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Instinctive Archery Vs Anchor Points

Q

"Hello!

I saw a video recently about Lars Anderson in which the narrator made a number of claims about archery and people on the internet have been having a heated debate it ever since. I am curious as to what your opinion of Lars Anderson's new video is? I see you have an older post which talks about him. [See Different Techniques of Rapid Fire Archery to see the post he is referring to.]

- Jamie Y."

A

Hey Jamie!

Yes, I have seen the video numerous times, but just in case other people have not seen it lets shows it again.

Warning - The following video contains many falsehoods, many of which I will explain below why they are false, myths, half-truths or complete fabrications.



So during the video the narrator does make quite a few claims - many of which have been proved erroneous, as the internet is filled with people who are Fact Checkers and take any wild claim as a chance to Fact Check the claims being made. This is especially true of Fact Checkers who look for lies made by politicians.

My personal opinion on that style of archery, known as Instinctive Archery in archery circles, is that it is fun for shooting things at close range (point blank). However it is utterly useless for long range or even mid range accuracy, absolutely useless for hunting, and really only useful for showing off at point blank distances. (Little kids with zero experience can hit the target at point blank distances.)

For more details on the erroneous statements made in the video here is a list of statements and why they are wrong / false assumptions / outright lies.

#1. The narrator claims at the start of the video that ancient techniques of archery have been forgotten. This is wholly untrue. Those techniques have been preserved by the Cherokee (and similar tribes) in North America, by Persian archers in the middle-east and by several different cultures in Asia (most notably Mongolia and Korea). So claiming that the techniques have been forgotten is an outright lie.

#2. Lars Anderson is not "reinventing" anything which has been lost. He is just copying what has already been preserved. He is not using any "forgotten historical methods" because they were never forgotten and are still used in various parts of the world.

#3. Holding the arrows in the drawing hand is nothing new, nor is it reinventing something new.

#4. While the technique of holding arrows in the drawing hand is not as widespread as it once was, it is certainly not gone entirely.

#5. Quoting a book that says "This is the best type of shooting and there is nothing beyond it in power or accuracy" does not make it true. Quite the opposite. If you want power and accuracy with a traditional bow, use an English yew longbow or a Cherokee osage flatbow. The osage flatbow is believed to be similar to the design of the famed Welsh bow (which is believed to have been a yew flatbow). Longbows and flatbows are waaaaaaaay more powerful than the shortbow Lars Anderson is using in the videos, and that power translate into faster arrow speed and more accuracy both at close range and longer distances. In contrast Instinctive Archery is only really accurate within point blank range and comes with a measure of luck (the video of Lars shooting omits all of the failed attempts he did).

#6. "Why has it been forgotten today?" asks the narrator. Again, beating a dead horse here. It wasn't forgotten. It just isn't as commonly used any more.

#7. Modern archers don't actually use back quivers most of the time anyway. They use hip quivers or quivers that attach to their bow like in the images below.



#8. Yes, it is true that modern archers do stand still while firing at a target. This is very important for accuracy at long distances. It is equally important that they use proper form and have a consistent anchor spot with drawing back their arrow to aim. Shooting at long distance targets are exponentially harder to hit - the difference between shooting at 20 yards and shooting at 40 yards is not twice as difficult, in my opinion it is more like four times as difficult. Thus 60 yards is roughly 16 times more difficult and 80 yards is roughly 64 times more difficult than shooting at a target at 20 yards.

To put this in perspective Howard Hill (one of the greatest archers of the last century) once shot an eagle that was 150 yards away (that is roughly twice the distance of what modern Olympic archers shoot at, a mere 70 meters). Shooting a relatively small target like an eagle is not easy, especially at an extreme distance. I guarantee Howard Hill was standing extremely still when he performed that shot.

#8. Not all archers use one eye aiming. While it is true that it is more accurate to use one eye while aiming, not all archers do this. It is a matter of personal choice but some archers do prefer to shoot with both eyes open. This is not an Instinctive Archery method per se, but rather personal preference.

#9. "and other technical gadgets, but that is another story" says the narrator. In this case the narrator completely skips over the purpose of the gadgets which is to help archers to shoot more accurately at longer distances with less reliance on skill or experience (eg. compound bows have so many gadgets that they are very forgiving in terms of accuracy, but you have to learn how to tune them properly in order to attain that accuracy). I myself favour my students learning how to aim the traditional way with no gadgets or sights, with one eye open. How many gadgets or lack of gadgets people use is really a matter of personal preference. It is not "wrong" to want to use gadgets, it just means you are trying to get an advantage so you don't have rely on skill / perfect form so much.

#10. "several movements before you can actually shoot". Okay, so what? Yes, using right-side arrow rests (on a bow where you draw with your right hand) is slower - but it is also more accurate. So what if you can shoot faster? If you are shooting at a target, do you want to shoot at it quickly and miss or do you want to shoot at it accurately and actually hit it? The purpose of archery is not a contest to see who can shoot the fastest. It is to see who can shoot and hit the target - being fastest is just a perk.

There is a story about Byron Ferguson (one of the three greatest archers of the last century) who was at an archery event in the USA when a compound shooter decided to challenge him to a duel of sorts, in which they would both shoot at a target and whoever hit it first won. So speed was a factor in this little duel, but I should note that Byron did not rush it either. The target was a small moving target on a track a long distance away - an incredibly difficult shot for most archers. Byron drew an arrow from his hip quiver. He nocked it, drew back the arrow, aimed for a brief moment and then shot the moving target. He didn't rush through the steps, but he was faster than the compound shooter he was still fiddling with his gadgets by the time Byron's arrow hit the target. Was Byron shooting super fast with his longbow? No. He didn't need to. He just needed to shoot accurately and hit the target. The compound shooter was slower just because he was reliant on his gadgets and sights to do most of the work for him.

In the same contest however, Byron Ferguson Vs Lars Anderson, I guarantee Lars would have got a shot off first - and would have completely missed the target because of the distance. By the time he got to his second or third shot Byron would have hit it accurately.

Accuracy matters more than speed. Shooting quickest doesn't matter squat if you can't hit the target.

#11. So apparently Lars studied old paintings and drawings of archers holding their arrows on the right side of the bow. I am sorry, but I studied painting and art history in university but basing your assumptions on old art pieces opens you up to the problem of the 'ignorant artist'. People who don't know how to do archery at all often depict archery in drawings and paintings in the wrong manner. It is like Picasso's Left Handed Picador, artists make mistakes when draw things they know little about. You cannot use drawings or paintings as historical evidence because often the artist simply doesn't have a clue. Artists also frequently archers drawing bow strings back with two fingers instead of three (the proper way to draw back a bow string). The arrowheads are also frequently painted wrong, and the woulds on Saint Sebastian don't show the shape of the arrowheads penetrating. Paintings are wholly inaccurate on multiple levels.

#12. "which is both faster and better" says the narrator. Nope, no it is not better. Faster yes. Definitely not more accurate.

#13. The narrator assumes that historical archers all used the same techniques of archery. Completely false. Archery techniques not only varied from culture to culture, but also from archer to archer. One style of archery might be more popular in Bhutan for example, but that doesn't mean every Bhutanese archer uses the same techniques and the exact same style. (Bhutan's national sport is archery and modern Bhutan now uses a wide variety of different styles of bows and different styles of archery. The styles uses historically in Bhutan likely also varied wildly from archer to archer and there was no set style common to all Bhutanese archers.)

#14. "and start reading historical manuscripts" says the narrator. Actually no, you don't need to read those at all. Yes, Lars may have read lots of historical manuscripts during his research of so-called 'ancient techniques', but those same techniques are still used today by many different cultures.

#15. "and ultimately it is also more fun." says the narrator. Yes, this is partially true, Instinctive Archery is fun - but not everyone wants to do Instinctive so whether it is "more fun" is a matter of personal preference. Myself I love shooting at moving targets, but I also love shooting long distances on a windy day. Both are those activities are quite a bit of fun, but I wouldn't go telling people it is "more fun" in an authoritative way as if my opinion is somehow the rule of law.

#16. I wonder how many times Lars dropped his bow when trying to toss it in the air and catch it.

#17. "master archers shoot the bow with both hands" says the narrator. Not necessarily. The narrator is quoting a book Lars Anderson supposedly read. Just because the book says so does not make it true.

For example Awa Kenzo - one of the three greatest archers of the last century - always shot right handed. He was reputedly "able to shoot 100 bullseyes with 100 arrows" and during a demonstration in Japan he once shot the filament out of a lightbulb, without shattering the lightbulb. Awa Kenzo is the epitome of the zen master archer - but he only shot with his right hand.

So sorry, but I am calling bogus on the narrator's quote from that book.

#18. "must be able to hit a blade so the arrow splits into two parts". Wow. This book just claims all sorts of stuff. I will also note that Lars does many of these trick shots while standing less than 10 feet (3.33 yards) from the target. Lets see him repeat that shot while at a greater distance.

There is a video of Byron Anderson on YouTube shooting a tylenol pill in the air at a distance of roughly 10 yards (30 feet). That is still a relatively short distance, but I think Lars needs more practice if he wants to catch up to Byron Anderson.

#19. "Archers could also pick up enemy arrows and shoot them back." So what? Anybody can do that. Seriously, anybody with working arms and fingers can pick up an enemy's arrow and shoot it back. How is that an important skill?

#20. Notice how Lars catches the arrow in mid air and then shoots it at a target that is literally a few feet from him. At that distance he would be better off just stabbing the enemy with the arrow.

#21. Shooting at a target up close is not an impressive ability. Sitting at a table and shooting two people across the table from you is something anyone could do. Yes, speed would be handy in that situation, but the moment he takes out his bow wouldn't the enemies just stand up and stab him with a sword?

#22. Again with the claim that "this technique was forgotten". I am really getting tired of these. It was never forgotten, it continued to be practiced. Just because firearms became the primary choice for hunters does not mean people neglected to do archery and preserve old techniques. The Cherokee tribe in the USA for example has maintained an unbroken succession of both archery skills and also bow-making / arrow-making techniques. This means that the skills that are being passed down to young members of the Cherokee tribe today are the same skills that were passed down pre-European settlements in the USA, skills that have been passed down from fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers - doubtlessly skills dating back to the pre-history of their tribe.

#23. Penetrating chainmail armour is not hard to do with an arrow. It is actually ridiculously easy because the chinks in chainmail are designed to reflect blades, not arrows. The arrows go right through the chinks in the armour like a hot knife through butter. Penetrating plate armour, that is difficult. There is a story about a group of Saxons who were chased into a tower by a group of Welsh archers. The Welsh bow was so infamously powerful, but this story demonstrates how much. The Saxons barricaded themselves inside the tower, behind a door made of 4 inches thick oak. The Saxons were wearing chainmail armour, but the arrows from the Welsh archers went right through the 4-inch thick doors, right through the armour, and killed them easily.

#24. I think the reference to using "both hands" to give a bow more power is actually a reference to foot bows. I think Lars / the narrator has misinterpreted the meaning of using both hands. Likely it was used in a manner similar to the footbow shown on the right.

#25. So the narrator says ancient archers were expected to shoot 3 arrows in 1.5 seconds. So... Weird question, but how were they measuring time without a stop watch? Was it really 1.5 seconds or were they using a different measurement of time?

#26. "while speed is important hitting the target is essential" says the narrator. Finally, some truth in this video full of lies, half-truths and glaring historical inaccuracies.

#27. At which point he then tries shooting at a moving arrow with his own arrow. Yes, that clearly requires some skill - although again he does it a ridiculously short distance of mere feet from him - and again we don't get to see all of the failed attempts. And trust me, there would have been plenty of failed attempts before they finally managed to succeed at this archery stunt.

#28. So in the 1938 film "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (featuring a young Howard Hill as a cameo and performing all of the archery stunts) Robin Hood splits an arrow with another arrow. The narrator in Lars' video then says "some consider this to be the ultimate archery trick". Yes, some people might consider that to be the ultimate archery trick. However myself personally, I have hit and split my own arrow on moving targets (and have the photos to prove it) at 60 feet away on a windy day. See my post Robin Hooding a Moving Target from 2014 for details of this feat.


So then the narrator says that "They are wrong. The ultimate archery trick is splitting an incoming arrow in two with one of your own." Apparently at a very short distance - and apparently by editing out all of the failed shots in which he completely missed.

So yes, Lars Anderson does have some impressive speed and accuracy at short distances, but speed is not everything - in fact speed is pretty useless and impractical when it comes to any situation that doesn't involve short range combat.

For hunting purposes, for warfare (which means volleys of arrows), or for competitions then accuracy at longer distances is more important. Most bowhunting occurs at ranges of 20 to 40 yards (60 to 120 feet) and in war archers would be shooting volleys extreme distances anywhere from two hundred yards away to 1400 yards - wherein accuracy was less important because they were counting on the sheer number of arrows raining down death upon the enemy. At short, mid range and long range distances that is when the archers would begin actually aiming at specific targets. Aiming at a target point blank almost never happened because if you were that close to an enemy it is time to get your shield and sword out lest they start hacking you to pieces.

Persian archery - for which Lars Anderson claims to base much of his research on - was specifically a style of horseback archery, which meant archers were shooting at targets that were close range while riding by them on horseback. It is basically the "driveby shooting" style of archery. Horseback archery is not famed for its long or even mid distance accuracy. It is really only accurate at point blank distances.

There have been many websites and videos that have refuted Lars Anderson's newest video and the wild lies from the narrator. My nitpicking of each of the points in the video is nothing new or unusual. I am not "reinventing how to nitpick a video" or making any wild claims of "discovering ancient techniques of how to nitpick videos". I am not the first person to nitpick this video full of outrageous statements, half-truths and lies. We live in a society of people who know how to Fact Check. Deal with it.

The world has lots of trick shooters out there. I am content to be one of them, but I don't need to make phony misinformation to garner attention.

Want to learn how to shoot an arrow? Practice. Preferably by practicing proper techniques with the aid of an archery instructor who knows what they are doing. I do not recommend copying anything you saw in the Lars Anderson video. Copying what he does is just plain dangerous and will likely damage your archery equipment. (For archery lessons in Toronto, contact me or one of the other local archery instructors.)

Learning how to draw back to a consistent anchor point is one of the first steps archers need to learn how to do. Subscribe to Cardio Trek and stay tuned for an upcoming post about consistent anchor points. Update - See Archery Anchor Points.

Below is an art piece of sorts I created using the faces of 8 different archers with their faces overlapped. In the photos they are all pulling back the arrow to approximately the same anchor point.

"Eight Archers, One Anchor Spot"

I ended up making a 2nd version of the image to align their heads and the bow string better than the first draft.

"Eight Archers, One Anchor Spot" (Version II)



Update - If you do want to see a video response to Lars video, I recommend watching "A Response to Lars Andersen: a New Level of Archery" posted by YouTube user "skepticallypwnd". I didn't see that particular video response until after I finished writing this, but it does make some of the many same point I have made and many other archers have made about the ridiculous statements made in Lars' video.

Including one statement which I skipped over, the idea that "the back quiver is a Hollywood myth". The response video points out that the back quiver has existed for millennia - and unlike Lars who apparently is clueless about some things - there are plenty of historical images showing people using back quivers, and while the style of archery used may not be accurately depicted by artists, we can safely say that back quivers are not a "Hollywood myth".

I would like to point out that ancient hunters knew how to stuff a back quiver with fur so their arrows didn't move around / fall out easily, making them both quieter (for hunting purposes, having a quiet quiver is handy) and also helping to prevent the loss of arrows by making it more difficult for arrows to fall out haphazardly.

The video by skepticallypwnd also points out that the mass media sort of jumped on the bandwagon with headlines like "Everything you know about archery is a lie", and then proceeded to quote a video that was itself full of lies, half-truths and misinformation.

I am also happy to see in their video that I am not the only one who caught the "1.5 seconds" lie and asked how they managed to measure time.

Also another page you might be interested in reading is Geek Dad's posting titled "Danish 'Archer' Demonstrates Gullibility of Audience".



UPDATE, February 2016: Glossary of Terms

There seems to be some confusion about the term "Instinctive Archery" and what makes instinctive archery so different from other styles of archery so I have decide to add a quick glossary for those people who don't understand the differences.

Traditional Archery - Aims off the tip of the arrow, utilizes a high anchor point sometimes referred to as North Anchor, Traditional Anchor or High Anchor. Usually no gadgets, although arrowrests are sometimes used. Sometimes also called "Barebow Archery". Commonly uses many kinds of more traditional styles of bows, longbows, shortbows and traditional recurves, including ethnic varieties like the Turkish horsebow, the Korean horsebow, the Japanese yumi, the English longbow, the Cherokee flatbow, etc.

Gap-Shooting Traditional Archery - This is a sub-type of Traditional Archery, which uses the same techniques as Traditional Archery, with the exception of how to aim. Instead of aiming off the tip of the arrow, Gap Shooting involves using the gap between the target and the side of the bow / shooting window. Gap Shooting is usually used by experienced archers who have been shooting for a very long time.

Olympic Archery - Aims off a sight attached to the bow, utilizes gadgets like a clicker, stabilizer, and arrowrest. Also uses a low anchor point sometimes referred to as South Anchor, Olympic Anchor or Low Anchor. Utilizes Olympic archery equipment designed specifically for shooting at 70 meter targets during competitions.

Compound Bow Archery - Aims through a smaller peep sight and off a sight attached to the bow. utilizes pulley cams to create a let off on draw weight, stabilizer, complex arrowrests (eg. drop away arrowrests, whisker-biscuits, etc) and does not normally use a fixed anchor point because the peep sight is doing most of the work in that respect and worrying about an anchor point is considered unnecessary on a compound bow.

Instinctive Archery - Doesn't aim off anything in particular, does not use any kind of sights or gadgets, does not necessarily have a fixed draw length or a fixed anchor point - this doesn't mean the archer doesn't sometimes use an anchor point, it merely means that most instinctive shooters do not use a fixed anchor point. However it should be noted that if they are looking at the target and using a fixed anchor point, then they might be technically Gap-Shooting without realizing it and they are not doing instinctive archery. eg. Lars Anderson does not use a fixed anchor point. Many people confuse Gap-Shooting with Instinctive Archery, mostly because they don't know what the difference is.

Equestrian Archery - Firing a bow from the back of a horse, usually while the horse is in motion. Often utilizes either Traditional or Instinctive archery techniques, as well as specific techniques designed for equestrian archery, eg. a "live" horseman's release, during which the drawing arm moves backwards away from the bow after releasing the arrow.

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