Q: I’ve been shooting a longbow for a while but it is only now that I’m actually thinking more seriously about practicing archery. Just going out and flinging some arrows down the range doesn’t improve my skills. Is there anything I should know about how to practise?
A: Byron Ferguson said that it is not practice that makes perfect, but perfect practice that makes perfect. Never aim when working on your form, and never expect shooting distances to improve your form! I always divide my sessions into those when I practise my form, and those when I shoot distances and work on my instinctive distance recognition and aiming. I never aim when that is not the purpose of the session. The reason for this is that when you’re working on your technique your entire concentration should be on what your body is doing; how your muscles work and what level of comfort that gives you. In turn, when you shoot distances, your entire concentration should be on the target, with your mind only recognising the sensation of your body performing all the elements of a shot sequence correctly. When you practise make sure that you work on one element of your form at a time.
One of the most essential elements of a good practice session is to be able see what your body is doing, because this will help you connect the sensation you experience during the entire shot sequence with a visual representation of what your body is actually doing – for example, if you’re leaning forward while raising the bow, if you push out the bow arm during drawing, and so on. A mirror will help you fish out all those unnecessary movements.
Also, remember that your target should be at your chest level, not on the ground. This will ensure that your stance is balanced and that you’re not leaning forward or dropping your bow arm low. Once you’ve shot some groups from just a few steps away from the target, start shooting from a distance you’re confident at and start connecting what you’ve been working at with aiming. Shooting distances will quickly verify if your shot alignment is correct or if your arrows still go to the left or right. Even if you miss the middle you want to see the arrows group. This is how I practise every day and it works for me!
The Glade Ask The Experts – in association with Fairbow