My Learnings on the journey into archery
My longbow symbolises survival and confidence in the wilderness, I feel my blood pulsing through my body in a different way when I draw my bow to full draw length and I feel a satisfying connection to country.
I can feel the sense of primal adventure.
It was a hunting tool, a weapon of war and protection in our past, and today it is used for sport – in archery competitions mostly.
I am thriving on the idea of meditation in action and love its intimate relationship to yoga.
The finest aspects of archery is the experience of oneness and sense of flow. That’s why I practise archery.
The oldest known bow was found in a cave in Denmark and is carbon dated to 9,000 BCE. Humans have been using bows and arrows for at least 10,000 years! My guess would be that the bow has been around far longer.
How did our ancestors master archery?
Was it just dedication and discipline?
It was certainly a skill that was taught through the generations.
Maybe oneness was cultivated through the art of living (you may call it surviving or thriving), but also through relating to the land and others.
Maybe oneness was a state rather than a word or philosophical discussion. The tribe was communicating on some deep level so that the wisdom could be carried forward and the tribe could stay healthy and connected.
How do you relate to yourself?
How do you relate to your environment? (partner, family, neighbour, stranger, earth…)
Your archery practise is a great way to reflect on your life, to be in the zone and a develop a sense of alignment with your blood line.
The archery technique that I teach people in my workshops is a method I was taught when I first started archery with my teacher Peter Yencken in 2013. I have been working on my archery skills since then and have been influenced on my journey by fellow archers and mentors, yoga teachers, friends and my 2 sons.
Children are particularly great with instinctive shooting.
I love the instinctive shooting method because it only works if you let go of your technique. I am still on my way to mastery however it is not my main focus.
I rather feel the bow in relation to my internal landscape and observe, adjust and balance my actions and thoughts externally and keep walking that path of self enquiry.
On the outside is an arrow, an anchor point and a target. The bow as an extension of my arm and what I perceive as the target. There is a sense of oneness and flow but without good form it is impossible to reach my full potential.
Instinctive shooting is a form that ‘becomes’ instinctual over time. It is something that you must practice and learn and practice…and practice – just like everything in life.
In any martial art, of which archery is one of the oldest next to Karadi Sadhana and yoga, you need to take the time to train your body so it will master the fine movements and muscle control. This will enable you to optimise your ability to draw the bow.
It is similar to the fine art of navigating through the deep waters of emotions in order to create balanced change. You have to learn to minimise your reactions and to respond from your heart. Any charge will somehow create limitations while balance will bring freedom.
The way muscles are used in martial arts is different to the way these muscles are used in everyday life. So if you are going to master shooting the bow you will need to allow your muscles time to develop.
The development of muscles takes time, as does getting used to using the muscle groups in different ways. That is why I encourage you during the making of your longbow in my workshop to aim for a relatively light bow. Given that you learn how to make your own bow you can progressively increase the draw weight of your next bow as your muscle tone develops and you gain more experience and flow.
It can be challenging to reach mastery level while we live in a world of instant success, but if mastery was that easy it wouldn’t provide the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes with it.
It takes a lot of discipline and practise on the way to mastery.
Focus on your practise rather than comparing yourself to others. There is always going to be people with more experience, maybe better technique and more dedication to hone their skills. I believe that the best competition is yourself: to be the best You that you can be in any given moment. In time, and with practice, ‘the best you’ becomes the best archer that you can be.
Start with little goals. Take it easy and have fun all the way. My son taught me that ‘failure’ is an event, not a person.
Reflect on and learn from your actions.
Breathe with a smile and mediate for a while.
In my next post I outline the best exercises in a step by step guide for those of you who haven’t used your longbow in a while (and this could mean the past 2 weeks!) – the last thing you want to do is pull a muscle!