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Feel Vs Technique - Archery

"If it feels wrong, just start over."

Have you ever done an archery shot and it just felt wrong for some unknown reason?

This is the point when I tell students to just start over. The saying goes "If it feels wrong, just start over."

The execution of a shot should feel normal/natural. If something feels weird, odd, off... Just start over.

You could be doing everything you can think of technically correct, in terms of technique, but if something feels off - even if it is purely mental - I will still argue it is better to start over than to shoot a shot that feels wrong.

It is possible that an archery could be doing something weird with their neck or shoulders and they become aware that something feels off. They wouldn't necessarily notice that something is a bit off if it is something unusual that isn't on their normal checklist of things to do before releasing a shot.

Technique Vs Good Habits

Ideally what archers want to do is to chip away at their bad habits and replace them with good habits. You do this by fostering techniques (and technical knowledge of form) so that you can add it to the checklist of things you do before performing a shot.

Being aware of the technical issues of form is necessary to become self-aware of your form. You don't necessarily need to know the name of what you are doing correctly/wrong, it is more important that you simply know the issue exists and can add it to the things you are checking before shooting.

As an archer's form technique improves likewise they start to develop more good habits, habits which eventually effectively replace technique and you stop consciously thinking about it because it is "just habit".

The problem exists however when an archer persists in a bad habit because they're not aware of it. If they're aware of it then they can consciously work to correct the bad habit, but if they're not aware of it at all then they are hampering their progress because they don't know what they are doing wrong.

If an archer doesn't know what they are doing wrong that is a good time to consult an archery instructor or ask a fellow archer to watch them shoot and hopefully they will spot what they are doing wrong.

Eg. I had an Olympic archer approach me years ago who couldn't figure out why his shots were going erratically to the left. I watched him shoot just a few shots and determined he was unnecessarily tensing his anterior deltoid (also known as the front deltoid) and that this was causing his arm to jerk to the left during shots. This isn't normally a muscle archers even think about when shooting, and with beginner archers it is usually the posterior deltoid (rear deltoid) that they end up tensing by accident. He was doing the opposite and wasn't aware what he was doing wrong, he just knew that something "felt wrong".


In A Nutshell

A beginner archer learns technique, and keeps doing it until they chip away their bad habits and replace them with good habits. Learning the various aspects of form can be technically challenging, and a beginner cannot learn everything all at once. It takes time. It takes practice. Eventually, with ample time, the habits start to take over.

An experienced* archer shoots based upon feel. Everything they do when performing a shot should be based upon habit and feel. If something feels wrong then they remember the technique and double check what they might be doing wrong.


* Obviously there are different levels of experience when it comes to archery. An archer who has been shooting for 30+ years (like myself) will be shooting (and feeling) their shots differently from someone who has only been shooting for a year or two. 

An "experienced archer" may have different fortes (things that they're good at). Some might be better / more experienced at shooting longer distances. Some might be more familiar with shooting at moving targets. Some might also be more versatile. My goal during my archery lessons is to give students a comprehensive knowledge of archery so that they are more versatile and can reach higher plateaus of excellence by having constant challenges.

It has been my experience that stagnation happens when an archer stops looking for challenges and is no longer pushing themselves to get better. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this. Some archers are simply content with their current level of skill and want to maintain it through practice, and if they happen to get better over time due to regular practice then they are content with that too.

I would argue therefore that sometimes even so-called "experienced archers" should try to challenge themselves / learn new things in order to become better archers.

 

The learning process only ever reaches a plateau when you stop trying to reach new heights.

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