Target archery is really just a formalised, competitive form of shooting arrows at something, wether it be your intended dinner, or some n'er-do-well who means you harm. Target archery is what you see practicised at the Olympic games and these days is a very precise hi-tech sport. The equipment used has evolved from the traditional bent stick longbow; although all catergories of bow can be used, each category competes within itself. Often this leads to many 'winners' at the end of the day... Best Gent with a longbow, best junior girl with a compound bow and so on; when a reporter asked me once 'So who won?' the explanation went on for quite some time. However only the recurve bow is admisable in the able bodied Olympic games.

A competition will consist of a 'round', usually a set number of arrows at a variety of distances; starting from the furthest to the closest. For instance the Grand National Archery Society of the UK defines the 'National' round to be 4 dozen arrows at 60 yards with 2 dozen arrows at 50 yards, with 5 zone scoring. Or the 'Metric II' as defined by the Federation Tir De'l Arc is 3 dozen on a 122cm target at 60 and 50 metres, then 3 more dozen at 40 at 30 metres for a total of twelve dozen arrows, using the 10 zone scoring system.

The target comes in various sizes, either 122, 80 or 60 cms; depending on the exact round you are shooting, and is marked with 5 concentric coloured circles. From the inside out, yellow (usually termed the 'gold'), red, blue, black, and white. In the five zone (so called 'Imperial'_ scoring system, the colours score 9,7,5,3,1 respectively. In ten zone, 'Metric' scoring each colour is further divided into two, to give 10 scoring zones, scoring 10 to 1 points from the inside ring to outer ring, with a further 'X ring' right in the centre of the 10, used for tie-break situations.

At the Olympic games, archers shooting at 70 meteres on the 122cm face will keep their arrows mostly within the gold, and can be surprisingly exciting to watch... Well about as exciting as darts or snooker! The level these archers shoot at often means the winner will be decided on the last arrow.

I can teach someone how to shoot a bow in a few hours, but as with all sports that put mental focus above physical power, mastery can occupy a lifetime.

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