Today I got a compliment from a fellow archer. He praised me for how professional I am at teaching archery and how I give such personalized attention to each student I teach.
He had seen me teaching many times in the past, but last Saturday he and I both witnessed a complete amateur teaching and he had his eyes opened to what happens when someone who doesn't know what they are doing attempts to teach archery.
- Let alone teaching 7 people at once.
- With 3 bows that were too powerful for beginners to be using. Including one 85 lb bow the "instructor" couldn't even pull back properly.
- At one point the "instructor" was trying to show off by shooting his 85 lb bow and accidentally punched himself in the face. (I wish I had a video of it.)
- With a shortage of finger gloves / arm bracers, which meant people had to share them.
- With no personalized instruction, which meant he spent no time correcting their form errors.
- Running around like he was trying to herd cats.
- One of his students dry fired one of his bows. (Much to the cringing of nearby archers.)
- He insisted they call him "sensei". (Yes, the white guy is insisting he be called sensei. Cultural appropriation much? I have a word for idiots like that: Baka.)
I was doing some personal practice and I watched with amusement, at one point I had one hand cupping my chin with a big smile on my face. Another archer, a regular, was watching too and we were both amused by it. "This is fascinating." I remember saying.
To me, watching amateurs teach archery is a highlight. Especially when they are utterly clueless as to what they are doing. Let alone watching them try to teach 7 people at once.
It would be like being a professional daycare worker watching someone babysit for the first time ever and you give them 7 toddlers to look after. Or a Formula 1 driver watching 7 amateurs who have never driven before behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car and watching a non-professional driver trying to teach them how to drive a Formula 1 car. It would be extremely amusing to watch.
So let me compare to what I do.
#1. I prefer to teach people one-on-one.
One-on-one is the absolute best way to learn archery. I will sometimes teach 2 or 3 friends at once, but I cap it at 3. I never teach more that. Part of it is that I devote myself to giving personalized instruction to my students and you cannot give that kind of personalized instruction when teaching large groups. People learn faster when they get one-on-one instruction.
I have sometimes been asked to teach large groups of people (20 or more) but I always refuse to deal with such events and instead recommend one of the local archery tag locations instead (I have my favourites when it comes to who I recommend).
I don't want to dilute the quality of my teaching by trying to teach crowds of people. It just isn't worth it. I want people to learn how to do archery properly and to get rid of their bad habits, and to not become discouraged. Having a shoddy instructor can lead to people failing to make progress and becoming discouraged, thus giving up at a sport that they could have become good at.
I believe everyone has the potential to become a good archer. They just need the right instructor and the time to apply themselves properly to learning the necessary skills.
#2. Every shot is watched and analyzed for mistakes.
Every. Single. Shot. I leave no room for errors. We are looking for perfection here, with the knowledge that complete perfection will never be achieved. This process means I am watching the student shoot, correcting their form errors to get rid of bad habits and replace them with good habits.
#3. I use appropriate archery equipment for beginners.
Nothing says you are clueless of what you are doing like giving a bow that is too powerful to people who cannot even pull it properly. When teaching I have 5 different sets of limbs available, all in lighter poundages, so that guaranteed regardless of the size, height, age, or even physical impairment I have a bow that my students can shoot.
#4. The first lesson always covers the basics.
- Safety Lecture.
- Eye Test.
- How to Aim Lecture.
- Proper Form Lecture.
- Field Archery Practice - which means I am starting them off slowly with an aiming exercise that will nevertheless be challenging and fun.
One of the common demonstrations I do is called my "Canting Demonstration" during which I do 1 perfect shot and 4 shots during which I am canting 4 different ways, that way students learn what canting is and how it effects the arrow. This usually happens during the first lesson. I really should make a YouTube video on the topic.
Another common demonstration I will do is "Inconsistent Draw Power" during which I demonstrate what happens when I deliberately use different amounts of draw. Such as not using a full draw, over-drawing to the cheek ("Cheeking"), under-drawing, and using different amounts of back power.
Doing a demonstration round should never be about trying to show off. It should be about teaching the student what happens when you do something correctly and what happens when you do it wrong. This means you first need to perform a perfect shot and then demonstrate what happens when you change one little thing and how that ruins the shot.
#6. I never punch myself in the face.
Although I will laugh about people who do this. I still wish I had a camera recording when that happened...
#7. I provide all the necessary equipment.
Not just the bows, but the finger gloves, arm guards, bowstringer, arrows and everything needed for practicing archery. Students should not have to be sharing equipment back and forth.
#8. Students learn what dry firing is and why you should not do it.
In a nutshell, dry firing is when someone pulls back a bow and lets go with no arrow on the bowstring, resulting in a horrible twanging sound and the bow possibly breaking. It might not break the first time it happens, but it isn't something you want to do again and again until it eventually breaks. It is very bad for the bow for it to be dry fired. Physically, what happens is all the power stored in a taut bow is expended into the limbs of the bow and causes it to vibrate. Those vibrations are so intense they can cause micro fractures in the bow limbs and cause the bow to eventually break.
On a compound bow this is even worse. Dry firing can cause the cables to come off the cams, causing a huge tangled mess, plus the cams could snap or come off the axle. A compound bow that has been dry fired loses its warranty and after several dry fires will likely be garbage.
#9. I prefer to be called Charles.
Because that is my name. I don't need a title, honourific or otherwise.
#10. I do this professionally.
- I take this sport seriously.
- I have been doing archery for 27 years. Except for that big gap in university.
- I have been teaching for almost 7 years.
- I shoot every style of bow. All five major styles of archery.
- I currently own 29 different bows.
- I have competed, although frankly I don't like competing because it is too much about ego.
- I enjoy bowfishing, archery biathlon and a wide range of archery activities.
- I published a book in 2015 titled "Dreaming of Zen Archery".
- I am currently working on my 2nd and 3rd books about archery. The second book is about recreational archery, and the third book is about archery sayings and what they mean.
- I make my own longbows and arrows during the winter as a hobby. I have been making bows since the age of 10. I also enjoy woodworking, which I find compliments my skills as a bow-maker.
- I believe archers should exercise regularly. A well-tuned body leads to more accuracy.
- I have a tiny archery range in my garage.
- I practice archery in the winter. I sometimes even teach it during the winter.
- I enjoy shooting at moving targets and performing trick shots.
- I never stop seeking perfection.