The essential library you need – and why

We’re bringing you some of the latest picks that you should add to your reading list, by Emma Davis and Tom Hall

Archery Anatomy

Author: Ray Axford. Paperback, 164 pages
Publisher: Souvenir Press
(First published in 1995)

Archery Anatomy is what it says on the tin: an introduction to anatomy aimed at archers (and coaches). It’s pitched as a reference guide rather than an authoritative manual for archery technique. 

Does it succeed? To an extent. The first stumbling block is the structure and flow of the writing itself. Sections within each chapter get a generic title with numbered extensions. Likewise, the diagrams are all numbered but lack useful descriptive captions and many of them also look very similar at first glance.

This is partially forgivable as they are trying to depict small changes to true scale, but it clearly signposted differences would make for much easier reading.

These issues make attempting to skim for information difficult, requiring you to plough through the bulk text to hunt down the key messages. This isn’t any easier either, as the text contains many long sentences, with some making up entire paragraphs. Ultimately this makes Archery Anatomy challenging both as a read and as a reference book. 

Moving on to the content, there is certainly some useful material. We start with a nice simple introduction to bones, joints and muscles with lots of clear diagrams.

The shoulder and arms naturally get the most detailed description, and a basic understanding this area is certainly useful to any archer who has found themselves nodding through a physio explanation of an injury. However, there are some confusing variations from modern terminology e.g. “great terete” instead of the “teres major” muscle.

The meat of the book starts in the second half with a solid discussion of forces about the bow shoulder. Axford emphasises considering both the draw force and mass of the bow.

If angled correctly, the line of the resulting combined force can help prevent the bow shoulder collapsing backwards. This is something new and intermediate archers often struggle with.

Axford also shows how differences in body shape can make parts of this easier or harder, and explores the effects of changing the bow’s power to weight ratio. This section is definitely the highlight of the book.

The accompanying section covering the draw side is less clear. Mainly it focuses on different approaches to drawing the bow and comes out in favour of a ‘high draw’ over a ‘T draw’.

Yet many modern athletes are using the KSL angular draw to great effect. This variation alleviates many of the flaws of the T-draw, but is unfortunately too recent a development to be covered in this book.

In the end, Archery Anatomy is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, there isn’t another book that fills the niche it occupies. On the other, it feels dated and is difficult to read.

It is something the more experienced reader should tackle if they get the chance – but, as Ray suggests himself at the end, be prepared to take a critical mindset, because there are no set answers when it comes to the human body.

“I found this interesting as an intermediate archer, thirsty for knowledge. Coming back a few years later I realise this could be as confusing as it is informative.” – Tom Hall

The Pressure Principle

Author: Dr Dave Alred MBE. Paperback, 272 pages
Publisher: Penguin
(First published in 2016)

“This book is dedicated to all those who think they can’t.” These are powerful words for a powerful book – and the author certainly knows something about power.

Alred has worked with several athletes that require a combination of physical and mental power, including England rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson, whose quote adorns the cover of the latest edition. 

Most examples in the book come from rugby or golf rather than target shooting sports, but the underlying messages are universal. Especially when it comes to spotlight moments, where it is just you versus the target.

Think of a match-winning penalty, a long putt to secure a championship, or the last arrow of a scored round. The feeling of pressure, that the whole world is watching and judging us, is one we can surely all relate to. 

Covering a range of mental, social and technical factors, this book distills pressure management into eight simple principles. The result is a clear outline of the ways pressure can be anticipated and managed.

He also references Timothy Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis (which we reviewed recently) and reinforces a lot of similar ideas. Both authors encourage implicit learning in place of excessive explicit instruction.

Throughout, Alred’s principles appear well-founded and make logical sense. When covering technique, he asserts that you should aim to build a technique that will be robust in pressure situations. For example, he adjusts players kicking techniques to strike in a straighter line.

The result is that increased muscle tension while under pressure creates less deviation. Discussing learning, he introduces the “ugly zone”, a place where you must fail repeatedly in order to progress beyond your present limits. It sounds unpleasant but he urges us to learn how to make peace with being there.

Advising on the power of language, he references the emotive words used in ad campaigns and film trailers. He highlights that non-verbal cues such as posture and body language are also shown to help with controlling performance anxiety.

While the book can be read cover to cover, each chapter mostly stands alone. Combined with the concise summaries provided at the end of each chapter, review and reinforcement is made easy. The finale is a brief motivational talk entitled “You Can Do This” and a short fictional story that displays correct use of the methods learned.

All in all, this is a well written book; easy to digest and with plenty of motivating examples throughout. His passion and belief in the power of effective language shines through in the writing itself.

There’s a lot of overlap with similar works, but the focus on removing barriers through words and thoughts is what gives The Pressure Principle its magic touch.

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