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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Lesson Day and Changes

Thursday was my lesson day with my coach. I had sent her a long, long list of questions a couple of days before. To her credit, coach did an amazing job of trying to answer each one systematically. The results are in, and they’re pretty good.

Yes, I am straighter.

I am no longer twisting.

My stance is correct. (For now. Stance may change when I have developed more core strength)

Focus on straightness of spine and hips and correct draw, anchor, transfer. Don’t focus on release (for right now).

Tilting the bow. One, use the mirror to correct that if it’s sticking around in my head as a problem area. Or two, don’t worry about it right now. I may use form room time to work on that tomorrow.

I sent her two related questions about the traditional anchor I’ve been using, based on what I was seeing in the mirror. And the result of our conversation around that is..I am switching to an Olympic anchor. Over the next few months I’ll be switching from shooting barebow to shooting Olympic Recurve style.

Why was I not feeling the engagement of my right tricep as much, I had asked her. And the answer was simple. I had taken out a piece of “corrective aid” in the form, namely pushing the wrist way out and using a curved draw, both to disengage the bicep. So I really need to make sure I’m doing both of those to get the amount of tricep activation I’m looking for.

All Angles.

I’ve been leary of putting these up. I want to critique the heck out of them and tell you everything I’m doing wrong in each shot.

Instead. I’m just going to put these up here without commenting on each one.

And ask those of you who read my blog to do a little homework. Go back in the previous posts. Find the first videos I posted of me shooting. Compare those videos to these.

See the progress that’s been made from then until now.

Yes, in most of these videos my bow is still tilted. Yes, I’m not turning my head until late (I was focusing in the mirror for as long as possible to make sure I was straight). No, I’m not hitting a consistent anchor. I was working on a straight T. As straight as I could get it. That means in some of these shots I’m anchoring down by my chin, because I valued that straightness during these shots more than I valued a consistent anchor.

Progress. What I’m looking to do with these videos is not demonstrate how to shoot, but to demonstrate the humble progress of a beginner.

To the Right, To the Right

To the Right, To the Right

You’re going to see a lot of posts about the process of me becoming “straighter” so that I can shoot with better form. My coach is amazingly positive, and she believes I can overcome all of these challenges and shoot at the level I want to shoot at.

But as an older archer, entering the sport for the very first time at cough38cough, there are a lot more challenges to overcome than if I had entered the sport at say..25. Or 18.

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B showing off my straight shooting

When I’m with my coach and she’s giving constant feedback, I can shoot like this. All together and grouped so close it’s a little scary. But I need that constant feedback on my form right now. Which means I need to spend a lot more time in the form room with the mirrors, paying exact attention to my alignment both vertical and horizontal.

Because when I shoot outside the form room..I miss things when I try to just go by feel. How my body feels vs what it’s actually doing can be two very different things. Which. Sucks.

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Getting straighter, but...

This is me shooting today. My shoulder is too high. I can tell by how high my elbow is. And I am a little twisted. That’s the wrinkles in the back of my shirt. But my team mate Johnathan, who has to be one if the most golden hearted people I have ever met, snapped this picture to show me one thing. From shoulder to hip I am straight. And 90 degrees parallel to the floor.

If you look carefully you can see that I achieved this by having slightly more weight on the back foot. I have to lean slightly right to bring my spine into alignment. I’m also shooting with my knees bent. For me, right now, this offers the most stable lower platform and actually helps me achieve straightness. I tend to lean/sway towards the target if my knees aren’t bent.

I’ve dedicated myself to going to the form room on Tuesday. I’m hoping one of the staff will video a few shot cycles for me so that I can draw on them in Coach’s Eye and let you see what I’m experiencing more efficiently.

Straight as the Tower of Pisa

Straight as the Tower of Pisa

Thursday was my lesson day with Coach Holly. I got so many questions answered during this one lesson!

First, the good news. I was able to continue keeping my right shoulder low. So low, in fact, that the top of my “T” formation stayed in good alignment during the whole lesson. At no point in time was Coach reduced to standing there holding my shoulder down shot after shot. How did I manage this? Well part of it was…I was trying to lift my bow up too high every time. I stopped working about being able to aim and just concentrated on lifting the bow just until arms were level with shoulders. I’m shorter than I thought I was. Or at least it feels that way. Now it feels like I’m lifting the bow to my collarbone, not my face. But “feeling” is very different from reality. More on that in a minute.

Second, the also good news. I was able to answer the question of “why do my arrows tend to go far right?”. In my zeal to use my back muscles to draw, I was twisting myself. A lot. A very lot. So that my body was no longer aligned with the target. I was all twisted up.  Coach was able to help me untwist myself, but it will take practice to get consistent with this.

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Twist, no. Open through the back, yes.

Now the bad news. I am not straight through my spine and legs. This isn’t a matter of standing up straight. It’s a matter of correcting decades of lop sided living. Right now, If I feel like I’m standing up straight, I’m actually leaning.

Leaning!

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Straight as the Leaning Tower of Pisa

I think men suffer from this much less than women do for a number of reasons. The first is purses. We girls carry them, packed with stuff, usually on the same side of our bodies, for decades. Decades! Let’s consider our body as lining up along a 3-D graph. A straight line through our hips is the x-axis. A straight line from the top of the head to the floor is our y-axis. And a line from front to back is the z-axis.

When we spend decades carrying purses, grocery bags and children on only one side of our body a couple of things happen. The muscles on that side of the body become overdeveloped compared to the corresponding muscles on the other side of the body. Over time, this pulls us out of true so that we lean along the x-axis running through our hips. And because of this you can also see a shift along the y-axis of the spine, pulling our line to the right or left. A massage therapist told me a decade ago that I was developing muscle tension on my right because I carried so much of everything on my right side. I wish I’d listened to her then, because I’ve done more damage and become more lopsided in the intervening years. This also contributes to my twist problem above. The overdeveloped shoulder and back muscles of my right side have the power to twist me away from the target. What “feels” like opening up is actually twisting way off to one side.

What about the z-axis? We don’t lean forward or back along it, right? Wrong. Very wrong. And girls, this part of the chat is going to be all about us. You see, we have things stuck to our chest that men don’t. We have boobs. And while those of us blessed with smaller boobs won’t notice this as much, we who have larger breasts struggle with gravity every day. Gravity is pulling us, by our boobs, forward and down so the we lean forward along the z-axis. The older we are, the more accustomed to this leaning we become. So that we may feel we are standing up straight when in fact we are leaning forward.

Your arrow can’t fly straight if you’re twisted to one side and leaning forward! Well, the arrow will fly straight – straight to one side or the other because that’s the way your body is pointed.

Right now I have some posture exercises to do to help me realize what true straight alignment feels like. Hint- it feels like I’m leaning back and to one side. I also need to make sure that when weight training I’m only doing as much as my weaker (left) side can handle. Sure my right side won’t get as strong as fast, but I’ll be in balance, which is way more useful!

This isn’t an easy fast fix. Its something I’ll have to work on for months. Or years.

I discovered something cool at my last lesson as well. When I’m in alignment, but haven’t drawn back far enough, it is physically impossible to roll to my anchor. Instant feedback!

SYWAT, TAIL, and trials

Let’s get bad things out of the way first. I scored poorly at my first SYWAT tournament. And by poorly I mean extremely poor.

As in my average was 3 of 5 arrows actually falling on a score able part of the target. Most of those were in the 1 or 2 ring. It was an NFAA tournament, so the highest score for bullseye was a 5. I did not get any 5’s

It was a busy tournament, which I’m only mildly accustomed to. So going to tournaments right now is way more about desensitization than it is about scoring well.

And while I’m OK with a crowded line. I have discovered I am not so OK shooting surrounded by compound archers. Its not the compound that bugs me. Its the scores. You can only walk down the line so many times to count everybody else’s X’s while being grateful that you managed to just not hit somebody else’s target before that starts to mess with your head.

I am accurate solely because of my form. The exact same amount of tension through the back. The exact same anchor. The exact same way of holding the bow and drawing the string. Compound archers are insanely accurate without the same amount of concentration on form. But during a tournament on the same line, all I start to think is that I am a bad archer and they are some kind of X killing gods.

I want to be an X killing god.

I refuse to use a compound bow now, maybe ever.

So I bombed my first SYWAT. But I also did some good things. I remembered, after the first four ends, that I had stopped opening up using my back muscles and was relying solely on arms. I fixed that! I discovered halfway through part of the reason that my shoulder keeps lifting. And I fixed that! I discovered that I do have the stamina to shoot sixty arrows in a day and go on to shoot OK the next day!

All that fixing of form was too much to score well. Especially when it takes two ends just to fully realize that I really didn’t need to aim as high as I had been because now the proper muscles were involved and each shot had more power behind it.

So I took those lessons to the TAIL tournament. And scored 40 points lower than my personal best. Oof. That was my self esteem dealing with its second sucker punch.

But I learned things! My coach was there, and told me during practice that my right shoulder was the lowest she had seen it. That in itself is a reason to celebrate! What else did I learn? I learned that sometimes a tournament is the best place to figure out what is going wrong. But also the worst place to fix it.