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Archery Lessons in Toronto + Do-It-Yourself Approach

Note - So years ago I wrote this article for "The Canadian Daily", an online magazine which has since disappeared. Since it is no more I realized I should republish the article here instead. Thus while the information here may be a little redundant when compared to some of my other articles, it is not wholly redundant. There are some useful parts in here that are not mentioned elsewhere on my website. Also I have updated parts of the article.



Hello!

My name is Charles and I am a personal trainer in Toronto. However on the side I also teach archery, boxing, swimming and ice skating. Depends on the season really.

When it comes to my sports training activities it is the archery lessons that get the most attention (thanks to all the movies and media fuss in 2012). However there simply aren’t a lot of places or people in Toronto that offer private archery lessons.

There are archery clubs (like Hart House at the University of Toronto) and even an archery school, but when people want private lessons and don’t want to spend a bundle there isn’t a lot of options.

(Update April 2014 – Toronto now has an archery club, the Toronto Archery Club on Meetup.com. So that is a new option for the Do-It-Yourselfers out there.)
There really is not a lot of options. Especially for kids, since many places don’t teach kids, with the exception of summer camps which exclusively teach kids - but often have shoddy equipment and sometimes even instructors who have never even touched a bow.

Now you could hire me – that is a given. But what I am going to do here is talk about the Do-It-Yourself Approach to Learning Archery. There are definite pros and cons to the DIY approach which I will explain.

#1. You will need to buy equipment. To get a decent beginner package of equipment you are going to need to spend approx. $300 to $350. If you want to get into Olympic archery you need to be thinking $1,000 to $1,500 – but I don’t recommend Olympic archery for beginners. If you want to get into compound archery / hunting / bowfishing you are looking at $500 to $1,000 depending on the type of compound bow you get. Again, I don’t recommend compounds for beginners either because they are more complicated since you have to learn how to tune them. I argue it is better to learn recurve first, and then you can switch to your chosen style of archery.
 
Note: Deciding what kind of archer you want to be is an important decision. I personally teach traditional recurve archery because all the truly great archers were traditional archers and my personal intent is to follow in their footsteps. This doesn’t mean you can’t go down the road of Olympic or Compound shooting, simply that it is a personal choice that each archer must make and their decision should be respected. You can even try to do more than one style of archery – but it would be a huge investment as you will need different sets of equipment. For myself my next bows will be a traditional Japanese yumi bow and a traditional Korean shortbow – because I want to explore other unique types of traditional archery.

#2. Where to buy equipment. The place I used to recommend the most is Tent City in North York, near Steeles and Dufferin, which had a fair selection and if they don’t have it then they can order it for you. Unfortunately Tent City is no longer there as they ran into financial troubles after a fire on their roof years ago. But there is also Bass Pro in Vaughan which caters more to compounds and hunting / bowfishing, and The Bow Shop in Waterloo which has a much bigger selection, but is evidently further away.

All else fails, you can purchase equipment via Amazon.ca or similar websites and just have it delivered.

#3. You will need to learn proper archery form. Beginners learning archery need to focus on form a lot. You need to learn how to stand, how to pull the bow, how to anchor your shot, how to aim, how to follow through, how to make lines and clusters, how to adjust your shot – and how to learn from your mistakes. Oh and how to multitask unconsciously because you’re expected to do a lot of this all at the same time without really thinking about it.

Note: You can get a lot of free archery tips off my website in the archery section. But even that only scratches the surface.

#4. To learn form it is best to have an archery instructor (like me!) who can coach you and tell you what to do, what you are doing wrong, and help train you away from bad habits you are making and steer you towards good habits which will increase the quality of your shots. However if you don’t want an instructor you are going to be relying on trial and error and complete guesswork – which will take forever because archery is a sport for perfectionists and you will be making lots of mistakes. Thus if you want the DIY route I do have a book to recommend you. It is called “Precision Archery” and is edited / written by Steve Ruis and Claudia Stevenson (the editors of Archery Focus Magazine). The book is basically a list of the best articles from their magazine and has 14 chapters covering everything from equipment to form to aiming to competitions. There are other books I recommend reading too, but Precision Archery will cover a lot of the topics you will want to learn – and it covers multiple styles of archery.

#5. Weightlifting… Thanks to The Hunger Games, Brave, The Avengers, Arrow, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and even the British film Hanna archery is super popular right now. But many of these films present a false understanding of archery and people think that it is easy to pull a bow. It is not. Most beginners are stunned by how much more effort it requires just to pull a 24 lb recurve. The more powerful bows require quite a bit of strength to pull back and hold steady – strength that is beyond the average person.

To backtrack to equipment it is important that a person’s first bow be one they can actually pull back easily – but still has some physical challenge to it so that they are building extra muscle so that they improve physically with time. This is why I bring up the topic of weightlifting. If you want to have a physical edge in archery, to be able to hold the bow more steady, to pull more powerful bows, to get better range and accuracy, then you are going to need to do weightlifting that targets your back, shoulders and triceps. Forearm strength helps a bit too – which means using hand grips to build up those muscles.

Note: I recommend specific exercises to my archery students, but the exercise I recommend most is good ol’ fashioned push ups. Do 20 push ups 5 times per day and you will be building up many of the muscles which will give you a physical edge in archery. Some archers even like to do push ups, stretches and other exercises before shooting to warm up their muscles. (Push ups targets the shoulders, triceps and pectorals. The shoulders and triceps are used a lot in archery, and the pectorals are mirror muscles for the back muscles – which is useful for maintaining balance and form. Over time many archers get overdeveloped back muscles and then their form and balance suffers because their pectorals are too weak. By doing push ups regularly it helps to rectify that problem while simultaneously building the shoulders and triceps.)

#6. Location. The place to go in Toronto is E.  T. Seton Archery Range (also known as The Toronto Public Archery Range) in E. T. Seton Park, near the corner of Don Mills Road and Gateway Boulevard. To get there take the 25 bus from Pape Station or if driving I recommend parking in the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot near the Tim Hortons. Then walk down the hill westward on Gateway Boulevard and part way down the hill you will see several shortcuts after the fence which lead near the archery range.

Note: If you live outside of Toronto and unable to make the trip to E. T. Seton then you will need to find a suitable place to do archery. I do not recommend your back yard because that could get you charged with reckless endangerment. A better solution would be a grassy field on a farm.

#7. You are going to lose a lot of arrows if you don’t have someone coaching you. This is a given so remember to buy lots of arrows. My advice is that you don’t muck or fool about with your aim. When in doubt aim really low because the arrow will arc upwards and your first shots might even go over the target if it is only 20 yards away. Archery is part geometry and physics in that the arrows are going to arc and you need to learn where to aim in order to have your arrows hit dead center. Aim low, hit high.

#8. Don’t do archery in a place where you will break or lose arrows easily. eg. Shooting at a tree in the woods may look good in the movies, but you will break your arrows on the tree or lose them in the woods. You want a nice soft surface (like a professional archery target butt) and a grassy field or hill behind the target so you can find your arrows easily.

#9. Don’t expect to be amazingly good in an hurry. It takes years to master archery. Archery is a journey and it requires patience and lots of practice.

#10. If you change your mind and want archery lessons in Toronto you know where to find me. A couple lessons and I can have you set on the right track.

Happy Shooting!

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