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Mammoth Hunter
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, I've been shooting more or less seriously for 2 and a half years now or thereabouts. Last August, I decided to switch my style of shooting to an olympic, under-the-chin anchor form. I thought it would improve my consistency, and I put about 500 hours into it, between then and Indoor Nationals in March. I shot in the women's longbow division and lost by more than 20 points to the only other competitor, a woman who was shooting her bow sideways whilst standing in some kind of bizarre lunging posture. Longbowlawyer has video evidence, you should ask him for some.

I was horrified/devastated/crushed/confused/embarrassed/take your pick of negative emotions. Demmer told me I need a high anchor, and I couldn't disagree, not in the face of my scores. The trouble is, I don't like high anchors, I've tried to make them work for me, and I have a really hard time with them. So, I thought about what to do, and I decided to try barebow string walking, as this would let me use my lower anchor. So, I got an ILF rig, and I set about rebuilding, this time string walking it.

It was a battle shooting the thing. I had tons of trouble with string alignment. I had issues with tuning. But I kept at it, and in June I started shooting some field tournaments back home in North Carolina. My scores were as bad as they had ever been, maybe worse. I had no confidence in what I was doing. I was making shots that I thought were right, but where the arrow went off paper, especially on the longer distances. I kept trying to make adjustments, and I kept failing at it.

By the time this month rolled around, I was pretty disheartened with archery in general and was considering shelving it for a while. It's just a ton of work for no gain at all. It's hard to spend two hours a day practicing and to go to a shoot and still be as bad as you ever were. But I had one more shoot to go - USA Archery's outdoor nationals. I didn't want to go, because they'd canceled barebow, but I'd already made hotel arrangements with a friend and I couldn't back out, so I went.

I shot terribly over the last few days, and I came in dead last in women's recurve, though I was shooting my bow barebow anyway. I was 60 out of 60. My scores were abysmal. By Friday night, I was busy planning an early retirement from archery. But, unfortunately, I had one last humiliation to endure - they had seeded me into the US Open, and I had to shoot against 3-time olympian Jennifer (Nichols) Hardy. (At least I wasn't longbow lawyer though, he had to shoot against Jake Kaminski).

So, I showed up Saturday morning, not sure what to expect, and I met Jennifer Hardy, and she was one of the nicest people I've ever met in archery. Super friendly. Great lady. We stepped up to the line together, and all I was thinking about was "just try not to look like such a complete idiot this time." And hey presto, for the first time in my life, I actually had back tension. I actually had a follow-through. I actually had a steady bow arm. I could feel all of the things I was told that I was supposed to feel. Granted, my scores still sucked, it's not like that could change in a single instant. But it all clicked for me in that moment where it never had before. All the things people tell you about where your back shoulder should be, how you should be pulling through your shot, how your anchor should feel, how you should be pressing forward with the bow arm, all those lessons were suddenly there.

This morning, I went out to practice, and I was amazed at the difference. I'm shooting double the scores I was shooting last week in my backyard. My groups have shrunk enormously. And for the first time in a long time, I have confidence that they will continue to shrink. It's like I've been given a road map I never had before, or maybe a light at the end of a long and very dark tunnel.

I never would have had that moment of clarity if I hadn't been put in a situation where I was shooting against someone so much better than myself. I could have shot from now until the end of my life in my backyard and it never would have clicked. People ask why you go to competitions. People sometimes say they'd never go to a competition where they knew they'd place last because it would be a waste of money. But this is why. I knew I was going to be dead last in women's recurve at nationals this year. I've been shooting like shit for so long it's not funny. I wasn't prepared for 70m, as I hadn't been able to put in the practice time. I was shooting barebow. And frankly, I just wasn't good enough to do any better. But coming in dead last, and shooting against an olympian was absolutely the best lesson I've ever had in archery.
 

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Mammoth Hunter
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Congratulations, but what do you think caused everything to click? Maybe taking it more seriously?

Todd
Magic?

Honestly, I think it goes hand in hand with Jinks' thread. In that thread, there is the unspoken question - when is enough enough? When can you honestly say that you gave a technique the old college try and it just didn't work for you? Is it after 5 years of training like Hank? After one year of training like me? After a week of training?

The real question to me is - why the hell didn't it click sooner? Am I just archery-retarded? I've been working on this for 11 months now. For a six month period, I practiced 2-3 hours per day, six days per week. It was around 500 hours of practice. At no time during that practice did everything click like it did against Jennifer Hardy.

I think the answer to your question is two-fold. In the first place, it clicked because it was ready to click. I'd done the preparatory work. I'd sincerely worked my hardest on getting good "FITA" form for months. So, when I really wanted to do it, I had a foundation upon which to draw. Secondly, it was long distance - 70m. If you don't shoot long distance, I don't think you can be a great archer. Distance amplifies mistakes. But it also teaches lessons. The whole tournament, I was shaky. My arrow point was moving on the target and I couldn't hold it steady. When things clicked, the movement stopped dead. It was like I'd put my arrow in a vise or something. I might not have seen that steadiness at close distance.

Today, I was out practicing 20 yard vegas rounds in very heavy winds (20mph or so). I was still shooting way better than I usually shoot indoors, despite the wind. But one thing I noticed was the wind actually blowing me and the bow off-target. That was something I never felt in the high winds at nationals because I wasn't steady enough to notice.

So, sorry for the long-winded answer, but I think that you have to prepare your form, and you have to practice at varying distances and varying conditions, and at some point there will be an element that helps you to arrive at the correct conclusion. I know that's vague, but it's the best I've got. Archery takes a ridiculous amount of work, and this was my first real plateau in the sport - 11 months of treadmill work with nothing to show for it. I'll probably hit several more as I go, but at least now I have hope.
 

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Fantastic experience really well told. Thank you very much.

Rasyad
 
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Congratulations on breaking through.

I suspect that going in after the positive experience with her and knowing that you were outclassed took most the competitive aggressive/frustration out of your mindset. So you relaxed mentally and physically and just allowed the good stuff to finally come to the top.

I had a somewhat similar experience a couple years back shooting a 100 shot offhand rifle match (22 rim fires at 100 yards) it had been a long frustrating weekend and I was down to the last three relays (usually I can get 40 shots in in a relay) of the match. I'd been fighting the rifle and the wind all weekend and had basically given up, just wanted to get the hundred shots downrange and on the paper and pack up to go home. I was just shooting them as quick as I could to get the sights on the paper---bingo---wound up shooting the best score I ever have on the 100 shot match and 4 of the 20 shot targets were personal bests.
sometimes I think we get so wound up in it we become our own worst enemies.
 

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alina, do you think that you just got out of your own way? being in that sort of hopeless situation but still shooting without fear of failure and the absence of ego may have been the catalyst? regardless, thanks for the well told story and congrats on your gain in perspective!
hope you continue to enjoy archery as your sport.
 

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Mammoth Hunter
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I think archery, for me, has always been a struggle of expectation vs reality. My expectations for my own performance are always about two steps ahead of the reality of my performance. Tournaments are always good at showing me that my expectations are out of line with my capabilities. However, this weekend was more jarring than most. Not just because of the last place finish, but because it was all so clearly laid out, especially on day 2. They had lined us up from first to worst, and once the arrows were shot, as you walked down to the bales, you could see the group sizes going from all gold to all over the place. And so it was this stark visual reminder of what was possible, but also where I was in my shooting.

I think the shoot down with Jennifer Hardy helped so much because this was the day after that experience, and I had spent the whole night trying to make peace with the reality of my capabilities for a change. When I went up against her, my goal was just to shoot the best form I could, knowing that the outcome wouldn't change regardless of what I did. And I ended up shooting the best form I could, and the outcome didn't change. What changed was my ability to shoot decent FITA form.

I've been hammering my target outside all day. I'm shooting so much more gold than I ever have. The bad shots are there, no question. I've thrown some threes and one one on a 40cm FITA face at 20 yards, but my average Vegas round today has been about 260. My goal is to move that to 270 in the next month or two, and to go from there. But it's more than just a starting point. Now, when I screw up, I pretty much know why, and I know how to not do it with my second arrow and my third, and that ability only comes from knowing your form well, and that only comes from many many hours of aimless sucking.
 

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I have always felt that coming in last is a great kindness to the person who was next to last. And you outscored all the people who didn't bother to show up.

And I have always found it helpful to observe and learn from champions, most of whom I have found to be very kind, generous and helpful. - lbg
 

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Great store - definitely a moment when it clicks and you get the "flow" (a martial arts reference!) From conscious incompetence to approaching unconscious competence!

Sometimes the "pattern change" forces us to adapt and we unconsciously grow.

I know the feeling of frustration too... I was about to quit doing "instinctive" and just do compound, till I discovered gapping. And now it looks like there's some hope for me after all!
 

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Barebow recurve
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That is a great experience! Thank you for sharing. Jennifer is a very nice lady. She would never want you to feel bad or uncomfortable shooting with her.

Remember that archery is a slow motion hobby that evolves over years and that shooting barebow is undoubtedly the toughest game in town, so cut yourself some slack. It can be frustrating hitting the plateau, but also really cool when you crack it. Getting some third party assistance can be very helpful too as sometimes you get some new ideas to try. Trying things can be frustrating when they do not pan out, but can also be what cracks the plateau.
 

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Mammoth Hunter
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
That is a great experience! Thank you for sharing. Jennifer is a very nice lady. She would never want you to feel bad or uncomfortable shooting with her.

Remember that archery is a slow motion hobby that evolves over years and that shooting barebow is undoubtedly the toughest game in town, so cut yourself some slack. It can be frustrating hitting the plateau, but also really cool when you crack it. Getting some third party assistance can be very helpful too as sometimes you get some new ideas to try. Trying things can be frustrating when they do not pan out, but can also be what cracks the plateau.
I absolutely agree. And Jennifer is awesome. She put me totally at ease. It's just that when you're surrounded by great archers, you don't want to look horribly out of place with your form.
 

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Always focus on the process, focus on the results will make following your shot process impossible.

If you want a few mental exercises that can help let me know, I had this problem for a long time.

-Grant
 

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Alina, I see it in myself partly at least as a focus issue. It reminds me of how 3D comics, films etc. look without the right glasses. I know for me all the stuff I've got to check and remember to do right leading up to release does a number on my focus. It is seldom single pointed, but still a bit spread out by all that (and of course, competition is notorious for sabotaging focus . . . even during a thread here on "Where's Your Focus" it didn't stop people at a tournament from posting their lust for great scores).

Recently some young men interested in archery visited the little range I've got set up here, and like magic my focus became one. I imagine their openness and trust, along with me wanting to give them a good impression of archery, pushed my focus to the lead-the only place it can be single pointed-instead of "behind" all the form issues I am usually so concerned about.

Like Jennifer did for you, I've had my focus "moved forward" by people a number of times in life. Once for instance, just before an early attempt at public speaking, an experienced speaker said to me with sincerity, "just be sincere." Her personification of that moved my focus from all the techniques of speaking and worries about what others might think into the genuineness of connecting with my audience.

That's why I said above I think it is "partly a focus issue" because while focus is the problem, I also think the solution is self-trust . . . the willingness to trust all of one's preparations at the performance moment and not let self-doubt fray one's focus.
 

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I was not sure how to respond to your post. I can see that others have given feedback that could easily be compiled in a coaching manual.

I was talking to a friend last Thursday that said his college acting teacher had all the students read, "Zen in the art of archery." The teacher applied the metaphor about shot preparation to acting; do all the steps and rehearsals before the performance, when on stage, let go and let the process play out on its own. I hope this makes sense.

All the best...
 
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