Archery for Beginners:
An Introduction to Archery

 

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Archery for Beginners

 

 

Archery is one of the oldest arts that is still practiced today. Even though it’s not an everyday sport in today’s society, it’s an event in the Olympics, with up to five competition categories.

So if you want to take up archery as a hobby or sport, it’s vital to understand the basics. You need to know how to hold a bow, shoot an arrow, and choose the ideal bow for yourself. Once you’re past these initial steps, you’ll note that the sport is fun and addictive.

In this post, you’ll learn everything about archery, its history, mythology, misconceptions, benefits as well as how to get started in the sport.

What Is Archery?

In simple terms, archery is the skill or art of using a bow to shoot arrows. Today, it’s a hobby for some people and a competitive sport for others. However, during the old days, it was used for hunting and as a way of combat.

Brief History of Archery

It’s believed that the first arrowheads were discovered in Africa, and they date back to about 25,000 BC, during the Stone Age. Scientists believe that ancient Egyptians were the first people to use bows and arrows.

It’s also vital to note that arrows were the first to be used before bows were. It was around about 3,000 BC when the ancient Egyptians adopted archery. In China, the practice of archery dates as far back as 1766–1027 BC, during the Shang dynasty. The Chinese later introduced archery to Japan in the sixth century, influencing one of the most popular Japanese martial arts, known as kyujutsu, or kyudo.

Archery in the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, archery was simply a way of combat and an essential part of warfare. Medieval archers were soldiers who were skilled in the use of bow and arrow, and they played an important role in shaping the outcome of a battle.

It was not uncommon for a trained archer to kill several enemies or to bring down horses with just a few arrows. Even when outnumbered, skilled archers could still find their way out of the most challenging situations. It all came down to how fast and how accurate they could shoot arrows.

The Making of the Bows and Arrows

In medieval times, making bows and arrows was a skill, and the person responsible for this was called an artillator. The bow was made up of two parts: a strip of flexible and strong wood and a string or cord.

Different materials could be used to make bows, including yew, ash, elm, and hazel. The string was made from hemp, as it was the strongest and least-elastic option at that time. Some renowned soldiers had their bows customized according to their preferences and beliefs.

Arrows come in different designs with short or long bodkins. The arrows were made from wooden boards while the arrowheads were made out of steel or iron. Those that had feathers used goose feathers.

Mythology and Pop Culture

Archery has been featured in different literature, stories, and even Hollywood blockbusters. In most mythologies, it’s a powerful symbol of power and skill for heroic characters. Most of the elements that are attractive in such tales are self-reliance, patience, and precision.

Let’s take a look at typical examples.

Archery in Mythology

Cupid’s arrow is usually a widely shared and used image during Valentine’s Day. While most people commonly link Cupid to Valentine’s Day, they’re pretty much unrelated.

In Roman mythology, Cupid was the child of Venus (goddess of love) and Mercury (the messenger god). He was naughty, and he was fond of “striking“ odd couples with the arrow of love to see what would happen. At one point, he fell in love with a beautiful human, Psyche. Sadly, his parents did not approve of that.

Psyche ended up performing several difficult tasks just to get his parents’ approval. And that’s how the love story came about.

Apollo is one of the most famous tales of archery too. In this tale, Apollo, a god, ridiculed the skills of Eros as an archer. In retaliation, Eros fired off two arrows. The first was a gold arrow, which made Apollo fall madly in love with Daphne, the daughter of a river god and a naiad nymph.

The second arrow was a lead arrow that made Daphne hate Apollo. However, Apollo tried to impress Daphne, but she refused to fall in love with him.

Archery in Pop Culture

In pop culture, The Lord of the Rings has effectively and interestingly showcased archery through Legolas and Faramir.

Legolas, a Sindarin Elf of Mirkwood, is admired for his speed and accuracy in shooting arrows. He is a master bowman who uses the Lothlórien bow to kill orcs and goblins. His archery skills are crucial in helping Frodo attain his mission of destroying the ring.

You’ll also love the representation of archery in The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen learned her archery skills from her father and used the skill to hunt. But her skills are put to the ultimate test when she’s forced to compete in a televised game called the Hunger Games.

In the game, youths fight to the death, and she must choose between love and survival.

Misconceptions about Archery

Everyone has their own story about archery, especially those who haven’t tried the sport or just tried it for a while. It’s also not uncommon to see different and questionable depictions of archery in Hollywood movies too.

You Have to Be Young to Master Archery

Older people tend to assume that archery is a sport for young people. While younger people have enough time in their lives to do archery, people in the 50s, 60s, and even 70s can find plenty of fun in archery.

It only takes skill to master the sport. Over time, you’ll determine your ideal bow, which you can use regularly.

Modern Bows Are Machines

Some people also say that modern bows are mostly machines, taking less effort to shoot an arrow. Consequently, this dilutes the art and strips it of the elements that define it, including precision, patience, and strength.

However, it’s vital to note that what has mostly changed is the bow’s design and material. For example, modern bows are made using carbon, fiberglass, and aluminum, but the function is still the same. Even if they have sights, old bows can have grooves for the same purpose.

Modern bows and arrows have changed in design and material, but archery’s fundamentals are still solidly intact.

You Need to Be Strong

Occasionally, movies portray archers as masculine characters with remarkable physical attributes. This ideology tends to make beginners shun the sport. As noted before, archery is more about skill and technique than it is about brute strength.

When beginning, you can start with a low-poundage trainer bow and progress from there. Just to inspire you, Denise Parker scooped a bronze medal for the USA at the 1988 Olympics at age 13. Surprisingly, she was using a 28-pound draw-weight bow.

Having Bad Eyesight Rules You Out

While eyesight has a role in archery, it’s a smaller element in the whole process. Whatever your vision, you can still enjoy the sport. For example, Im Dong Hyun, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, needs to be ten times nearer to objects to see them, compared with someone with good eyesight.

But this South Korean archer is a former world number one, and he managed to set a world record at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, with an impressive score of 699 out of a possible 720. So bad eyesight is just a poor excuse because, even if you were completely blind, you can still use tactile sighting equipment to shoot.

You Can Use Any Arrow with Any Bow

You see this in movies. Your hero picks up an arrow on a battlefield and shoots it with his bow in one accurate shot. While most arrows can be shot from most bows, there’s another essential element to it.

Every arrow has a spine, which flexes around the bow for an accurate shot. If your arrow doesn’t curve around the bow, then you experience clearance issues, resulting in a missed shot.

Health Benefits of Archery

While archery is fun as a hobby or sport, it also has several other benefits, including the following:

  • Enhances your focus – focus is an essential element in archery. Over time, you can acquire and implement the skill in other areas of your life.

  • Boosts your upper strength – when drawing a bow, your shoulders, chest, arms, and core are engaged, forcing the muscles in those areas to work.

  • Improves hand-eye coordination – your hands rely on your eyes to make the perfect shot. Regular practice helps to enhance this coordination, resulting in a better aim.

  • Grows your social skills – as a sport, archery is mostly a group activity, and this allows you to interact with different people, hence improving your social skills.

  • Boosts your confidence – the sport impacts your mental skills, resulting in improved self-esteem and confidence.

How to Get Started on Archery

If you’re convinced that archery is something you can do as a sport or hobby, then here is what you need to do to get started.

Choose a Type of Bow to Use

There are different types of bows, including recurve, crossbow, and compound bows.

Recurve bows are available in metal, carbon, fiberglass, and wooden options. They have classic looks with graceful curves. This is a good option if you want a bow that offers an experience close to the medieval-type archery.

Crossbows look somewhat futuristic, and a good example is what Daryl Dixon used in The Walking Dead. They have a mechanical trigger, and you can’t hold them at full draw. They also have a latch that holds the bowstring for you. This design makes the bow easy to use.

Compound bows are basically a combination of recurve and crossbows. This is something you’ll want to go for if you’re shopping for a bow that offers the best of both bows. They have a pulley system, known as let-off, which holds a larger portion of the drawn weight. These bows are also easy to use.

Use the Correct Accessories

There are different accessories you can buy to complement your bow. For example, a bow release helps to ensure more accurate and precise shots. You can also get a bow quiver to hold arrows for you at the side of the bow. This provides easy access to arrows after every shot.

Ensure a silent experience with a bow silencer, which reduces vibration, allowing you to focus on your shots. You can also get a stabilizer, which also helps to reduce vibration. Another vital accessory is a bow sight, which helps to improve the accuracy of shots.

Find a Local Archery Club or an Archery Range

As a beginner, it’s vital to find an environment where you can learn the necessary skills and make quick progress. There are archery clubs and ranges that offer introductory programs to help you excel in the art. A good example is USA Archery, which is available in every US state.

Ideal clubs and ranges offer coaches who help beginners overcome the challenges of joining the sport. Regardless of your physical ability or other elements, they can work with you to help you earn the fundamental skills and score achievements.

Final Thoughts

Archery is a fun sport, and it has no limits in terms of gender, age, or ability. If this is something you’d love to do, then get out there and take your shot. You’ll be surprised by how easy and enjoyable it is. Plus, many people are willing to help you through every step.

Whether you want to pursue the sport at a recreational or competitive level, making the first step is all that matters. While you may not make the Hollywood-type shots, you’re sure to hit the bull’s-eye several times, and that will feel great!

References

Archery GB. (2020, January 6). Basic Guide to Equipment.
     https://www.archerygb.org/shoot-compete/shoot/start-to-shoot/basic-guide-equipment/

International Olympic Committee. (n.d.). Archery. Olympic Games.
     https://www.olympic.org/archery

Medieval Life and Times. (n.d.). Medieval Archer.
     http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-life/medieval-archer.htm

Texas Archery Academy. (n.d.). Archery 101: Fundamentals of Archery.
     http://texasarchery.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/ARCHERY-101-Fundamental-of-Archery-ver2-final.pdf

Thomas, M. (2020, February 14). Compound Bow Accessories Guide for Beginners. Quick Archery Tips.
     https://quickarcherytips.com/compound-bow-accessories-guide-for-beginners/

Towens. (2019, October 22). Arrows in the Middle Ages. Bow International.
     https://www.bow-international.com/features/arrows-in-the-middle-ages/

 
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