Arrow Throwing Report

“Arrow” is a tv show that I had full intention of supporting, but no interest in. Conflicting? Sort of. Think of it as you would an album by your favourite artist, where the artist takes their style in a wild new direction, and it’s not your thing, but your allegiance makes you stick through to support them, so that they can continue and hopefully make amends.

Anyway, that’s not how it turned out for me. I expected more Smallville, instead I got something that was about the pretty young rich things ala The OC, and then meshed that in with a take on superheroing that takes oh-so-many cues from the recent Batman films. The result? A good, fun show. So this week I went out and decided to try archery. I bailed up a group of friends, told them wild stories about how great the show is, and how we should throw arrows. (My knowledge of the vernacular did improve). In the show, the title character has made a big display of hurling out multiple tennis balls, and then pinning them to a wall with well-aimed shots. I was going to get a lesson, and baked muffins for it. (muffins are softer than tennis balls)

Archery is the art of hurling arrows at a target, by harnessing the science of physics. Up until Monday, my understanding of this process was relatively simple: press the arrow against the string and bow, draw said string back, point, release, high-five your friends as you unleash yet another bullseye-smashing shot. However, it is nothing like this at all. It is an ART. It has a requirement for discipline, retrospective thought, and form. It’s like meditation via target-puncturing activity. It is on this level that I have been disillusioned of Arrow and it’s protagonist’s activities. Allow me to explain.

We were given recurve bows for our training. A recurve bow is one that, whilst having a gently curved shape, has an extra, reversed curve at each end, resulting in the string being in touch with the wood for a small measure. Our bows had hard plastic grips (or “rises” as Archers call them), and wooden limbs. Attached to the riser was a contraption of brass screws and measures – my sights. The trick with these was simple: line up the plastic orange pinpoint with the centre of the target. Easy. Thus. with the bow in hand, I ‘nocked’ my first ‘arrow’ and drew back the ‘string’. In this position of tension, I levelled my orange dot of truth on the bullseye of destination (…) And then, as I was ready to unleash the tension…it moved. I returned the sight to it’s correct position, only to feel it slide further away again. This was getting silly, my arms feeling oddly tensed and fed up. I redoubled my effort, lined up the shot, and released.

The arrow arced gracefully to a limp impact, only slightly above the juncture of target and floor.

Granted, this was my first shot for the day. Granted, the sights were very far from calibrated. But I have to take some of the blame – that string was difficult to keep back like that! I asked our instructor about the bow, and pressure. He informed me that it was an 18 pound bow, I had been struggling with 18 pounds. According to the literature (ie: comics), Green Arrow has a 240 pound bow – I had a fair way to go. And so the sights were played with, another arrow was nocked and the aiming process began anew. This one landed on the ringed section of the target. Progress!

Going in, I was aware that a 90 minute lesson wouldn’t have me master the skill of archery, but would rather be a primer on what’s involved. To that end, I was right. There are so many variables to be accounted for with every shot: the grip on the bow, the angle of the arm drawing the string, the sights aligned correctly, the method of releasing the string – each of these was a contributing factor in getting the arrow to the target.

We shot lots of arrows. Estimates put it at approximately 85 arrows each. The more we shot, the faster and better we were getting. My grouping was terrible, the thin forms of the arrows impaling the target in a haphazard manner, but improving in the perpendicular manner in which they struck. My fellow archers had different progress – one had grouping down to a fine art early on, but found the grouping meandered around the target area. Another had the angle of impact down pat before any of us realised this was something we could control. Another almost pulverised the target with the force he was able to muster.

Our instructor decided to give us a bit of a broader experience, and brought out a selection of other weapons for us to try. The first was a horse-bow. Being neither made of horses, or looking like one, it was a bow designed for use whilst riding said animal (of course!). This was a simpler weapon, no sights, no moulded plastic assistance. Just curved wood, and tense string. Whilst the degree of effort needed on this bow was increased, it felt good – it felt powerful, yet primal. We sampled a classical longbow, a five-foot plain weapon which all but one of us struggled to draw back any reasonable distance (He who could, was actually concerned about the result of unleashing the arrow – I fear he may have been able to tear reality with the arrow, it was a mighty weapon). The last was the high-tech end of archery, a compound bow. This bow was a pink camoflauge design, as it was a nine-year-old girl’s bow. Designed with complete mastery of tension in mind, this weapon involved a wheeled assembly that takes the pressure for you, allowing you to aim in a more relaxed state, before the release triggers an explosion of additional force. That’s a dangerous nine-year-old.

It was a learning experience. I learnt that whilst an effective way of dealing with zombies, archery was also quite a zen-like sport. I could easily see myself taking up the sport, and spending many a crisp morning slowly and deliberately tasking arrows through the air and into a target. I could, I really could.

I almost threw a handful of muffins up, with the intention of rapidly pinning each one against the far wall. Muffins don’t bounce.

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~ by nick on May 13, 2013.

2 Responses to “Arrow Throwing Report”

  1. That is quite cool, Mr N! One of my favourite books has an archer as the main character, and while he masters the bow in the first book, they do cover enough of the technique to make me realise that archery is pretty complex.

    But you know how I feel about baking – you shouldn’t be wasting muffins like that!

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