.
The next step which can be considered as the first step.
It involves you to decide and find out whether you’re more suited to become a left-handed or right-handed archer, i.e. whether you need a right-handed or left-handed bow.
You might be thinking, “Is there even a difference in left and right bow? Every bow looks the same!”.
There is a world of difference that you can discover once you dive deep enough into the sport.
Normally, you’d know which your dominant hand is, or if you’re ambidextrous like 1% of people in the world.
You use your dominant hand to write, handle your computer mouse, brush your teeth or hair, and do a majority of your daily chores.
However, dominance can quite shift in the case of archery, as can be with other activities as well.
The initial step to deciding your handedness is to determine which of your eyes is your dominant eye.
If you’ve never heard about this, the dominant eye refers to which eye your brain prefers visual input from.
You can do this by actually using a bow and eyeing the target while drawing it.
But, if you don’t have a bow at hand, you can follow a simple dominant eye test which can be carried out anywhere.
If you’re left-handed and your dominant eye is the left one, you can surely buy a left-handed bow, and vice versa.
However, if you’re right-handed and have a left dominant eye, chances are that you’ll be more comfortable with a left-handed bow, and vice versa.
Such people are called cross-dominant, and if you’re one of them, you can get a hold of any one type of bow and train your mind to use it.
3. Bow Grip
Now that we’ve helped you stand properly, and also handed you the right (of left) type of bow.
It’s time to learn how to hold your bow properly.
The key to holding a bow properly is to master the grip and if you watch Green Arrow too much,
You’ll be misguided and think that you have to use your entire palm to grip the bow.
Perfecting the grip is equivalent to tuning your bow which drives you to perfect your shot.
An improper grip will lead you to deliver inconsistent shots, and you won’t be able to hit the target as much as you think you will.
By gripping your bow, you put a lot of muscles in place.
As mentioned above, if you grip the bow with all your fingers.
It’ll put too much strain on all your muscles and when you release the bow.
You’ll cause the bow to jerk forward which will mistime and misdirect your shot.
Hence, the accuracy of your shot is directly proportional to your grip.
For the correct grip, the angle of your fingers to the bow should be around 45 degrees.
If it’s too acute or obtuse, you can end up straining your wrist and fingers, and result in inaccurate shots.
To try maintaining the right grip, you have to push the thick skin just under your thumb and index finger (which is called the Thenar space) against the bow firmly.
Bring your four fingers around the bow, while your thumb gently rests along the other side.
You don’t have to ‘grab at the bow’, just to hold it securely.
Your hand should be relaxed and your wrist should be loose, while you grip your bow firmly.
Now it’s time to move you on to drawing an arrow out of our quiver and placing it into your bow.
This step is quite crucial, as it determines that your arrow goes forth with the right speed and accuracy.
Nocking is the act of fitting an arrow to the bowstring.
The process starts with choosing the right point on your bowstring where you can place your bow.
This is also known as the nocking point.
Once you’ve determined where your nocking point is, you can tie a nock locator on the point so that you can attach the arrow to it every time.
Thus, ensuring consistency and accuracy.
To get consistent results in archery, it’s highly important to find the nocking point, since it’s where your arrow will be shot from.
If you’re a beginner, you can practice with bows that come with a nocking point.
Before even drawing your arrow, make sure your bow is pointing towards the ground and is right in line with you, or you can risk hitting the neighboring archer or misfiring your arrow.
To nock the arrow perfectly, you have to look for the indication at the back of the arrow.
Which has feathery or plastic vanes at its back which are also called the fletchings.
There will be three groups of feathering, and the one with a different color is the index feather.
Now you set your arrow on the arrow rest, adjusting it so the index feather points upwards.
You pull the arrow back until the nock at the end of the arrow clicks into the nocking point of the bowstring.
You’ll be able to feel the nock locking in with the bowstring.
It’s important to know if the arrow is properly nocked, or it will hinder your shot.
Before you decide to pull the bowstring and aim at your target.
You’ll be surprised to learn that first, you have to do the aiming before pulling the string.
At this point, your arrow is nocked into the bow and the bow is facing towards the ground.
Now, you can raise your bow towards the target.
It should be at the very position from which you intend to shoot an arrow.
You can’t raise your bow, draw the string and then aim.
It has to be in this particular order.
Once you have lined the target, grab the bowstring with your preferred finger position which you’ll learn more about as you go on.
Keep in mind that the elbow of your tab hand should be at a higher angle than the arrow.
This will help you shoot the arrow with proper power.
It will shift the momentum to your upper back muscles, rather than straining your arm.
As you pull the bowstring with your tab hand, it’s also important to push the bow away with your other hand.
This will help generate the power you need for the shot.
During the drawing step, it’s important to keep your stance maintained.
Don’t move your head or body even a single degree, as it can adversely affect your focus.
6. Pulling The Bowstring
Now that your arrow is nocked and in place, or locked and loaded.
If you may – you have to pull the bowstring back which is your next step to achieving the right archery form.
This is one of the more sensitive and careful steps, as it’s the cause of many archery injuries.
There are different types of finger positions or placements that professional archers use to maintain safety and also perfect their shot.
Before going further, you need to know what a ‘tab’ hand is – it’s the hand you use to draw the bowstring.
One of the most common finger placements is the ‘3 under’ position, where you arch the bow with your index, middle, and ring fingers, just below the nocking point.
This where you place the arrow before drawing your bow.
This is the most common and proper way for beginners to practice safely.
It also ensures a better line of vision than other placements.
Beginners who start with the under 3 find it easier to move on to the more advanced 1 under or 2 under positions.
Another finger position is the ‘1 Over 2 Under’ which is commonly used by Olympic archers and other professionals.
In this position, the index position rests over the arrow, whereas the middle and ring finger goes under the arrow.
The thumb and pinky fingers do nothing except relax and let the muscles work towards maintaining stability and the correct position.
There are various other positions that you can try, once you’ve mastered the basic positions.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that you have to pull the bowstring by hooking your fingers only up till the first joint.
This is known as the distal interphalangeal or DIP joint.
Also, your fingers shouldn’t be curled up around the string, or this can result in blisters.
7. Determining The Anchor Point
You’ve learned a great deal about how to maintain the correct archery form and the things you need to keep in mind whenever you’re practicing archery or competing in an event.
If you’ve watched professional archers live or on the television.
You must’ve noticed that they always pull their bowstring to a certain point, every time they line up to take a shot.
You must’ve also laughed when their bowstring is pushing against the skin of their mouth or cheek which makes for a funny sight.
All archers, whether beginners or professionals have an anchor point,
This refers to the point to which they pull their bowstring every single time.
It’s not a physical point or mark, but it’s something they set in their minds.
For instance, most archers have a defined point on their face, such as the nose, chin, cheek, lips, or neck.
Once they draw their bowstring and it touches this very point, they’ll stop pulling it back any further and aim at their target.
Defined Anchor Point
Having a defined anchor point is as important as choosing the correct stance because it helps determine the power with which your arrow will be propelled forward.
A common anchor point is the side anchor which involves pulling back the tab hand to the side of the face until the index finger comes in contact with the side of the mouth.
This allows you to have a better line of sight at the target.
One common type of anchor point is the low anchor.
This is the one where the bowstring pushes against the chin and nose.
Putting this into more professional terms.
Your index finger rests along your jawline and touches your chin and nose.
Thus, giving you three anchor points that can be used every time to get the same accuracy and power.
This allows you to shoot longer distances, as compared to the side anchor.
For the outsider, the most difficult aspect of archery would be the aim, as this is something that everyone is marveled by.
However, you can rest easy as it’s not the most difficult thing to do.
Not taking anything away from the Olympic archers, but if you try too hard at aiming.
You’ve already lost your focus even before you can shoot the arrow.
A general rule of thumb is to always aim a little higher than the intended target.
Arrows follow a downward trajectory and can swerve a little to the south.
While aiming, it’s important to keep your body and mind relaxed, and just set your eyes on the target without flinching too much.
If you can see the target, you can very well aim for it.
Your dominant eye is responsible for aiming, while the other eye should be shut.
It’s also important to not look away, and maintain your eye contact with the target as you draw your bow and shoot.
If you’re a beginner, there’s no harm in using bows that have sights on them.
Bow sights help you aim perfectly at the target and make your work much easier.
Gradually, as you keep practicing, you can try aiming without the sights.
It takes a lot of time to master this skill, but once you get it done, no target can escape your gaze.
Imagine this: you walk up to your position, set your stance, and nock your arrow.
You lift your bow and aim at the target.
With the correct elbow position, you draw the string and take a short, easy look at the bullseye.
All that remains is for you to release the bowstring correctly, and the arrow goes flying towards your target.
Whether it hits the bullseye or not, this depends on many factors, including your release.
The release is the final step which is in your control, and it completes the entire process which you then repeat for a second shot.
By this time, you should be very confident and relaxed, knowing you’ve completed all of the steps perfectly.
Keep One Thing In Mind
Don’t hold back the bow for too long.
This can put immense pressure on both your arms and may also damage or weaken the bowstring in the long run.
The release process starts with the archer expanding their chest, similar to the motion experienced when taking a deep breath.
The chest and shoulders widen, causing the archer to pull back the bowstring a little more.
At about the same time, they release the bowstring which propels the arrow towards the target.
After releasing the arrow, you must move your fingers out of the way of the bowstring, or they can get blistered or scathed as the string comes back into place.
It’s also important to keep the shoulders and chest relaxed.
A rigid posture will cause you to take an improper shot.
10. Follow Through
This is the tenth and final step of the process which helps you maintain a proper archery form.
While you might think that the release is the last and final step, there is more to archery that you need to know.
This step, called the follow-through, allows you to carry the shot to the end while also maintaining the correct position and posture.
This is the big finish of all your shots.
Once the release has been performed, the drawing fingers should be free and relaxed.
While the drawing shoulder gently comes in level with the back.
The drawing hand should move back slightly, stopping as it reaches just behind the ear.
While doing all of this, the bow arm should hold the bow in place.
This might seem like a tedious process, but it only takes as much time as it takes for the arrow to hit the target.
Once the arrow has pierced the target, you can lower both your arms and the bow as well.
Archery is a beautiful competitive sport.
This allows you to engage all your core muscles and results in your overall development.
Children who learn archery from a young age grow up into mature adults, with better reflexes.
Archery is also a great way to combat mental illnesses and improve mental health.
However, if you’re serious about getting into this sport, you need to practice a lot.
Follow the above guidelines to maintain the proper archery form and keep yourself safe from injuries.
Rest assured, it’s a great and fun sport.