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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Tightening the Circle

Tightening the Circle
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At 18m during a Thursday night practice

Let’s call this picture the beginning. I was struggling with my anchor for weeks. I just couldn’t get exactly where I needed to be. I kept feeling as if I were fighting an invisible ghost (that happens a lot to me) – some nebulous “something” that wasn’t correct but that I couldn’t diagnose. The alignment of the string during the draw wasn’t correct. It would end up on the left side of my nose and mouth, at my left eye. But with how I shoot, it should be lining up center / center right.

What was going wrong?

I thought it was my head. If I lifted my chin and strained against tight neck muscles to make sure I had my chin lined up over my left shoulder, I could almost fix the problem. Almost, but not quite.

So during my last lesson we worked on diagnosing the problem. I was straight, my head did need to be turned a little more. Nothing huge to fix. So Coach said “just draw back as far as you can, then anchor. See where the anchor falls”. I had, of course, been anchoring under my chin. Turns out my draw length has lengthened again in the time I’ve been shooting. I needed to be anchoring at the back of the jaw.

I am short. My draw length was measured last fall at something like 25 1/2 inches. Standard measurement is 28″. So you can imagine my elation when we made the realization that my draw length is now longer!!! I don’t have the new measurement yet. But if I can be hitting 27 inches that would be fantastic!

So, I started anchoring at the back of my jaw. The string lined up over my right eye, center on nose, slightly right on lips. WOOT! And. Suddenly. My groups got tighter.

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After changing anchor, at 8m

Talk about tightening up the circle!

After the lesson I sidled over to the 18m lane to continue working on the new anchor point.

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More Gold, Please! At 18m

I suffered a few bow arm issues that sent one arrow into the red. But do you see the other two? That’s gold, baby!

I still need to fine tune my sight. But I can’t really do that until my anchor is a little more consistent and settled. A few more days of practice should let me be consistent enough to know what, if any, changes need to be made to my sight settings. But I’m so happy that the changes to me yielded such immediate results!

Why I Chose Olympic Recurve

One of the wonderful people who reads my blog asked why I chose Olympic Recurve after spending six months or more shooting bare bow. I wanted to respond to her then, but I knew the answer was a lot longer than what I could give in a reply to her comment. I’ve spent a lot of time, on and off, considering how I would answer her. And I realize, the answer is in the story.

One night, at the now defunct Walnut Hill range, I stepped into the form room. A mirror on either side of me, a target about 5 feet away. Shooting with my Samick Polaris. I had been working for weeks on being straight. On my shoulders being level. On my spine being straight. On my stance supporting straightness of spine and level shoulders. I was overcoming years of “body cheats” and bad habits that had over developed my right side compared to the left, and so left me habitually not straight. During my time in the form room that night I noticed something. I was straight! I made that perfect inline T shape! All the way up to the point that I rolled my hand up into the traditional anchor at the corner of my mouth. At that point, my elbow lifted, and if I wasn’t careful my shoulder would lift, too. I tried the movement over and over, trying to be straight in the traditional anchor, and it just wouldn’t work.

On a whim, I brought my hand into a semblance of an Olympic anchor, with my fingers at anchor beneath my jaw instead of at the corner of my mouth. Suddenly in the mirror I was completely straight! I had that perfect T shape. Not only that, but it was so much easier to hold in this position. Everything felt more right, like I had stopped fighting an invisible ghost.

I spent over an hour in the form room with the mirrors that night, and I consider it one of the most transformative points in my archery journey to date.

Afterwards, I discussed my revelation with my coach. I asked her a million questions that all boiled down to “why can I get into correct form so much easier, activate the appropriate muscles with less effort and concentration, when I use an Olympic anchor and not when I shoot with a traditional anchor?”

Her answer was “yes”.

And that was the day I switched. The Olympic anchor and style are more efficient, with an emphasis on proper bone alignment and muscle activation which makes shooting more efficient and more comfortable for shooting longer periods of time. And. Honestly. More accurate. Even without a sight my groupings got tighter because I was straight and had proper alignment.

I just couldn’t fathom continuing on with a style that wouldn’t make maximum use of good form. That was less efficient. I know barebow and traditional archers that are amazingly accurate. But I could get better accuracy with less ” work”, and by that I mean less compensation for not having the best form, by switching styles.

So. I switched. And now I am a more efficient shooter with better accuracy, because I shoot a style that supports the best form possible.

I think of archery like I think of karate. My practice is my kata, constantly practicing the same movements so that my body can perform them consistently without thought. My mind is free to focus on the target. Why would I practice a kata that does not make maximum use of the power inherit in my body? I wouldn’t. Every punch, block, kick, needs to make maximum use of my muscles bones and joints. The same for archery.

It’s Been a While

It’s Been a While

I’ll admit it. I lagged about blogging. Blew it off for a while. You see, there didn’t seem to be a lot to write about. After the Longhorn Invitational I was in a very transitional period. I had just made the switch from Barebow to Olympic Recurve, but I didn’t have any Olympic Recurve equipment.

Add to that the fact that the range close to my home shut down right before Christmas and I was in a big funk when it came to archery.

How would I practice? What would I practice with? How was I going to reach all those lofty goals I dreamed about?

I wanted my range back, with its form room with mirrors where I had managed to make so much progress. Where it wasn’t so insanely busy all the time that getting through a private lesson is sometimes difficult.

I wanted to pout about not being able to use my own bow anymore, because as much as I love my Samick Polaris, its just not made for all the sights and stabilizers and plungers and clickers an Olympic Recurve competition bow needs. Oh, its drilled for them. But the plungers and sight don’t fit because the wooden riser is thicker than the machined aluminum recurve risers. So the parts don’t play well together.

Then. It came. A dear friend of mine surprised me by buying me probably the best Olympic recurve riser on the market. And dear god is it beautiful. In a textured matte black with a grip that fits my (admittedly small) hand like a freaking dream.

The Man bought me everything else but limbs (we have to budget these things out, or not eat). The shiny silver plunger and the delicate shiny black arrow rest and the I-didn’t-know-they-made-strings-like-that string. And the bag to carry it all in. And more arrows.

Another good friend sauntered over to me at the range and said, basically, “use my awesome Samick limbs and these other awesome carbon wood limbs until yours come in. I’m not shooting anyway”. And my jaw dropped and I wanted to cry.

Because now I had a bow again.

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He is named Raptor

There is still work to do. The tax refund check will buy a v-bar stabilizer system, a split finger tab, and a set of Hoyt 720 limbs.

My first outdoor competition is in a month, the Uno at University of Texas in Austin. And I am beyond excited!!! My coach is excited, too. Coach Holly kept me motivated enough while being sympathetic and understanding of my slump. I cannot say enough about her. I cannot rave enough about the kindness and generosity of the people I shoot with.

Archery peeps are just damn good people.