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Proper Archery Form

Notice her finger positions on her drawing hand,
this woman is using a Mongolian style thumb ring.
Archery is one of those sports where proper form matters a lot - especially if you are a beginner.

To an experienced archer - one with years of experience - they can attempt to make a shot despite unstable footing, a weird angle, moving target, or even being on horseback in the case of equestrian archery. But for the beginner form is exceptionally important.

It is a case where you need to learn how to shoot under ideal conditions with perfect form, and then as you progress as years go by the archer will have learned enough that they can perform more difficult shots despite adverse conditions - because their experience has reached the point where they know how to compensate.

In the photo below you see a traditional archer leaning forward into the shot. This is something an archer would only do after years of experience.

Proper Archery Form

#1. Stand with both feet apart, roughly shoulder distance apart. Both feet should be pointed roughly 90 degrees away from the target.

#2. Your hips and shoulders should be lined up towards the target.

#3. Your bow arm (left arm if you are right eye dominant) should be facing towards the target. When extended do NOT lock your elbow. Instead try to relax your arm.

#4. Having nocked an arrow to the bowstring place three fingers on the bowstring, one above and two below, using a tab or finger gloves. (Some archers like to use all three fingers below. Personal preference.) Leave a bit of space, 1 or 2 mm, around the arrow so you don't squeeze the arrow by accident.

(An alternative to using finger gloves or a tab you can also use a Mongolian Draw / Mongolian Release, which requires a special archery thumb ring. More about that to come in a future post.)

Mongolian Style Thumb Ring
#5. Don't touch the arrow with your thumb. There is no need to use your thumb on the arrow or the bowstring. Same thing goes with your pinky finger.

#6a. The Predraw - Predraw refers to pulling the bowstring part way and then checking to see if everything feels okay. If something feels wrong just start over. If your body tells you something isn't right don't ignore it, start over. You could be gripping the bow wrong, your stance might be wrong, your grip on the bowstring could be twisting the bowstring more than usual - any number of things could feel wrong on a subconscious level and warrant starting over. This is referred to as "checking your predraw".

#6b. Pull the bowstring (not the arrow) back towards your face so it is under your right eye (or your left eye if you are left eye dominant). Don't pull it back to your ear. Pull back so it is near the corner of your mouth or your chin. This is so you can see clearly down the shaft of the arrow and now which direction it is going to go. Remember the spot where you pulled back to and continue pulling back to that point during each shot. That spot is referred to as your Anchor Point.

#7. Your forearm on your pulling arm should be aligned straight with the arrow. It should make a nice straight line with the arrow. If your elbow is too high or low your arm will shake more and your shots will be more errant. This is a common beginners mistake and it needs to be rectified so the archer can progress. The mistake is most common with archers who have never studied proper archery form.

#8. While pulling the bowstring back keep your back / spine nice and straight. Curving the spine is a common beginners mistake. See photo of Marilyn Monroe below making this common mistake.

 #9. While aiming try to keep perfectly still. This is a difficult skill to master. An advanced skill is to learn to breathe into your belly so your chest doesn't go up and down.

#10. During your release try not to jerk your bow arm up / down or left / right. During the milliseconds during which your arrow is released any slight jerking motion in the bow can cause the arrow to go in a different direction.

#11. The Follow Through - After your release maintain the same position for a few seconds and follow your shot. This is more a mental practice than a physical one. Use the moment to try and learn from any mistakes you may have made.

#12. Draw another arrow and repeat, paying attention to your form. When in doubt have an archery instructor or a friend point out errors you are making in your form.

There is a lot more a person can learn on the topic of Proper Archery Form - I have touched only the bare essentials here. There is a lot more to learn if you are interested in having archery lessons.

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