You should only learn to shoot a bow from a trained person.... it's not my fault if you shoot yourself in the foot.

But who knows when this knowledge may come in useful so here goes, a basic guide to archery technique, using a recurve bow; it will also work for a compound bow or a longbow

Capn's 'Seven Point' Guide to Archery

1. Line yourself up with the target so your body is perpendicular it. You shouldn't present your bottom towards the target as when you turn to aim towards it, you spine will be twisted in an awkward way

2. Take the bow handle in the hand you don't write with. That is to say it is usual to pull the bow-string back with your dominant hand; as this in fact stems from eye dominance it is not always the case. If you hope to continue with the sport and shoot to a high level, you should test for eye dominance and use that hand.

3. Place the arrow on the side of the bow opposite the hand you write with. At same time fit the nock of the arrow to the string with odd coloured fletching facing away from the bow handle, if they are all the same colour, rotate the arrow until just one fletching is facing away from the bow.

4. With your 'drawing hand', curl your first three fingers around the bow string, with you index finger above the arrow and the other two below the arrow. Put the string just behind the joint at the end of the fingers. As you pull back it should settle into the joint. Don't pinch the arrow or it may fall off as you draw the bow back.

5. Draw the bow back until the tip of your ring finger just touches the corner of your mouth. Keep you head in an upright natural position. This is known as the 'anchor point', if you keep this exactly the same from shot to shot, you can aim consistently by moving the hand you hold the bow with. A hint, as you draw the bow back, keep your drawing elbow above shoulder height, this makes you use the strong muscles in your back, your arms should not be taking the draw weight of the bow. What you want to achieve is a nice relaxed draw, using only the muscles needed and no more; one of things many beginners have to unlearn is the tension they put into the shot through setting themselves to 'resist' the weight of the bow.

6. You can then aim with the point of the arrow, adjust the aiming point according to where the arrow lies.

7. Let go. Try to relax as you let go, so that the tension in your back causes your drawing hand to fly back behind your head. In Zen and the Art Of Archery the process of the shot in described as rain-water falling from a bamboo leaf; the water builds and builds until quite naturally it is released to fall from the leaf. One of the signs of tension is that your drawing hand will stop and lock into position as soon as your let go of the string. If you think about it, all the power of the bow has been held by your fingers which have moved backwards as you have developed the shot. Having those fingers stop after you have let go of the sting would be as unnatural as a golfer stopping their swing on hitting the ball.

...and after the beginning you realise there is no end...

For beginners the first most important 'technicality' to get right is the anchor point (where this anchor point is will change with styles of archery, and the archers preference), work to get this consistent. Pay attention to the 'feel' of the shot, be mindful what you want is a relaxed technique, free from concerns and 'edges', you should feel it flow like unimpeded water. As you progress and the physical process sinks into your muscle memory, shoot to a rhythm: nock, draw, aim... release. The whole process above doesn't take me more than five seconds, even in the wind.

There can be a tendency in a competion to look at your score and say to yourself 'All I need to get is 100 in the next dozen to win/beat my personal best!' Again be aware a good score is made one arrow at a time. Read the Way of Archery, for me that is the point of archery, you aim to shoot the arrow in the bow perfectly, what has gone before, or what might come after is not important.

The introductory writeup in this node is excellent, but I'd like to add a few exceptions to the rules expressed - not contradictions or supersessions, just some additional considerations. 


1. Some instinctive shooters end up cultivating a very odd looking crouch, and do shoot more parallel than perpendicular to the target; they are almost universally ground stalking hunters. Because they do not shoot from blinds, they tend to keep a low profile so they can follow game on the ground and shoot without appearing to pop up out of the brush like a homicidal prairie dog. Women may need to keep their bodies more perfectly parallel or twist away from the bow hand slightly in order to keep their breasts out of the bowstring's way, or else wear a chest guard. 

2. It doesn't really matter which hand you write with, if you're shooting instinctively. Choose a bow handedness that feels strong, grounded, and centered. You'll adapt regardless of eye dominance, because you're not really targeting anyway, you're learning to control all the variables and consistently produce centershots with your whole body, not just your eyeballs. 

3. Right as rain. It's also a good idea to check your fletchings and shafts when filling your quiver - a cracked shaft can explode in the bow and hurt you badly, and a ripped fletching will sometimes make an arrow go wild. 

4. One over and two under, two over and one under, two under, three under - they're all valid. Anecdata, many can't shoot well with one over and two under. At all. I get a funky release and like the old poem goes, I shoot an arrow in the air, it comes to earth I know not where. That or I shoot it right into the ground. Three under, I do fine. Experiment freely. In the end, what works for you is the right way. What doesn't work for you is the wrong way.

(There are some utterly wrong things to do: most importantly, never ever stabilize your arrow on the rest with the index finger of your bow hand. Ever. Because what's going to happen eventually is that your fletching is going to take that finger right off, or at least a mission-critical slice of the meat that operates it. So don't do that.) 

5. Only adding that it is really, really important not to lock up the elbow of your bow arm. You will want to do this, but fight the urge. Locking it will make you feel strong. It will make you feel like you have all the time in the world, that you can hold it like that forever, you can take your time like Leatherstocking tracking a brushbound deer. Do not do this. Keep that arm rotated inthe shoulder socket so the elbow is on the outside and the inner arm is a smooth curve with the elbow ever so slightly relaxed in a bend away from the parallel of the string. It will feel awkward until it becomes totally natural. Reason the first: if your elbow is locked, it will be canted into the bowstring's line of fire, and you will take a mighty bow slap. Either to the delicate inner elbow, or to the inner arm. And it will hurt. It will feel like that part of your anatomy has been simultaneously stabbed and set on fire. Reason the second: the bowslap will make your arrow go all crazy and it will do you no good, and you might lose it. Reason the third: even if you don't get a bowslap because you're some kind of triple-jointed freak of nature, holding the shot for more than a second or two will lead to overthinking, and you'll probably miss. If you want to stand around holding your bow interminably and taking forever to set a shot, get a compound. It will reward you for doing so. A recurve will not. 

6. Not everybody aims. Instinctive shooters don't really aim. Instinctive shooters are often counseled to eliminate the temptation to even try to aim by practicing in the dark, shooting at a piece of aluminum foil lit by a small flashlight. Given enough practice - throwing enough arrows downrange - you and the bow and the arrow will eventually meld very nicely, and once the bow and arrow become intuitively felt and understood extensions of your body, targeting isn't any more of an intellectual process than it is to just make eye contact with someone. There are ways to aim with a bare bow. Finger walking, face walking, gap shooting, lots. I don't know any of them. 

7. I'm not really sure what's going on with this advice. Every archer I know ends up with their hand fanned to the side of their face after a shot, and continuing it on a backward trajectory is simply the controlled mechanism by which one intends to obtain another arrow, not a question of momentum or physics. There is a moment of perfection, a blink of stillness when the eye and the body and the arrow and the target all lock on to each other. Zing. Upper body movement at the moment of release is apt to cant the bow slightly. 

The moment when everything clicks in, that moment of perfection... It feels deliciously long, but it probably isn't. But it's a very good moment. I think it's the reason why people come to love archery.

When it all comes together, the chemistry is amazing. It's a love affair with physics. 

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