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Showing posts with label Archery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Archery. Show all posts

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!

Buying and Tuning Archery Equipment

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 part of the article, as the store "Tent City" no longer exists.


By Charles Moffat - November 2014. Updated February 2019.

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is what equipment archery students should purchase, and how to tune it.

To answer this question I first need to balance how much a student wants to spend with whether they are planning to compete eventually – or if they want to jump straight into competitions, and if so, what kind of competitions because Olympic archery is really only one style of competitive shooting.
There is Arco Nudo (no gadgets), Flight Archery, Field Archery, Clout Shooting, 3D competitions, and some competitions even have moving targets. There is even more bizarre archery sports like Equestrian Archery (on horseback), Archery Biathalon (cross country skiing combined with archery), and other similar events. I personally think it would be fun if someone made an Archery Obstacle Course, wherein participants must make their way their way through an obstacle course as quickly as possible and score as many points as possible.

My recommendation regardless of what style of competition they are planning to get into is to get a beginner bow for that style – just to see if you like it. Or if you are not certain then you should start with the basic 3-piece takedown recurve. (To browse various types of 3-piece bows please read the reviews posted on ArcheryToronto.ca: Review of Three Piece Takedown Recurve Bows. The links below are hyperlinked to the individual reviews for the bows mentioned and will take you to that specific review.)

The recurve bows I recommend most for beginners on a budget are:

The Jandao Recurve is identical to the PSE Razorback, the only difference is the label and the price. The bow is available in 2 lb increments.

Price is $120, although prices vary so you may need it is a higher price at your local store.

The Samick Sage is prettier than the Jandao, but you have to be able to pull 25 lbs easily if you want to buy it because it is only available in 5 lb increments, starting at 25.

Price is $150, although prices vary so you may need it is a higher price at your local store.

Before purchasing either of these bows however I first need to test the strength of the beginning archer. Normally I do this while teaching the archery lesson, during which I start the student off with a light poundage bow – 18 lbs – and then have them shoot with it for 30 minutes or so to see how well they can pull it back, how easily they fatigue, and so forth.

Commonly beginners discover that archery involves a lot more physical strength than they were expecting – even to pull a 18 lb bow (which is considered to be a small amount when compared to more experienced archers that are typically pulling between 30 and 60 lbs). Don’t expect to be pulling large amounts in the beginning however because beginners often have weak back muscles and complementary muscles which are not used to the strain. Attempting to pull more than you can will result in arm, shoulder and back pain – and unlike weightlifters who like to claim “no pain no gain”, in this case pain can lead to chronic strain problems that will prevent you from practicing altogether, so why risk a disability when you can take your time and progress at a safer speed? Ego? Ego is the bane of archers and messes with both their body and their mind, both of which you need to be top form if you are to succeed.

If a person is petite or skinny I typically advise them to start with either an 18 or 20 lb bow, which means they will end up going for the Jandao bow mentioned above or a bow similar to that.

If a person is stronger / more robust they might be able to handle a 24, 25 or 26 lb bow, which means they can choose between a 24 or 26 lb Jandao or a 25 lb Samick Sage.

Someone who is quite strong (football player esque) can handle a 28, 30 or 32 lb bow, which means they can choose between a 28, 30 or 32 lb Jandao or a 30 lb Samick Sage.

Exception – If you are purchasing a compound bow and plan to be hunting with it you will want to set it up for 40 to 50 lbs. Have them do that in the store for you when you purchase it. Preferably buy one that is easy to adjust (the Diamond Infinite Edge for example is very easy to adjust and available at Bass Pro in Vaughan). When choosing what weight to use you will want at least the minimum poundage legally required for whatever you are hunting. Hopefully the compound bow you are choosing has a high let off rate (70 to 85% would be nice). Make sure you can actually pull it back and hold it steady.

Some people will likely ignore my recommendations when it comes to starting with a low poundage bow. People are certainly free to choose bows that are more powerful than they can properly handle and I won’t be surprised when such people tire too easily, give up because it is too difficult, etc. You have to think of it a bit like you are at the gym and you go over to the dumbbells. Which set of dumbbells do you pick? The big 30 lb dumbbells, the medium-sized 25 lb dumbbells, or the smaller 15 or 20 lb dumbbells. Wisdom tells us that we should start low and work our way up. Ego tells you “Pick the biggest one! Pick the biggest one!”

However there is a trick to this. The advantage to three-piece recurves is that the brand model limbs can be purchased separately and are interchangeable, which means you can always buy more powerful limbs later on. Thus my strong recommendation is that you start low, with a comfortable number, and then after you’ve been shooting for a good period of time (3 months or more) then when you feel ready you can come back and buy an extra pair of limbs for your bow which are more powerful.

Thus if you purchase a 25 lb Samick Sage for example you might come back later and buy 30 or 35 lb limbs when you feel you are ready for a challenge.

I have seen beginner archers go out and buy a 60 lb bow they can’t even string properly, let alone pull. Presumably the bow they purchased either ends up in the closet collecting dust or they sell it for a loss and buy one they can actually use properly.

Tuning your Arrows

When it comes to tuning your arrows you want arrows that have the correct spine (flexibility) for the bow you are using. An arrow that is too flexible will snap and break. An arrow that is not flexible enough won’t flex properly as it flies through the air, will be too heavy, less accurate, etc. To get the most accuracy you want arrows that are the correct spine.

To do this we first need to determine your draw length. With your bow arm extended (for most people this will be your left arm) measure the distance from the base of your thumb (not the tip, just the base, closer to your wrist) to the right corner of your mouth. The measurement, depending on your height, will usually be between 26 and 32 inches. For most people it will be about 28 to 30 inches. This indicates the length of the arrow you should be purchasing in order to attain full draw. Some people also add an extra 1/2 or 1 inch to the total just for safety’s sake or to give them the ability to overdraw the arrow.

In a store they will sometimes have an arrow or a stick with measurements on it they can use to give you an accurate measurement.

Many stores have 29 inch pre-cut arrows that are for sale, which will suit most people who are of average height. Anyone shorter than that can choose between leaving them that length (will be less accurate) or having them cut shorter so they fit your draw length better.

Next you need to read the following chart, which is also available on my website at Three Frequently Asked Questions about Archery Equipment. Using the draw length measurements across the top, compare that with the weight of your bow going down the left side – then find the corresponding 3-digit Arrow Spine Number in the middle. So if you are using a 25 lb Samick Sage and have a 29 inch draw, then you should purchase 600 spine arrows.


A big mistake many beginners make is that they end up with a pile of mismatched arrows. Maybe they lost a bunch, maybe they found some (and neglected to put them in the lost and found box), or maybe they even found broken arrows and decided to fix them (giving new life to broken arrows is a personal hobby of mine). What you will find however is that these arrows will be different weights, different spines, different lengths, and consequently each arrow will shoot differently – which means your chance of making clusters of arrows on the target will be dramatically reduced. (To learn more about how to shoot arrow clusters read some of the posts on my Archery Tips page.) Ideally you want to have arrows which weigh the same, are the same length, the same spine, everything is identical. Including the Arrowhead.

Tuning your Arrowheads

To get a better understanding of this please read my post “What the eff is FOC Weight?” which explains the acronym Front-Of-Center and how it applies to arrow balance. Basically what you want is at close range you want to be using arrowheads that are suited to the task, which in this case are heavier and moves the balancing point closer to the tip of the arrow – and makes them more accurate. At longer distances you want to be using lightweight arrowheads, which moves the balancing point closer to the middle – but still Front of the Center of the arrow.

  • At 20 to 30 yards you want to be using 125 to 150 grain arrowheads.*
  • At 40 to 50 yards you want to be using 85 to 100 grain arrowheads.*
  • At 60 yards or more you want to be using 50 to 75 grain arrowheads.*
* This is just an example and is not always true. Depending on the weight of the arrow, it may be more optimal to use specific weights at different distances.

When it comes to tuning your arrowheads there is no “one size fits all”. For beginners it is recommended you buy 125 grain arrowheads (150s are harder to find in stores and are often made for wider shaft arrows) and then stick to the closer targets anyway until your skill has improved to the point that your arrow clusters are the size of a doughnut – and you are scoring at least 40 out of 50 every round with 5 arrows on a standard FITA 40 cm target. If you cannot shoot at least a score of 40 with 5 arrows regularly on the short distances then you are simply not ready to be trying to hit the longer distances.

Tuning your Fletching

Normally the fletching comes with the arrows, so unless you want to be cutting the fletching off and gluing on new fletching you probably are not going to be tuning this so much as you are going to be purchasing arrows with the fletching already on there – or ordering custom made arrows with the fletching you want.

The colour of the fletching doesn’t matter with respect to accuracy – although having bright, easy to find colours on there certainly helps if you ever lose an arrow.
 
What matters more with fletching is the length of the fletch, the width of the fletch, the shape of the fletch – and the type of fletching you are using.

If you are using a compound bow you will want to be using Vane Fletching – vanes are stiff pieces of plastic, and are typically either short or long fletch.

If you are using a longbow, traditional recurve, shortbow, etc then you will want Feather Fletching – which comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and is typically between 2 and 5 inches long.

If you plan on shooting at birds or doing small game hunting (or competing in 3D events) you will likely want Flu Flu Feathers – which are extra wide (2″ or so) feather fletched arrows that are often brightly coloured to make them very easy to spot.

The length of fletching effects its accuracy at different distances, depending on the wind conditions. Longer fletches are more accurate on a non-windy day, shorter fletches are more accurate on a windy day. At short distances there won’t be a huge difference in accuracy because the arrow isn’t in the air long enough for the wind to effect it overly much, but at longer distances the longer fletch arrows will give you more accuracy under normal conditions because it keeps the arrow going straighter – whereas shorter fletch will be more accurate if it is windy because the wind will catch the larger fletching sideways and turn the arrow so it loses much of its accuracy. (Obviously you don’t want to be using Flu Flu Arrows on a windy day.)

When it comes to shape of the fletching there are many different kinds, including:
Parabolic, Shield and Traditional are pretty commonly used. Banana, Low-Banana, Swift, T-Hawk, and Pope & Young all have their pros and cons.

The shape and size of the fletching effects how straight it flies, how fast it flies, how much it contacts the arrowrest (or in the case of longbow/shortbow archers shooting off their glove, how much it contacts their glove).

The Swift fletch design for example is basically identical to the Parabolic, but has been trimmed somewhat to make it thinner and lighter in an effort to give it more speed. The Low-Banana is the same idea – nearly identical to the Banana, but designed for speed instead of accuracy.

What style of fletching an archer chooses often depends on the style of shooting you are using the arrows for and whether you want more speed, more accuracy or maybe you just don’t want the fletch rubbing against the arrowrest so much.

Tuning your Arrowrest

If you are completely new to archery you might not know what an arrowrest is. Scroll up, look a the photo at the top. That is the riser from a Samick Sage with a cheap plastic arrowrest on there.
Now pay attention. Your arrowrest is arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment you will own.

 Why? It is because every time an arrow leaves your bow the first and last thing it touches will be the arrowrest, and you want your arrowrest to be accurate and consistent. If you buy a cheap plastic arrowrest don’t expect it to stay the same with every shot you do. With every shot the plastic wears down, it becomes uneven, it starts to rip, and it will eventually fall apart and have to be replaced. There is also the matter that the harder and more durable a plastic arrowrest is the more it rubs against the fletching during each shot, which can lead to inaccuracy if it is rubbing too much or rubbing inconsistently.

More traditional archers like to use fur arrowrests (available at various archery stores) which allows the arrow to slide across the surface of the fur gently and this cushion of fur allows the arrow to not be rubbing against anything too hard that would cause it to lose accuracy.

Example: The bow on the right features a traditional fur arrowrest which has been glued in place.

Now the fur will eventually wear down, but the good news is that fur is surprisingly durable despite being so soft and it should last a good long time before it needs to be replaced.

Another option is to buy a more modern arrowrest made of metal and other materials.
Your options are drop down arrowrests, drop away arrowrests, spring loaded arrowrests, wire arrowrests, whisker biscuit arrowrests and hostage arrowrests. There are many more types, but I am not going to list them all.

When it comes to these modern arrowrests (many of which are most commonly used on compound bows) they usually come with instructions on how to tune them. This will usually require you to tune the arrowrest to the weight of the arrow, to adjust it to left or right, up or down, to make certain it is centered on both the X and Y axis, and so forth.

For best results read the instructions that come with the arrowrest so you can tune it properly. I am not going to give the tuning instructions here for the literally hundreds of different arrowrests that are available out there.

If you purchased a compound bow then your bow likely came with either a whisker biscuit or a hostage arrowrest. Both are quite good and you likely won’t even need to tune them if they were already tuned in the factory.

Tuning your Hand Gear

How you release your shot is equally important as what you are using. Regardless of whether you choose to go with a tab, gloves or mechanical release you will want one that works well for you. Some people (myself included) find tabs annoying. I would rather shoot with a thumb ring than shoot with a tab. This is an area of shooting that comes down to personal preference (unless you are shooting compound, in which case you have only two choices: mechanical or gloves).

Pick the method you find to be the most comfortable for you and learn to shoot with that as best you can. As time progresses try other styles of gloves, tabs, etc and find the one that works best for you.
For example I have 6 different styles of shooting gloves in a box at home, I also have 3 different tabs, 2 thumb rings, and 2 mechanical releases. Of these I have determined that of all the equipment I use, I prefer the Neet gloves (size large), the Regent Archery Persian-style gloves (size medium), and the more expensive mechanical release because it just works better and is less fussy to use – not because it is more expensive, simply because it is the easiest to use.

Tuning what hand gear you use for shooting with will be something you play with along the way. For beginners I recommend you find a pair of Neet gloves in your size and then experiment with other styles of releasing as you progress. Don’t go trying to skip to thumb rings or something more difficult to learn until you have mastered how to shoot using something simpler.

Other Gadgets

If you are looking to tune a sight, find the right stabilizer that suits you and tune other gadgets then we are getting into more complex topics. You will need to sign up for archery lessons if you want instructions on how to tune such things. I teach all of the topics listed above and much more, but I have to go do some personal practice now so that will have to wait for another day.

When do you become an archer?

Q

Someone posted this on Facebook awhile back:

"When do you become an archer?"



And below is how I responded to this question:


When you first start you become an amateur archer.


When you compete, you become a competitive archer.


When you get paid to do archery you become a professional archer.

When you teach it and people come back for more lessons and tell their friends how great you are, you become an archery instructor (possibly by accident like I did).

When you have learned everything in terms of the physical aspects of archery and have to constantly challenge yourself mentally, you have become an archery master.

The master already knows how to shoot. That is not their problem. Their problem is finding challenges (often mental challenges) that allow them to continue learning something new.
A round of shots on January 24th 2019. The one shot clipped a nock and the nock went flying off.

Now you will notice that, yes, that is a very tight cluster. And yes, I did clip the nock so that it went flying off.

But what you might not notice is the date. January 24th and it was freezing cold outside. Here is some more photos from that day. To shoot that well in those conditions... it is mostly mental.

Eventually it got so cold I decided to go home.






Panarama of the Toronto Archery Range!

Private Archery Ranges near Toronto

One of my students asked me about private archery ranges near Richmond Hill, and in response I have made the following list of private archery ranges near the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) - which includes Richmond Hill.

I was originally thinking of organizing this list alphabetically, but then I changed my mind and decided to organize by categories as some of these locations are university clubs, archery tag locations, and only a few are wholly private archery ranges.

PRIVATE ARCHERY RANGES IN THE GTA

Archers of Caledon
archersofcaledon.org

Located North-West of Brampton, this club/private range was once known as the Humber Valley Archers, but changed the name when they moved the club to Caledon Hills north west of Toronto. The club hosts indoor and outdoor tournaments, and international tournaments as well.

The Archers of Caledon has a 30 x 15 meter heated indoor range, with 10 shooting lanes.

Outdoors, Archers of Caledon has:
  • A 30 to 90 meter target range.
  • A 10 to 80 meter practice range, which includes both field archery and target archery.
  • A 28 target field archery / 3D range course with animal targets ranging from 6 to 65 meters.

Durham Archers
durhamarchers.com
Two ranges located north of Oshawa, this members only club offers a 3D shooting range (only from Spring to Autumn, the 3D targets are put in storage during the winter to prevent ice damage), target ranges, and field archery. They also host a variety of tournaments.

Note - There is no indoor range.


Peel Archery Club
peelarchery.ca

Located in Peel/Brampton (north west of Pearson International Airport), this indoor range offers both target and 3D options, with the comfort of heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. It also boasts Canada's only 70 meter indoor archery range. (Currently the only one. This may change in the future.) They also host a variety of indoor tournaments.

Note - There is no outdoor range.


York County Bowmen
yorkcountybowmen.com

Located east of Newmarket (north of Toronto), York County Bowmen is a club/private range that boasts the following:

  • An indoor 18 meter (20 yards) range  with 12 shooting lanes.
  • Over 50 acres of 3D target ranges, with 14 field archery shooting lanes.
  • A target practice range, with targets spaced from 10 to 60 yards.


ARCHERY TAG INDOOR RANGES

The following is a short list of archery tag locations which also operate archery ranges, the trick being that most of the time the space is being used for archery tag, and they only rarely open the space up as an archery range. So for example some archery tag locations only open up the space for practice 1 day per week, so don't expect a lot of availability that matches your schedule. The size of the space varies on the locations, but don't expect anything larger than 30 meters as these locations are typically about the size of a high school gymnasium. The good news however is that you don't need a membership for these indoor ranges and can just pay an hourly rate to use the space.
  • Archers Arena in North York
  • Archery Circuit located south of Markham
  • Archery District in Etobicoke
  • Archery 2 You in Ajax
  • Battle Sports in North York
  • Stryke Archery Range in Brampton and York

UNIVERSITY ARCHERY RANGES

Joining an university archery club can be a bit trickier. It generally helps if you are already a student or alumni for that university. With university archery clubs there is typically specific times when the range is open, so you really need to find out what their hours operations are before deciding whether to make the effort to join one of these clubs.
  • University of Ryerson Archery Club
  • University of Toronto Archery Club @ Hart House
  • York University Archery Club

PLACES TO AVOID

Sharon Gun Club - Located north-east of Newmarket, this club does NOT offer archery. Contrary to what a Google search dictates, this club does NOT do archery at all. It is purely a gun club. So don't waste your time on this one.

Shooting Academy Canada - Located in Scarborough, this location does offer both guns and archery (as well as throwing knives, airsoft, and BB), and boasts a tiny 15 yard indoor target range. There is no outdoor range. No field archery, no 3D archery targets, etc. Hence why I decided to list it down here and not with the wholly private archery ranges. Plus since they are using firearms indoors, users should really be wearing hearing protection - which many archers might object to as it would feel weird wearing hearing protection while doing archery. So it is not a location I would recommend to students.

Target Sports Canada - Located north of Markham, this is another location that does NOT offer archery. It is another gun range that could be easily confused as an archery range, mostly due to faulty Google search results.


See Also

List of Archery Clubs in Ontario

Why you SUCK at archery

I admit I do not own this book.

I don't need it. I don't suck at archery, ergo I do not need this book.

So this is not a book review, because I admit I have not read this book.

However, the book was written by Steve Ruis, who is the editor of Archery Focus Magazine. (Cough cough, the guy who keeps publishing my articles in his magazine. I am up to 3 articles so far. Visit archeryfocusmagazine.com to learn more.)

I do however find the title of the book funny and appropriate. And I don't mind returning the favour by giving him some free advertising, and I hope he does the same when it comes time to promote some of my own archery books.

I also recommend Steve's other book "Precision Archery". Getting a book like that is the next best thing to getting archery lessons from an instructor. So given his track record of previous books and magazines, the new book is doubtlessly a good one and worth reading if you are a beginner - or if you suck at archery and need to rectify that problem.



Online you can buy the Kindle version or the Paperback version on Amazon.ca.

Kindle - https://www.amazon.ca/Why-You-Suck-at-Archery-ebook/dp/B00BM925AQ/
Paperback - https://www.amazon.ca/Why-You-Suck-at-Archery/dp/0984886036/

The paperback version is currently $19.59 CDN, whereas the Kindle version is $9.14 CDN.


Meanwhile, I do actually have 1 archery book available of my own... although it is admittedly a poetry book... about archery. I am still working on my guide / how to book, and I am in the planning stages of a 3rd and 4th books.

Dreaming of Zen Archery

Kobo - https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/dreaming-of-zen-archery


Nasdaq crashing, requests for archery lessons up

So with the stock market in the USA crashing currently (and Forbes predicting a 20% reduction) I have seen a spike in the number of people asking for archery lessons in Spring 2019.

This happens every time there is economic uncertainty. Every time the economy sees a downturn, people get worried, and suddenly more archery students pop up asking for lessons.

I think it is a reaction to the economic situation that people instinctively start thinking about bowhunting for food and survivalism. Even though, oddly enough, the people asking for archery lessons are still primarily thinking of recreation and only thinking "useful hunting skill" in the back of their mind.

How bad is it? Well, the Nasdaq has lost about 1,100 points since September. And the Dow Jones is down 2,600 points.

The numbers themselves are not the issue. The real problem is how the stock market is an indicator for the economy. A sort of canary in the coal mine. If the canary suddenly dies, the miners are in danger too. So if the stock market tanks, it means the economy is in danger.

And with Trump's Trade War hurting various economies, it was really just a matter of time before we saw a market correction.

Historical Fact: The biggest trade war in the USA was in 1929, right before the big stock market crash. If you know your history, you can guess trade wars aren't a great idea for the economy.

So I guess I should be thanking the fool in the White House for his silly trade war which has ultimately hurt the U.S. economy and caused this uptick in people worried about the economy and asking for archery lessons.

I won't be thanking him, but I will take advantage of this opportunity and remind people that I also have a Limited Time Discount Offer for people prebooking archery lessons for March / April 2019.

Limited Time Discount Offer:
Prebook your lessons now and get 10% off.

  • This discount offer expires at Midnight December 31st 2018.
  • Only applies to archery lessons prebooked for March / April 2019.

Oh and in case you are wondering, here are photographs from March 10th, March 11th and March 17th 2018... so you have an idea of what the weather looks like in March. The photos below were used in an older post from March 20th 2018, titled Winter Archery Photography.

So as you can see, the weather in March is quite mild and enjoyable. Also this is apparently supposed to be a very mild winter thanks to El Nino, so I might end up teaching more lessons during the winter.




10 Lesson Archery Crash Course / Visiting Toronto

Traveling to Toronto to Study Archery

I have had students who come from the USA and overseas (Saudi Arabia, China, South Korea, India, Brazil, the U.K., etc) who have come here expressly to study archery under my tutelage.

Now that doesn't mean that they don't have any archery instructors available locally (although in some places like Saudi Arabia they are admittedly difficult to find). It simply means that for whatever reasons, some of my archery students have decided that they wanted to travel to Toronto, Canada to study archery here rather than study locally.

In 2017 I taught a young man from Ohio who came here for two weeks and took a 10 lesson crash course in traditional archery. Why? Because he couldn't find any archery instructors in Ohio that he felt were professional / quality, and he wanted to improve his archery skills in a hurry. So he decided to visit Canada, found an Airbnb, and have a vacation wherein he explored Toronto for 2 weeks and had 10 archery lessons during that 2 week period. He liked it here so much he was tempted to find a job in Toronto and move here. (Partially to get away from the political nonsense in the USA.)

In 2014 I taught a young woman with aspirations towards joining the Saudi Arabia Olympic Team, and thus came to Toronto for 10 lessons in Olympic-style archery. Saudi Arabia has a number of problems with archery:

  1. The common person cannot even purchase archery equipment unless they are already on an archery team. Thus it makes sense to study archery overseas. (Catch-22 Situation)
  2. You cannot get an archery coach in Saudi Arabia unless you are on a team.
  3. Joining an archery team requires that the individual has already demonstrated that they have archery skill.
  4. Taking archery equipment on a plane is prohibited unless you can prove it is for training purposes only.
Seriously, they make it really difficult. So in order to pursue her archery goals, she needed to study overseas. And she would need to buy archery equipment overseas, practice, get better, and continue to pursue her dream. It isn't going to be easy.

And other students of course, some of whom may have had other reasons for visiting Toronto and deciding to get archery lessons while they are here.

Two of my happy archery students from November 2018.

How many archery lessons should a person get?

Typically my "crash course" students take 5 to 10 lessons. The more the merrier. There is no limit.

Some of my regular students who live here in Toronto just keep coming back for more lessons year after year. Including one of my older students from the U.K. who visits Toronto every Spring and Autumn and has lessons during those times of year.

How much does 5 to 10 lessons costs?

For one-on-one lessons:

5 lessons is $270 CDN (weekdays only) or $405 CDN (weekends only).

10 lessons is $520 CDN (weekdays only) or $780 CDN (weekends only).

Often crash course students mix/match weekday/weekend lessons, so they might have 6 weekday lessons and 4 weekend lessons for a total of $624 CDN. (With the current exchange rate $624 CDN is about $466 USD.) This combination of weekday and weekend lessons allows them to have lessons on a Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday + Saturday/Sunday schedule, with breaks on Mondays and Fridays so they can relax.

Also my availability often varies on the season and how booked up I am with other students, so precise scheduling can vary upon what is available.

Is there a lesson plan?

Yes, I have multiple lesson plans.

There is the Standard Archery Lesson Plan (for traditional recurve), the Horse Archery Lesson Plan, and the Olympic Archery Lesson Plan.

If an archer is more experienced or has specific goals in mind, I can also adjust and tailor a lesson plan to suit the student's needs.

So for example I have yet to have a student ask to focus on longbow archery for 10 lessons, in which case I would simply modify the Standard Lesson Plan to suit their needs.

With compound archers their needs often vary on their goals so I routinely design an unique lesson plan for each compound archer that suits their individual needs.

Tips for Taking an Archery Crash Course

#1. Eat Healthy - You are going to be exercising for 90 minutes almost every day, so having a healthy diet is certainly beneficial. Lots of veggies and protein.

#2. Sleep Well - Avoid staying up late doing activities. Try to be well rested and alert the day of lessons. eg. Going out to a party, drinking and being tired/hungover the next day would be a bad idea.

#3. Pack a Lunch - Bring food, snacks, drinks to every lesson should hunger or thirst strike you. Having a hot or cold drink is very handy during the colder / hotter times of year.

#4. Archery Gear - If you have your own archery equipment and are bringing it with you, you should make certain it is okay to bring it on any international flights to Canada. You also don't want to forget anything you might need, so when in doubt BRING EVERYTHING you think you might need and pack it well in advance. You don't want to arrive in Toronto and discover you forgot your favourite tab or shooting glove or thumbring.

#5. Familiarize yourself with Toronto Weather - Depending on the time of year it is either really hot or very cold and you should prepare yourself by bringing or purchasing appropriate clothing.

Note - In 2019 I am going to try to not schedule lessons during the hottest weeks of the year and instead take a vacation at that time. The last two weeks of July are two of the hottest weeks of the year, so that sounds like a good time for a vacation.

#6. Be Prepared to Learn a Lot - My Japanese professor in university told us that the average human only learns and remembers 10 new things in a day, and thus a person learning a language can only be expected to learn and retain 10 new words each day. Over the course of 10 lessons, you will be expected to learn way more than 100 things. Thus you should expect to learn a lot, you should expect to learn some things you weren't expecting to learn, and it can feel a bit overwhelming at first.

Fortunately for you I explain things in terms of the physics of what is happening, and I often employ narrative storytelling, jokes, and "Archery Sayings" into my teaching methodology which helps students to remember. I even recently published an article in Archery Focus Magazine about using narrative storytelling as a teaching tool.


What are my credentials?

  1. I have been doing archery since April 1989. So almost 30 years, since the age of 10.
  2. When I was a teenager in the 1990s I routinely made my own bows, arrows, and crossbows.
  3. I studied Olympic-style archery formally in South Korea, at Jeonbukdaehakkyo (Jeonbuk University).
  4. I started teaching archery in 2009.
  5. I practice and teach all 5 major styles of archery - Traditional Recurve, Olympic Recurve, Longbow, Shortbow/Horsebow, and Compound.
  6. I still make longbows and crossbows as a hobby.
  7. I collect antique and vintage bows from the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. I would like to get some older bows.
  8. My personal collection of bows is *currently* 34. I create, buy and sell bows every year, so the number fluctuates.
  9. I have published 3 articles so far in Archery Focus Magazine. More to come!
  10. I have published a book of poetry about Zen Archery: "Dreaming of Zen Archery".
  11. I am currently working on an archery "how to" book and also a book of archery sayings/photography.
  12. I have been on CBC News, CTV, CityNews, TSN, OLN, CBC Radio (twice) and various other television and radio broadcasts.
  13. I have both won archery competitions and judged archery competitions.
  14. I taught my wife archery, and in 2019 I expect my 2-year-old son will begin archery. Five members of my extended family also do archery, including my cousin who was North American Champion for Traditional Recurve Target Archery in 1990 and 1991, and Traditional Recurve Field Archery Champion in 1991. So archery is a family sport for myself and my relatives.
  15. Teaching archery is not a hobby for me. It is my full time occupation. I live and breathe this sport.
The archery instructor on February 23rd 2017. A warm day in February.

Is it possible to get archery lessons during the winter? Are they indoors?

Yes, it is possible, and it is outdoors. I am a firm believer in practicing outdoors and learning how to adjust for weather conditions. Even if it is very cold. However since this is Toronto, one of most southern Canadian cities, it often isn't even that cold here and the snow melts easily.

However I do have a rule with winter archery. It must be -5 ℃ or warmer. Any colder than that and the combination of the extreme cold and the windchill is going to make it feel like it is -20 or colder, and it is both bad for the archer to be doing archery in such conditions, but also potentially bad for your archery equipment.

Thus for the sake of your equipment and mine, -5 or warmer is the rule.

Also I don't recommend using vintage archery equipment when it is too cold, too hot or too humid, as the heat/cold/humidity can be much more harmful to older vintage equipment. Aim for moderate temperatures when using any kind of vintage archery equipment. So while I do sometimes bring some of my "museum pieces" to the range to show students / shoot them, I only do that when the weather is appropriate.

The bow in the photo above is a 1949 Bear Grizzly Static Recurve, and it was so warm that day in February I decided it was safe to bring it.

What else is there to do in Toronto?

There are many tourism websites and things to do in or near Toronto. You will not be bored in this city which has a plethora of historical sites, art galleries, museums, restaurants, and cultural districts (eg. Chinatown, Little Korea, Little Italy, etc), world class beaches, sailboats, etc.

You could potentially also take day trips to Niagara Falls, Hamilton (which also has many waterfalls), Guelph, Kitchener, Elora Gorge, Barrie and various locales within a short drive / train ride of Toronto. Depending on your interests you could be exploring outdoors, going to historical sites, getting winery tours, etc. If you have specific interests I can even recommend places my wife and I have gone.

Some of archery students have also taken horseback riding lessons, so if that is your goal you could in theory do both. Study archery and horseback riding at the same time. After ten lessons of both you should be able to handle yourself on a horse and be able to shoot with a degree of experience and confidence. The Horse Archery Lesson Plan page contains a list of horse riding locations in / near Toronto if you want to browse and compare prices.

Update - One of my former students recommends Wind Spirit Stable, which is about a 90 minute drive north of Toronto.

Personal Note - It is my long term goal to open a horse riding school / private archery range. It is on my To Do List. It is just a matter of time.

Archery Biathlon Lessons in Toronto

Q


"Hi I came across an old post about archery ski instruction out of Toronto.
Wondering if you’re still coaching or if you can point me in the direction of someone who is in the Toronto area (or somewhere within a drive ).
Thanks



E. M."


A


Hello E!

Yes, I still coach that but only on weekends.

Would you like to book for January?

If you have any questions feel free to ask. Have a good day!

Sincerely,
Charles Moffat
CardioTrek.ca
Follow Up Comments
So yes, I still teach Archery Biathlon - but I rarely get requests for that. Not many people want archery lessons during the winter, and even less are interested in learning the sport of Archery Biathlon.
So E's email made me realize I should do a post that confirms, yes, I do still offer archery biathlon lessons (and winter archery lessons), and there has been a few changes and I do want to remind people of the following.
#1. I only teach Archery Biathlon during the weekends.
#2. Winter Archery Lessons are likewise only available on weekends.
#3. Winter lessons of either are one-on-one only. No pairs or groups of 3.
#4. You will need your own skis and ski gear. I do not provide those for you. I only provide the archery equipment, if you need it. If you have your own archery equipment and prefer to use it, that is fine too.

#5. Remember to dress for the weather, using multiple tight-fitting layers of warm clothing. Avoid bulky sleeves and bulky jackets.

#6. Definitely remember to bring a hot drink with you. Snacks are a good idea too.

#7. Lesson Plan:

  • Lesson 1 will include a Safety Lecture, Eye Dominance Test, Lecture on Aiming, Lecture on Proper Form, Archery Biathlon Practice combined with Field Archery Practice (aka "Field Archery Biathlon").
  • Lessons 2 will start with "Target Archery Biathlon", and include a lecture in the middle about arrowheads.
  • Lesson 3 will focus on "Long Distance Archery Biathlon", and include a lecture in the middle about arrow spine.
  • Lesson 4 will introduce how to use a Sight and Stabilizer and focus on "Target Archery Biathlon". At some point during the lesson we will be waxing the bowstring and waxing the skis.
  • Lesson 5 will focus on "Archery Biathlon Speed Shooting" - because it is fun, and why not do something fun for the final lesson?
How many lessons a person signs up for is up to them, but we should be able to schedule in 5 lessons during January / February when there is ample snow on the ground. If the snow starts melting too much towards the end of winter we may simply be doing "archery lessons" and skip the skiing aspect.

You notice also that E. asked about other locations where she could learn archery biathlon. Unfortunately I am unaware of anyone else in Toronto (or remotely near the GTA) who teaches archery biathlon.
To sign up for Winter Archery Lessons or Archery Biathlon send an email to

Why Recreational Archery Matters

Balloon Animal Field Archery
Recreational archery is the backbone of all archery endeavours.

Sport? The person had to get into recreational archery first.

Hunting? Our ancestors who first learned to hunt with a bow also first needed to practice with the bow to get good with it, and guaranteed they enjoyed doing it. It was no doubt a recreational activity before it was used for hunting. The same goes with modern bowhunters - they have to learn to shoot first, and practicing archery is quite enjoyable.

Based upon my own anecdotal experience, I would say less than 1% of archers compete in any archery sports. And less than 10% hunt. I cannot say what the exact numbers are, but this is my best guess based upon the people I have met over the past many years.

That means at least 89% of archers, probably more, do recreational archery. Just for the fun of it. It is primarily a recreational sport.

Now why does this matter?

It matters because archery as a sport and bowhunting would find it difficult to exist without recreational archery bringing in new archers constantly. If it wasn't enjoyable, people wouldn't bother to think "Hey, I could use to hunt or compete." If they got frustrated and gave up, then that is the death of the person's archery career. Probably never touch a bow again and when asked they might say something like "Archery is too hard. I suck at it."

But the beauty of recreational archery is that allows a person to practice, practice, practice while having fun (until it no longer feels hard and the person no longer sucks at it). Making archery fun is the surefire way to get people to keep practicing until they see improvement and realize they are getting better at this.

For me, as an archery instructor, making archery fun is also about a reward system for the student's brain.

It really comes down to the dopamine.
"dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine pathways, one of which plays a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behavior."
When an archery student is having fun and hits a target, the brain produces dopamine which spreads throughout their brain and body, acting as a drug reward for both the brain and muscles. You will often experience a flood of dopamine when watching an enjoyable film, while doing fun sports, during sex, when eating ice cream or chocolate, etc.

That flood of dopamine tells your body that you are doing something good, and that you should keep doing it because it is enjoyable for your brain and the rest of your body.

This reward drug then causes the archery student to pay more attention to their archery form in hopes of repeating a good shot. The more good shots the archer gets, the higher the dopamine output and the cycle continues.

In contrast, if someone feels frustrated their body starts making negative hormones that makes you want to quit what you are doing. But if you are doing a fun activity, this is less likely to happen as you are more likely to enjoy the process even if you are not achieving your goals as quickly as you would like.

Frustration therefore is the leading cause of new archers quitting archery, possibly because they have set their goals too high and they aren't doing an activity that is actually fun.


Example #1. The Frustrated Compound Shooter

Years ago I witnessed a compound shooter who clearly was a beginner. They arrived at the archery range and set up at the 95 yard targets (back when they were at 95 yards, before they were moved to 75). They got their compound bow set up, but it quickly became clear that didn't have a clue what they were doing.

He apparently assumed that because he had a cheap compound bow that he didn't need to shoot at the shorter distances. Or maybe he was just anti-social as the 20 and 30 yard targets are the most popular.

Every time the compound shooter shot, his arrows would go about halfway out into the field and hit the grass about 50 yards out. They weren't even making it near the 95 yard targets.

They would then spend several frustrated minutes searching for their lost arrow(s) in the grass, come back, adjust the sights on their bow HIGHER and repeat the process.

You will notice how I capitalized the word HIGHER. This is because when your arrow is going too low the answer is not to adjust the sight higher, but instead move the sight lower. But a beginner would not know that.

So every round the guy was moving his sight higher, his arrows would go lower, and he was no closer to hitting the 95 yard targets.

So eventually the guy was extremely frustrated, left, and I have never seen him again at the archery range. I am guessing he gave up on archery entirely.

Here is what he should have done:

  1. Go to the 20 yard targets first, because he is after all a beginner and thus he should start at an easier distance.
  2. Shoot his the top pin on his sight.
  3. Adjust the top pin on his sight so that it follows where his arrows are going.
  4. Socialize with the other archers so that you learn things from them.
  5. Find ways to make his practice more fun, so that he is enjoying the process more. Doing something difficult like shooting 95 yards on the first day is going to be extremely frustrating.

Being anti-social isn't going to help someone's shooting practice. A person who is social, and having fun doing a social activity, is going to be less frustrated than a person who wants to be a loner and avoid other people.

Archery is a very social sport and people should embrace the social aspect of the sport as a way of deriving more pleasure (and dopamine) from the activity, which ultimately helps their accuracy, their confidence, and their sense of self-worth.

Being anti-social is simply going to have the opposite effect, causing a person to get frustrated more easily, and they will feel like inadequate loser.


Example #2. The Prepared Parents

I have seen many parents bring their kids to the archery range over the years, but I would say only about one third of them are actually prepared to make the activity more fun for their child.

eg. The parents who are prepared typically brought balloons, make balloon animals, brought a paper zombie target, etc and/or they also thought up a game that their kids can do while shooting.

The unprepared parents in contrast bring their kid(s), bring the bow(s) and arrows, but they think nothing about what activities / games their kids should be playing while they practice archery, and they certainly didn't think to make the targets more fun for their kids to shoot at.

So what happens instead is that the kid ends up shooting at 20 (or sometimes 33 yard) targets, missing regularly, and ultimately spend more time looking for arrows than actually shooting arrows.

What they should be doing instead:
  1. Bring homemade DIY portable targets (or balloon animals works too) which they can put at a distance of 10 or 15 yards instead of the full 20 yards or further.
  2. Stuffed animals also make for fun archery targets. Cheap ones from the Dollar Store work nicely.
  3. If shooting at objects on the ground, using blunt arrowheads and wingnuts would be a wise move. It reduces damage to the DIY targets, but the wingnuts also act like anchors and dig into the grass - making it really easy to find the arrows.
  4. Come up with games the kids can play while they are shooting, so it is even more fun.
  5. Bring food that you would associate with a picnic. Watermelon, sandwiches, lots to drink. Parents often leave early because the kids get hungry, but if you bring lots of food for a picnic this is not a problem.
Seriously, just get some wingnuts from Canadian Tire, some Dollar Store stuffed animals, and the kids will have way more fun than trying to shoot at a target that is 60 feet (20 yards) away. Beginner adults have enough trouble shooting at that distance, for beginner kids it is logically way harder.

Teddy Bear Archery Target


Example #3. Gary Shooting at Zee Romans

I don't know how old Gary is, but I am guessing he is close to my dad's age. Possibly a bit younger. The beard makes him look older than he actually is.

What I do know is that Gary likes to draw Roman soldiers on cardboard and then shoot at them. He loves killing some cardboard Romans. He must have figured out a long time ago that archery is so much more fun when you actually set out to make it more fun.

Sometimes he doesn't always bother to draw Romans on there, like in this photo on the right. But he does like to pose for photos sometimes, which is also fun.

One of these days I will get some photos of Gary shooting at some Romans.

Gary also runs an archery shop at 940 Queen Street East (2nd floor), and is available by appointment only. Check out his website at http://www.basicallybowsarchery.com


Concluding Thoughts

In my opinion anyone who competes or bowhunts should also be actively doing recreational archery so that they are mentally and emotionally encouraged to practice more often. More dopamine = more practicing.

For parents with kids, recreational archery can be a great sport to do again and again, and is worth the investment. The trick is to make it more fun so that the kids keep asking to do it again. And again. And again. Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Making it more fun (and social) has numerous benefits for a person's mental health too. It keeps your mind active and forces the mind to be calculating things like distance and where to aim. The physical benefits are likewise there, as archery is possibly best described as an exercise combining resistance training with lots of walking to fetch arrows.

Have fun! Keep shooting!


To sign up archery lessons in Toronto for 2019, just email cardiotrek@gmail.com to ask about available days and time slots.


Older Posts about Recreational Archery

Recreational Archery: 5 Ways to have Fun Shooting
Balloon Animal Field Archery
Whistling and Howling Arrowheads (for Fun and Amusement)
Recreational Archery as a Sport

Conscious vs Unconscious Archery

First lets start with some definitions so that people reading this understand what we are talking about today.

Conscious Archery - Doing actions (eg. archery form, aiming) in a deliberate manner to achieve a specific archery goal.

Unconscious Archery - Doing actions without completely realizing you are doing them, which causes a variety of archery results. The archer is still somewhat aware they are doing the action because they have practiced the action so that it becomes a habit, but they don't realize how much the habit will effect the arrow's flight. Note that this includes both good and bad habits.*

* Not to be confused with the Subconscious Mind, which is a person is completely unaware of. The Subconscious mind is thinking of all sorts of things that your active mind isn't even concerned with.

Next lets go through some examples, and I have chosen examples which beginner archers frequently have problems with.

Example 1: Unconscious Canting

The archer's shots are going further to the right than they would hope, so they consciously aim further to the left. However at the same time they might end up unconsciously canting the bow further to the right.

Thus even though they aimed further left, the rightward canting of the bow causes the arrow to go further to the right, possibly even further right than their previous shot depending on how much they were canting the bow.

The archer then stands there dumbfounded, struggling to make sense of how they managed to aim further left, but their arrow went further right.*

* This is one of those times it helps to have an archery instructor to tell you what you are really doing wrong so you aren't guessing as to what you did wrong.

Example 2: Unconsciously Aiming Too High

The archer's shots are going too low, but they are unaware that they have been using too little back power which causes their arrows to effectively "run out of steam" by the time they reach the target. Thus the arrows are frequently too low and the archer thinks they can fix the problem by aiming higher.

Thus the archer consciously aims higher, but unconsciously this causes them to give more back power to their next shot. The shot then goes too high because it had adequate power, but they are simply aiming too high now.

This is why I frequently tell my beginner archery students that when adjusting their aim they should only adjust by half or one third of the amount they think they should adjust. Thus if they miss the target by 6 inches, they should only adjust their aim by 2 or 3 inches. Otherwise what frequently will happen is that they unconsciously do something which effects the shot to go further in that one direction than they were intending. It isn't limited to a problem with back power either, it could be caused by canting, hand torque, shoulder jerks, plucking and a variety of other form mistakes.

Example 3: Unconscious Plucking of the Bowstring

Releasing the bowstring should feel natural and unconscious, and it comes with practice, practice, practice until the archer is releasing the bowstring properly as the result of habit and not because they are thinking about their release too much.

It has been my experience as an archery instructor that if a student is thinking about their release too much (consciously thinking about it) that they will often mess up their shot because they were thinking about it too much when they should have been concentrating on their form, their aim and other factors.

The archer's goal is to reach a level of skill where they can release without thinking about the release too much. This is easier, in my opinion, with traditional archers as opposed to Olympic-style archers, as the Olympic archers are also contending with the additional problem of waiting for a click from their clicker device that tells them they have reached full draw. The added stress of waiting for a click makes the Olympic-style archer think about their release more consciously, and this in turn can result in a botched release. Sure, they benefit from having a more precise amount of power from their full draw, but they face the extra mental challenge of their mind becoming distracted and possibly consciously botching their release.

In the past when I encounter an archery student who has difficulties with their release, I find it is beneficial to have the student practice something that is more fun - so that their mental focus switches to the fun activity and they stop thinking about their release so much.

Example 4: Unconscious Rolling of the Release

Having uneven finger placement on the bowstring can cause the archer to roll their release. (It can also cause plucking, but that is another story.) Often the archer is not aware their fingers are unevenly placed (unaware both unconsciously and subconsciously), and thus when they release the bowstring unevenly there is a tendency to rotate or "roll" their drawing hand by accident, an action the archer is likely completely unaware of.

To fix this problem the archer needs to consciously get into the habit of placing their fingers properly on the bowstring, keeping the pressure even and the placement even, and to practice their releases as such. Then the further challenge is to eventually switch to releasing this way due to unconscious habit.

Thus the process here is to go from unconsciously making a mistake, to consciously fixing the mistake, to eventually unconsciously just following the good habit. Going from unconscious to conscious and back to unconscious again.

"An archer is looking for subconscious competence."
- Steve Ruis, American Archery Instructor.

Example 5: Unconscious Paralysis by Conscious Analysis

"Paralysis by Analysis" is an old phrase. It is unclear how old the term is, but possibly dates back to at least the 1950s. It is caused by people, in this case archers, overthinking a problem and then becoming paralyzed by anxiety. It doesn't have to be an archery problem. It could be an architect trying to decide how to finish the design of their new building, but they become bogged down by anxiety while overthinking the problem. The concept is applicable to many activities.

The phrase is also the title of a blog post by American archery instructor Steve Ruis, who is also the editor of "Archery Focus Magazine".

In his article Steve also says the above quote about how "An archer is looking for subconscious competence." Which I felt was a great quote and worth repeating. (It also gives me an excuse to add this post to the Exercise Quotes list.)

But if that is what the archer is looking for, then ergo there is also the reverse:

'The archer is not looking for conscious incompetence.'

Yep, definitely do not want that. That would mean the archer is taking actions deliberately, but all their actions are fruitless and not helping their accuracy.

Imagine for example a beginner archer who has very little concept of form and after every shot they change something. Every shot is different. No consistency of form whatsoever. Different power, different form, aiming differently, and over time they become more and more anxious and frustrated with their lack of improvement. Sure, they might hit the target a few times (due to luck), but they cannot repeat it because their form/power/aiming is so inconsistent, and thus their accuracy is completely inconsistent.

Thus to paraphrase Steve Ruis, what the archer is looking for is unconscious consistency, as consistent accuracy is effectively the definition of competence when it comes to archery.

Now Steve also used the word subconscious in there, which suggests the archer also strives for a loftier goal. It is not enough to be unconsciously following habits learned from practice, no, the archer truly strives to be able to shoot subconsciously and to be mentally unaware of their form. Like they are not even thinking about it.

To be able to shoot like that, well, that is probably something that only one archer in history has ever truly achieved. Awa Kenzo, the famed Japanese archery instructor.

Awa Kenzo also talked about conscious vs unconscious archery, although he certainly did not use those words. (For more on Awa Kenzo, I recommend reading the book "Zen Bow, Zen Arrow", which includes a lot of poetry Awa Kenzo wrote about the practice of archery. He uses the poetry as a way to teach his students various archery principles.)

Instead of teaching students how to perform a task by giving them hints, Awa would often let them deliberately fail so that they can learn from the experience. He understood that if a student was making unconscious mistakes, they needed to go through the learning process of learning how to consciously avoid the bad habit, learn a good habit to replace it, and eventually return to a state of shooting using unconscious good habits.

"And if I tried to give you a clue at the cost of your own experience, I should be the worst of teachers and should deserve to be sacked!"
- Awa Kenzo, Japanese Archery Instructor.

Example 6: Conscious Failure

Sometimes archers develop mental issues like Target Anxiety, Gold Shy and other problems. It can mess the archers up mentally because they don't know how to fix the problem. The problem is purely mental.

Here is a quote of my own:

"Sometimes the best thing an archery instructor can do is say nothing and let the student fail."
- Charles Moffat, Canadian Archery Instructor.
So with Target Anxiety what will happen sometimes is that their form will be okay, at least at the beginning, but while they are aiming they begin to feel anxious, and they will start to shake / cramp up more (sometimes only slightly) and then they release too soon when they weren't ready yet.

The arrow flies out there and misses.

The archer feels like a failure, but they are consciously aware of the anxiety and how it is effecting them.

The next shot they do the same thing. They pull back, their form is good, but then the anxiety hits them and it worse than last time. They shoot, miss and then feel frustrated.

Now Target Anxiety isn't just for people who shoot too soon (Premature Releasing???) as sometimes archers have the opposite problem. They pull back, aim, and then hold their shot for too long as the anxiety paralyzes them and they start shaking more as their muscles cramp up.

That is a good time to just let down, take a breather, and start over. It wasn't going to be a good shot anyway. I don't believe in luck helping in that situation.

Thus you see there are two basic types of Target Anxiety:

  1. Not-Quite-Ripe Target Anxiety - Wherein the archer shoots too soon due to anxiety.
  2. Overly Ripe Target Anxiety - One might even say Rotten, wherein the archer waits too long due to anxiety.
There are doubtlessly other ways people can get Target Anxiety, but these are two types I have encountered with students.

In both cases I find there is a solution that helps the student learn to relax and relieve their anxiety. Do something fun. Shooting at moving targets, shooting while kneeling or walking in motion, do some Field Archery, some long distance archery - something that is both challenging and fun, but also serves to get their mind off of the mental problem they are having. By distracting their brain with a fun activity, their anxiety dwindles and they are able to think properly again.

From the position of an instructor, you have to see the student fail in an action in order to help them to fix that problem.

If the student knows their form is really good and they are achieving results but not being mentally stimulated, then it is time to change things so that they are mentally stimulated. Shooting at the same thing constantly, every lesson, would certainly get boring, and this is why with my lessons every lesson is different. The student is learning something new every time.

Gold Shy is more rare but also problematic. Essentially an archer with Gold Shy deliberately misses the center of the target - the yellow center on standard targets, hence why this mental problem is called Gold Shy. This isn't so much an anxiety problem in my opinion, as it is a problem of the archer deciding "that will do" or "that is close enough". They have lost their perfectionist spirit. Now that doesn't mean that all archers with Gold Shy have the exact same loss of perfectionism, but they do all suffer from the problem of essentially missing on purpose.

The Gold Shy archer knows they can do better, knows they can achieve a higher level of perfection, but simply doesn't care enough to put that extra effort into their accuracy.

Myself, I do this sometimes when shooting more casually. It is a bad habit I admit, but I feel it is something I have started doing due to age. As I have gotten older I simply don't care any more whether I hit the target or not. I know I can shoot better when I want to, but sometimes I just want to relax and shoot, and not worry about the details of having complete accuracy. So does that mean I am consciously choosing to shoot unconsciously in a relaxed manner? That doesn't mean my form suddenly becomes sloppy, as I still will be shooting out of habit honed from 29.5 years of shooting. It simply means that when I pull back and aim, I am relying on my good habits to produce a good shot and I am less worried about it being a perfect shot.

Having "perfect habits" would doubtlessly produce better quality shots, but being 39 years old, having a wife and a son, I find my priorities aren't on attaining that perfect shot any more. My life is already very good. I am very happy. I don't need more broken Robin Hooded arrows to prove to myself that I can perform perfect shots. I have already done it many times (and replacing broken arrows gets expensive) and I am content with my life.

When I think of goals for myself, I think of things I have yet to do. Things I want to do, but have yet to find the time, money, materials or resources to do them.

Thus when it comes to my archery students, constantly challenging them is a way to prevent them from getting mental problems like Target Anxiety or Gold Shy in the first place. If they are always striving for something new and different that provides a mental and physical challenge, they will achieve greatness.

Myself, I have already done everything I can think of with respect to archery, with one major exception: Horseback Archery. And with that comes my goal of having a horse farm and teaching horseback archery. Hence why that is a goal I have to be patient about. Someday.

But to anyone reading this who is suffering from Target Anxiety or Gold Shy, I have one piece of advice: Try to attain perfection while having fun doing it. This will help you to stay focused and motivated.


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Sign up ahead of time (deliberately?) for archery lessons for March and/or April 2019 and get 10% off. This only applies to archery lessons taking place in March or April 2019 and does not apply to lessons in other times of the year. It also does not stack with other discount offers or special offers, such as the discount for Seniors.

So for example if you sign up for 3 weekday lessons (normally $170) it will be $153 instead.

Furthermore this offer is only valid for November and December 2018. Hence why it is a Limited Time Special Offer.

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