Archery has Gone Mental: Part 2: Imagery
I hope your training is going well so far and that you made your STRONG/WEAK column this past week. If you still have not made the column list, then go back to Part 1 and be sure you do it. This process is in steps and in the end the parts will all come together. So do yourself a favor and don’t cheat, just give it a try and do it!
Bow Arm * Anchor
Anchor * Release
Grip * Crowds
Equipment/Gear * 3-spot target
Exploring the Imagination
Everything you do starts with an image in your head. That image you have of yourself doing anything is called imagery. Imagery is a picture or moving picture you have of something you want to act upon. The difference between imagery and dreams is that in dreams you are not always in control of what you see. Imagery is a conscious effort to see yourself doing something and is on purpose.
The concept of imagery is very simple. However it is the beginning of everything you actually do and if not taken seriously it can hinder what you are trying to accomplish. If you try to imagine yourself jumping off a cliff and then picture yourself with wings and flying, then you are just day dreaming and not using imagery correctly. It is important to understand that when using imagery you must picture everything you do as being completely real and not be unrealistic with it.
Every person is unique in the way they imagine the world around them. Some people have active imaginations and can picture themselves as Superman flying around and looking down at their house. Others struggle with an imagination like that and can’t even see themselves in their mind doing anything but what they already know they can do, like walking down stairs.
The difference between the two types is night and day, but by learning how to use imagery correctly it doesn’t matter what type you fall under. If you have an active imagination you actually struggle with imagery because you tend to lose focus and see yourself doing something unrealistic. While others dream and picture themselves in reality as seen through their eyes.
Active imaginations are great with imagery because you have the ability to see not only yourself but your surroundings as well as one image. You can easily change the background of where you are just by thinking it. This is a good thing, but needs to be controlled.
Have someone else read this part to you right now. Close your eyes while they read this to you.
Picture yourself flying through the air like superman. There are clouds all around with blue sky above you. Your arms are out to your side and your legs straight. Your head is up looking straight ahead. You lean to turn, right then left. Then you do a barrel role! Now try to picture yourself and what you look like. What color shoes are you wearing? (If you are the one reading this to them, did their body move to fly while in front of you? Did their head move down to look at their feet?)
Now put your feet back on the ground, we have stuff to learn.
When you were asked what color shoes are you wearing, did you stop flying and look down at your actual feet? Or did you keep flying and look at your feet in the air? If you looked at your feet while flying, how did you look at them? If you saw your shoes by looking at them then you are viewing in the first person. If you looked at your shoes from outside your body then you saw them as third person. Following so far?
Now ask the person who read that to you whether or not you just sat there or if you moved your head while looking at your feet.
If you just sat there and did not move it means that you are able to picture yourself doing something including a task without moving at all. Congratulations! You are able to perform imagery in public and not embarrass yourself!
For everyone else all it means is that you use your body to complete what you picture in your head. There is no right or wrong, just whether or not you don’t mind on lookers when doing it at the airport.
How to Visualize, You
Imagining yourself is not easy for everyone to do. Everyone can close their eyes and visualize seeing something from their own perspective. The hard part is being able to close your eyes and picture yourself from someone else’s perspective and not lose focus.
As an exercise to learn how to visualize yourself I have found that the easiest way is to have someone take a picture of you while shooting. Now take that picture and look at it. Look at every single inch of everything in it. Hold that picture in front of you and stare at it without blinking. Do this for about 5-10 seconds. Without blinking or looking away, close your eyes and visualize the picture. Don’t move, keep holding the picture, or at least don’t move the picture. After about 3-5 seconds open your eyes and look at the picture again. Do this over and over until when you close your eyes you can see the picture without your eyes open.
This is a way to train your mind to see what you want it to see. By memorizing the picture your mind is able to see it as if you were actually looking at the picture with your eyes open. This may take some of you a while to learn how to do it, but this is crucial for learning imagery.
Once you learn this, assuming it does not come naturally to you, you will be able to close your eyes and see yourself like a picture. If you struggle with being able to see yourself from different angles in your head, then have more pictures taken of you while shooting from different angles. I have found that making a video of yourself is the fastest way to see yourself in all angles.
What you want to be able to do is close your eyes and see yourself shooting. You want to be able to see yourself as if you were a camera from all angles. Being able to visualize yourself in your mind and moving around yourself is the goal. If you get frustrated trying to do it, just watch the video of yourself again and see what the camera sees. Once you can see yourself in that way, elaborate on it. Try to move your view to above yourself in your mind, looking down on yourself.
Being able to visualize every part of you is not always easy and takes practice. Once you are able to do this however, you will be able to see yourself in a different way and it will begin to help you understand your form and your surroundings better.
Once you grasp being able to see yourself and your surroundings with your eyes closed, you can begin to use imagery. Imagery is an ability to see anything you want from first person to third person point of views and change the picture you see to how you want it to be.
Assuming you can do this now, close your eyes and take a look at the field you are shooting on. Picture everything around you as you wish. The sky, the grass or dirt, the target, the trees, the wind, everything you would see when you shoot. You can use imagery in your mind to change the field and things like weather or time of day. You can picture yourself shooting on a rainy day and visualize the water running down the riser. Imagery can go even further with your senses and you can learn to smell the rain or feel it on your skin.
Imagery is a key ingredient to a stronger mental game because it allows you to create a perfect picture of what you should be doing and to find ways to fix problems before ever shooting a single real shot. If you feel comfortable in an environment before ever showing up to that place you will already feel more confident.
Never been to a specific tournament or location and feel anxious about it? Use imagery to calm yourself down. Find pictures on the web of previous tournaments at that location. Study the pictures or video. Look at how it is laid out, the grass or carpet if indoor, look at the targets and lighting, and find everything you can to picture yourself standing there. Imagine being the one who took the pictures or video. Close your eyes and look around the venue. Get a feel of the place. Walk around a bit in your head. Go stand on the shooting line and fire a shot real fast. Don’t worry, no one will mind.
You can even go online to see average weather of the venue or find the weather for that day you will be there. You will know if it is 70deg with sun or 90deg with rain. Visualize yourself on the shooting line knowing what it looks like and what the weather is like. Visualize and imagine the perfect shot. Picture how perfect you release the string and how strong your bow arm is. Visualize everything as if you were actually there right now.
Take a WEAK column item and work on it in your head. Visualize yourself doing it the right way, perfect. Picture yourself shooting with perfection. Work on it in your mind until you just want to pick up the bow and just do it right away. Build confidence before you even stand on the shooting line. Use imagery to curb your fears. Shoot strong shots in your head.
The mind has a wonderful way of helping us correct physical struggles. If we imagine it enough the mind will start to help our physical bodies perform exactly the way we picture ourselves. You can cut WEAK issues time in half by using imagery to correct the problems.
By using imagery, which you can do anywhere at any time, you can learn to shoot an entire tournament before you even get there. Imagery is nothing more than picturing the perfect you. Anyone can do it with some practice and advanced practice will let you close your eyes anywhere and shoot all your shots perfectly while feeling the rain on your skin and the push of the wind on your back. Remember not to day dream and keep it realistic. Feel confident when visualizing yourself, and always visualize hitting the X!
You want to use imagery before shooting every real shot. Picture your shot process and how you want to execute the shot before nocking the arrow. Then shoot it exactly how you imagined.
What are you imagining right now? For me I am using imagery to see myself preparing my gear with my Archery Backpack before heading to the field.
Weekly Challenge: Use imagery to help move a WEAK column item over. Remember that moving a WEAK item over is about confidence and confidence is all in your head.
See you next week when I take you on a journey with your subconscious mind.
Everyone you know may be posting about pumpkin spice lattes and colorful leaves, but for archers, October also signals the start of the indoor archery season. Whether you’re new to archery this year, or an indoor gold medalist, here are three tips everyone can use to improve their indoor game:
1. Get your gear on point
If you’re switching from an outdoor setup to an indoor setup, a small investment of time can have a major impact on your bow’s performance (and your sanity).
First, use a note-taking app to make a record of your bow setup as you’ve used it for outdoor season, including bow weight, arrow specs, arrow rest type and where it’s positioned, and your stabilizer/weight configuration. Be sure to take photos as well, so you have a clear record of exactly how your outdoor setup works before you change anything for indoors, so that you can change it back next spring.
If you’re a compound archer, you might find that one type of arrow rest shoots better indoors than out, and you’re likely to need adjustments even if you’re sticking with the same rest but changing arrows for indoor season. If you’re able, keep your outdoor rest intact and simply remove it from the bow, and pop a new arrow rest on for indoor season. For recurve archers, the same goes for the plunger; try to keep separate ones for indoor and outdoor season, because it can be difficult to duplicate plunger settings once they’ve been changed.
There are some archers who won’t change arrows from outdoor season to indoor season, and that’s okay, too. If you’re not making any changes, just be sure that you still keep a good record of your archery equipment so that if something breaks or is lost, you can make an exact replacement quickly.
2. Learn the Game
Indoor archery tournaments can be hosted by target, field and 3-D archery organizations. Depending on where you live, you might be able to choose from a variety of local, state and regional competitions, or your options may be limited by the type of archery that’s popular in your area.
Whatever archery game you decide to play, take the time to learn the rules, from how to shoot your target to scoring. The rules at some National Field Archery Association tournaments, for example, could differ from World Archery’s format. Here are some good questions to research:
By asking these simple questions, you can set yourself up for success, whether it’s your first indoor archery season or just the first time you’re trying a new round.
3. Set a Goal, and Get Started!
Now that your equipment is ready and you know what kinds of indoor archery rounds you want to shoot, it’s time to set some goals and work toward reaching them.
If this is your first indoor season, or if you’re shooting a new indoor game for the first time, your goal should really just be to learn: learn the round, the rules, how to compete, and develop confidence in an unfamiliar environment. If you’ve shot indoor archery before, your goals might be a bit more involved: perfecting your shot process indoors, setting a new personal best at a tournament, or earning a spot on the podium.
Remember that even though indoor tournaments tend to have fewer arrows required per day than outdoor tournaments, your shots and scores will still only be as good as your commitment to practicing. The target is where you’ll see your efforts pay off (or not). Even though the days are short and temps become cold, practice is still a necessity, even if indoors at very short distances. If you’re planning to shoot tournaments, be sure to learn the format and practice keeping score: this will help develop confidence.
Finally, as you progress through your indoor archery season, be sure to keep good notes. Things you should write down: how your tournaments went, what you liked most about the season, which things affected you positively or negatively during practice, and changes you’d like to try making to your bow. By keeping notes, you’ll be able to see your accomplishments, track your progress and be even more efficient in planning for future indoor archery seasons!
Approaching the Mind: Part 1
Archery is a sport like any other. It requires immense physical abilities to repeat a set of steps to complete a task. Not every athlete is built the same and nor are they able to complete the task at hand exactly the same from person to person. What an athlete lacks in physical qualities, they make up for with mental strength and ability. Just the pure fact that someone never gives up is already their greatest strength.
Archers train their body to repeat every step exactly the same shot by shot. That is the true secret to being a great archer, being able to duplicate everything you do on every single shot. It doesn’t matter if it is perfectly executed. All that matters is that you do the same exact thing every single time. It doesn’t matter how much weight you can shoot or how fast the arrow can fly. A slow bullseye is the same as a fast bullseye.
Perfect form with more arrow speed will certainly help in many circumstances like shooting in the wind, but less than perfect form and a slow arrow can still hit the target where you want it to. Physical abilities are different from archer to archer and like any athlete in a sport everyone is different in that area. Better form only helps lessen the chance of a poor shot, but even bad form can still work.
Why all the talk already about physical ability and form? You thought reading this article would help your mental game, not tell you about good vs. bad form?
Within a few short paragraphs you have already learned more about the mental game of sports and archery than you realize. If you shoot a low poundage bow and always wondered how your bow weight affects a bullseye or if you have less than perfect form due to an injury and there is nothing you can do about it, then I know for those of you in those categories that I raised your heart rate slightly already and got you excited about the idea that none of that matters and you can still shoot a perfect shot.
Now let me take your heart rate up more and turn up your blood pressure. Unless you shoot 50+ lbs and can shoot 8 hrs a day with perfect form because you have a great coach, you will never win an Olympic Gold Medal. Ever!
Stirred up and mad? Did your stomach drop and heart rate jump up reading that? If it did then you are not alone and the next few weeks you will learn the basics of how and why that happens to you. Most importantly you will learn a few ways to curb those feelings.
Some of you reading this laughed at the comment and rolled your eyes thinking to yourself, whatever. If you chuckled at the comment then you have confidence. Confidence because you simply know it isn’t true or confidence because you can prove it wrong right now.
Confidence is Knowledge
It is not a secret but the biggest factor in having a mental game is confidence. Confidence is a learned trait for most, but some people are just naturally confident in everything they do. Those rare individuals just know they can do something before they even attempt it. If you are not one of those people then don’t worry about it because the key to confidence is knowledge. Knowledge gives us the ability in any situation to conquer fear. Fear is the number one distraction. We are only afraid of what we don’t know.
When you stand on the shooting line in a tournament and shoot your very first shot in practice rounds, do you shake or feel faint? That feeling is caused from adrenaline which is triggered by a certain emotion, fear. It is a normal reaction for most of us. The reason is simple. The reason you have fear is because you are not confident enough in knowing your abilities.
“…Confident enough in knowing your abilities.”
The reason seasoned archers or athletes are confident is because they know what they are capable of doing. They have knowledge of themselves and have performed in every scenario possible. They know the good and the bad. When the wind blows, they know how to aim or what to change to make the shot. When equipment fails, they know what needs to be fixed and how to deal with it.
We will get into how to gain confidence later on. The important thing at this point is to understand where you are in your mental game and work on your mental weaknesses.
As a positive booster to get you going keep this in mind every single time you compete. Every athlete has a breaking point mentally no matter how good their mental game. You will also learn in these series how to turn the mental game around and us it to “psych-out” your competition.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how confidence is knowledge, let us dive right into your first true lesson in any mental game. Fear.
Fear is a normal human reaction and is an emotion. Fear has many different faces and for most it is the fear of the unknown. Confidence is the ability to overcome fear. Knowledge is the key to confidence. See a pattern starting?
When we begin to shake it is because adrenaline is pumping through our system and fear is usually the cause. Anxiety is also fear and is hard to control unless you know what it is that is making you anxious in the first place. In order to conquer your fears, you simply have to face them. Over the years I have found this to be different for everyone, so everyone has a different approach but the results of what is next works regardless of your mental type (and by mental type remember that it is referring to whether or not you feel anxious or afraid, or if you already feel nothing) or ability.
Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. This is true no matter what you do in life or sports. Athletes practice and practice and practice to prepare for competition. We practice so that we can do what we want as we want at any moment. Being natural at what we do. We want to practice so that we get better. Practicing in a garage or in the backyard will only get you so far. You can practice your form for 10,000 shots and put years behind your practice. Let’s say that your practice is perfect every time. You shoot a planned practice with 100 shots each time. Each practice your form gets better and better and you get stronger and stronger. You can average 290s in practice for indoor, but when you shoot in a tournament your averages drop to 275s. How is that possible when you practice perfectly every single session? Your form is solid and the arrow flies so perfectly down range. The reason is because when you get to a competition you become anxious and the little imperfections start to come out when shooting. The bad shots go to your head and the score starts to drop no matter how hard you try. Be careful not to try too hard, you know what you can do. The 10s become 9s and you lose your confidence. You become frustrated and afraid of the next shot. The moment you let fear enter your mind, the damage is done. Or is it?
The first lesson in this mental game is understanding yourself. After reading this article I want you to grab a piece of paper and pen or something you can’t erase. Draw a line down the middle to make 2 columns. On one column side write STRONG and on the other column write WEAK.
Under the STRONG side I want you to write what you feel are your archery strengths, ie strong bow arm, solid anchor, etc. and on the WEAK side I want you to write what you feel you are weakest in doing.
Bow Arm * Anchor
Once you are done look at the weak column first. These are the things in your form or shot process that need work. They are not perfect but they are fixable. These are things you need to focus on each week in practice. As each part of the WEAK column improves and you feel they are STRONG, cross them out and add it to the STRONG column. DO NOT ERASE the WEAK COLUMN! You will see why later.
Your first goal is to improve one WEAK column item in one week. I call it WEAK for WEEK.
If you are unable to accomplish moving a weak issue over in a week then it is ok. It is simply a goal that has long term affects but can be corrected.
Example: You fixed your anchor this week so you can add it to the STRONG side. Don't erase it from the WEAK side. Just cross it out so you can still see it.
Bow Arm * Anchor
Anchor * Release
Now you can’t read the next part until you make this column. So do yourself a favor and don’t cheat. Just do it! Right now!
..... Waiting on you to make your columns....
You are now probably asking why would I make a column to work on my weak parts in my form when I am trying to have a better mental game in archery? The reason is because there is not a way to become confident in yourself if you still feel you have a weakness to overcome. The fact you wrote it in the WEAK column proves to yourself that you feel unconfident in that part of your shooting. The only way to overcome that part of your mind is to work on it until you can write this column later from scratch and put everything in the STRONG column. Remember that STRONG does not mean perfect. Hence the point of the exercise. The point of this is so you can see where your mind is headed. If you put anything in the WEAK column then your mind is already fighting a battle with confidence. I will say it again, STRONG does not mean perfect. It just means your mind sees it as a part of the process it is comfortable with and is confident enough to work with.
The goal this week is to know how your mind feels about your shot process. There is not a right or wrong answer, just pieces to a puzzle that you will soon learn how to put together. Without the confidence in the shot process there is not a solid foundation to build a mental game in competition. The STRONG column is your confidence and everything else is why you get afraid and anxious. By eliminating the items in the WEAK column you begin to build confidence in the entire process.
The confidence you gain from “knowing” your shot process is stronger is the beginning of a champion’s mind.
I added an item to my STRONG column for archery equipment / archery gear because being confident in your gear is half the battle. I am confident that my gear makes it safely to and from archery training because I know my Archery Recurve Backpack Akiles2 will safely carry my precious gear without worry.
Check back very soon for Part 2 of this series: Imagery. You will learn how to mentally visualize the shot process and shoot the perfect shoot without ever picking up a bow. You will learn how to build confidence without having to shoot a single physical shot.
Mental Game for the Week: When you are having a bad day shooting, stop and ask yourself what kind of pizza you want for dinner. Think about what toppings you want while shooting and drool over the idea of melted cheese. Try it and see how much better your shooting gets and then enjoy that tasty pizza!
For more pictures and details, please follow this link : archery quiver Summit.
As complex humans with a wide range of personalities and emotions, we tend to think about “the perfect shot” as a bulls'eye. Pulling the bow back, aiming, and then watching the arrow hit the target dead smack center. Sounds more like a dream than most archer’s reality, or does it.
Over the next few weeks you will get a "how to" guide to mental training to help understand how to increase your mental game when shooting. Whether it is for fun or competition, the mental part to archery is more important than the physical aspect. Archery can be mentally tough and to combat it you have to know yourself and how to deal with the pressure as it comes.
To me the absolute perfect shot starts with me standing on a shooting line somewhere green and lush with trees surrounding a field with many colorful FITA archery targets. I stand on the line feeling how soft the grass is beneath, the sky is blue with fluffy white clouds keeping the sun off me just enough as not to bake me all day, surrounded by fellow shooters basking in the warmth of the gorgeous day, and a breeze so light that you can barely feel it.
As I draw my bow I mentally feel I look like Jay Barrs or Brady Ellison. The bow pulls so gently and my form feels rock solid. I aim with no effort at 70m with my sight pin not moving at all. I pull through the clicker smoothly and effortlessly, and as it drops my release lets a thrush of the string go off my finger tips. The bow rocks forward and the arrow is in perfect flight as I watch it fly away so gracefully. And before it reaches the target my head is already on the next arrow being pulled from my quiver. I never see the arrow hit the target because I just know exactly where it will land. To me that is the perfect shot. The shot that feels like the whole world just comes together and you truly enjoy it all… That is until you get to the target and realize you shot a 7 instead of a X. To me the perfect shot is all in how it feels. If it feels perfect, it will find its way into the bulls'eye…eventually.
Everyone has their perfect shot in their dreams. For some it is simply any shot that hits the center. For others it is just the pleasure of hitting the target.
The perfect shot is not the same for everyone, but for everyone the perfect shot starts in your mind and the mind is where it does become the same for everyone. Keeping the focus on your perfect shot starts well before you ever pick up the bow. The mental game of archery is not only the hardest part of the sport, but the most crucial. I have JOAD archers trying to shoot the 1000 arrow challenge thinking that each shot is just a shot and the goal is to physically just shoot 1000 arrows. What if I told you that for 1000 shots on every shot you also had to do a math problem before each shot? Your mind would wonder well before the 500th arrow and your body would already start to get even more tired. Did you know that a thinking marathon is just as physically exhausting as actually doing exercise?
When we begin to concentrate we naturally start to tense up while thinking about say a math problem. Over time the problems, regardless of how simple it is, seem more and more complex. The reason is simple. The more we concentrate the more energy we expel through our bodies. This causes the body to become more fatigued. That fatigue along with physical exercise starts an even faster downhill slide to our energy levels. The combination creates a weaker body and a weaker mind and the more we try using both, the harder everything becomes in general. The mind wonders, the body collapses, and the perfect shot disappears.
The solution is simple. If you do shoot the 1000 arrow challenge, challenge your mind on every shot. For any archer that is simple. Don’t just shoot the shot. Focus on form, or focus on aiming, or focus on something like your idea of the perfect shot on every shot. If you do it enough then not only will your mind be able focus longer, but your mind and body will both be able to go longer with better results. This philosophy is the basic principle for elite military training. The reason they do it is so that at any given moment the body and the mind work in sink regardless of how tired you are.
The perfect shot starts in your mind, but is your body able to keep up. Practice your perfect shot on every shot in your head before you shoot. Practice the perfect shot in your head while you exercise. Practice the perfect shot. Practice. Practice. Practice. Remember this… Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. So what is the perfect shot? It is the ability to shoot a shot that you already shot in your head and make it happen in the exact way you mentally pictured it… EVERY SINGLE TIME!
I’m always curious, what’s your perfect shot?
Check back later this week for Part 2 of this series and don't forget to check out Legend Archery's new Summit archery quiver before leaving! I will have a full review on the new Summit Quiver soon so keep checking back to read all about it!
Check out the new quiver here: http://legendarchery.com/collections/archery-quivers-arrow-quivers/products/archery-quiver-summit
“I want to be an Olympian.”
“I want to go to the Paralympics.”
“My daughter could be a World Champion.”
What exactly does it take to compete at the top levels of a sport? In many sports, it’s about speed, strength and agility. But in archery, the ultimate sport of precision, it might take just three things: work ethic, true passion for the sport, and the ability to quiet the mind.
“Work ethic” means different things to different people, but when it comes to top-performing competitive archery stars, it’s about finding the winning balance between quality and quantity. While many top archers are known for their impressive daily arrow counts (think 300 or more arrows per day for some of the world’s best recurve shooters), the sport’s champions make each of those arrows count, and carve out time for other important activities, like visualization, cardio, strength training and equipment tuning.
It’s especially true in archery that “perfect practice makes perfect.” Just being able to release hundreds of arrows isn’t enough to win – and in fact, shooting for practice numbers, without regard to technique, could actually cause an archer to form bad habits. Thoughtful practice during which the archer concentrates on each arrow is far more likely to result in success.
Passion for the sport – such an important quality in competitive archers – can’t be taught or coached into an athlete. Regardless of how much potential a coach or parent sees in an archer, if they don’t truly love the sport of archery, they’ll eventually struggle to compete at a high level.
For an archer to get to the level of a compound world title or an Olympic team placement, they’ll shoot tens of thousands of arrows per year – maybe more – often alone in a field, or in front of their target, rehearsing the perfect shot over and over again. They’ll struggle in competition, shed tears of frustration and joy, and hopefully, eventually triumph – but only because they had a true love for archery and a willingness to shoot arrows even when they felt a little lazy – because they had the drive to win.
I once heard a coach talking about an athlete who was competing at a very high level – a World Championship team member, Olympic hopeful and international medalist in archery. The coach said the archer was successful because she could “quiet her mind” and focus on what she needed to do.
The ability to “quiet the mind” is the same thing as getting in and out of the zone; it’s the mental strength to shut out distractions and have a laser focus on the task at hand until it’s finished, and not allow the mind to wander. If you’re an archer, how many times have you known you had something to work on – perhaps your release, for example – and then become distracted because you realized something was “off” about your bow hand, your grip or your stance? In the end, the archer who can quiet their mind is able to focus on what must be fixed, and focus only on that one thing until it’s a good habit. And that same archer can shut out distractions – wind, rain, heat, and other competitors, for example – when the competitive pressure is high.
All of these qualities are critical to competitive success, and all of them are interconnected. With work ethic must come the passion for the sport required to put in the arrows and hours needed to succeed. And the archer who has a quiet mind will be able to get the most out of every arrow they shoot, fueled by the love of shooting a bow and arrow, and the desire to win.
Understanding Reflex and Deflex risers
Thousands of years ago man did not have a true understanding of technology and how it affected the bow. Different styles of recurve bows were used in different cultures. By understanding the differences in their style of archery and hunting, you can see why some cultures chose different styles of bows.
Today we still toy around with different types of bows and when you are talking about recurves in competition you see manufactures selling you on the idea of a “more deflex” tuned bow. Understanding the purpose of what a more deflex bow does will help you gauge why all the hype is around today.
How well do you understand reflex vs deflex?
To make this simple for you to understand and not go into the science and technical aspects that most won’t understand, this article is a base to help you to get to know the difference and why they are important.
Reflex bows are designed to have the limbs pivot point in front of the archers hand or more easily to see in front of the grip pivot point. As you can see in the picture, this bow has a slight reflex design and puts the limb pivot points in front of the hand. (This is a deflex riser but with a more relflex design than normal. You will understand better later on.) The red line is drawn from the limb pivot point to show you the relation from the riser ends and the distance from the grip.
Deflex bows are designed in the opposite way. The limb pivot point is behind the pivot point of the grip. Take a look at the picture and compare it to the one above to clearly see the difference. By using the red arrows you can see how the more deflex riser has more gap from the grip in comparison. You will notice this later on in the article as well.
As for the definition of the two styles, this is as simple as it gets. Reflex and deflex simply refers to where the pivot point of the limb sits in relation to the pivot point of the grip. Simple right? You bet it is, at least until you start thinking about why the two designs and how they play a role in our shooting.
Reflex bows are much faster than a deflex bow design. There are several factors that come into play to make this happen. If you are up to speed on how brace height affects arrow speed, than this will be easy to understand. The lower the brace height, brace height is the distance from the throat of the grip, the faster the speed. We know this because by lowering the brace height you in turn weaken the arrow shaft spine, thus meaning more speed is introduced.
Purpose of each design has had its place in traditional archery designs and is now making its way back into the market.
If you have a short draw length and just cannot get the speed you are wanting, then a reflex design is more your speed. On the other hand if you are looking for a more forgiving bow and speed is not a concern, then a deflex bow is what you want.
In an age where speed seems to dictate what we buy, the idea behind a more reflex design bow has been a focus. Speed sells to the masses, but accuracy is what wins. With speed you will certainly sacrifice some accuracy. The trade-off is of personal preference in the end, but the end result for some is pin-point accuracy.
So how does each design make or break the archer?
If you are an incredibly accurate archer with little mistakes being made, then you can shoot a more reflex design bow. For the masses however, a more deflex bow is better and more forgiving.
Most recurve bows today are of deflex design. The question becomes how much deflex is built into the riser? Most entry level good risers have quite a bit of deflex built into them. The reason is simple. The more deflex the more forgiving the bow is and the more accurate. By giving a new archer a bow that shoots more accurately the more confidence they have quicker. The quicker they get better, the quicker they buy a new riser. So why not make every riser with more deflex to begin with? The reason is because in the midst of having a more deflex riser with more accuracy, the less deflex riser is faster and faster wins in the wind and at distance. There is a trade-off remember and you can cross that fine line easily.
Win & Win make mostly high deflex risers from the base range to the top end. Ask many archers why they love their Win & Win and they will tell you that the bow just seems to shoot better. Hoyt on the other hand has used a much less deflex design in recent years on their high end bows. They have found a balance with speed and stability, and it shows. Recently Hoyt have brought back the RX design which has more deflex than in previous models. Notice in the picture below how the old RX design had more deflex built in versus the HPX, which was and has been a very successful bow.
Why more delfex now then? Back to the beginning of what the modern riser design is mostly based on, the Hoyt GM TD2. Earl Hoyt used more deflex in his original design than anyone probably ever thought of without notice. The following decades gave way to very similar geometry with very slight differences. The more modern times with technology has introduced risers with less deflex making for quicker bows.
Whether you are new to archery or an expert with decades of shooting skills, the more deflex designs offer more accuracy regardless of brand. Shoot a less deflex riser well and the more deflex risers will help make you even more accurate.
If you don’t understand how brace height affects the arrow, then don’t feel alone.
There are two types of brace height. No not high and low.
The first type I call “Natural Brace Height”. This is the bows natural brace height based on the geometry of the riser design, is it reflex or deflex in design. As stated before a reflex design will have a lower brace height and a deflex design will be higher. Given the same limbs and length of string with the same number of twists, you would see this naturally happening. This is why I call it the Natural Brace Height. You can achieve the same brace height for each design by making the string longer or shorter when made or changing the number of twists.
The second type of brace height is what I simply call, “Adjusted”. By changing the string length as stated above, you can adjust the brace height for either design of riser to be the same.
So why the fuss with two designs, reflex or deflex, if you can “adjust” the brace height from its natural location?
If the riser has more deflex design then the natural brace height will be higher. Remember the higher the brace height the slower the arrow, but the more stable and more forgiving it will be. A riser with less deflex with a natural brace height being lower will be faster and not as forgiving. You can change the brace height by adjusting it, but you are changing the natural nature of the bow.
Let’s say that the less deflex riser naturally rests at 8.5” of brace height and the more deflex riser naturally rests at 9.0” brace height. Just as an example without adjusting anything, you can see that the more deflex riser is already closer to a more forgiving setup without any adjustment yet. By adjusting the less deflex riser and bringing the brace height up to 9.0” we have to shorted the string via twists if possible. This increase in brace height will affect the arrow spine some and stiffen it. To go up to 9.25” of brace height we will drastically change the arrow flight and tune, where the more deflex riser will be naturally closer to the 9.25” of brace height with only a few twists. This allows us to keep the spine much closer for tuning and still give even more forgiveness without being far from the natural design of the bow.
Forgiveness is a term used lightly and nothing makes it truly more forgiving, but what it does refer to is a more forgiving bow is purely just a more stable and accurate bow.
While a higher brace height is a tad slower, it is however more stable. The idea is to introduce more deflex into a riser so that the bow is more stable.
So what do you know now? You know that a reflex design is faster at the cost of accuracy because the bow naturally is not as stable. You know that a deflex design is slower at the cost of more accuracy because it is more stable.
Want to see the proof? Over the past year or so you started to see some changes in what risers are being used. Take a look at some top archers and you will notice that more and more Hoyt GMX risers are being used. The Hoyt GMX is an ILF riser with more deflex geometry built into it. You will also start seeing a lot more Hoyt Prodigy RX risers being used which also have more deflex built into it. Both risers use Earl Hoyts original geometry dating back to the TD2 over 30 years ago. Win & Win already use a more deflex design and have had their success stories as well, but keep in mind that they stuck with their geometry for the most part for all of these years.
The simple truth is that more deflex to equal a natural 9” brace height is still the way to go to achieve a bow that is more stable and accurate. Technology is moving forward only to find that old designs are more in tune than we ever imagined.
Hoyt Formula RX and Hoyt GMX (Old deflex geometry, just like the TD4)
So the next time you are shopping for a new riser or bow, you will now have one more thing to think about before pulling the trigger. It better be an accurate decision.
Many mythical and legendary heroes are paired with a weapon that works like a pen that writes their history. King Arthur is one of them. A legendary English king whose story is told by many a fabled twist that constantly reinvents the legend. One of his traits that is always with him is his own sword called Excalibur. According to the Arthurian story Excalibur came into Arthur’s possession in a number of ways. One of them is ‘the Sword in the Stone’ where Arthur pulled out the famous sword from a stone, which made him the divinely appointed ruler and heir of Uther Pendragon’s kingdom of Britain. Another tale tells us that Excalibur was a sword of magical powers given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake, a reincarnation of a mystical sorceress who grants Arthur the power to become the guardian of the kingdom. Now if a sword can write the history of a great nation through a knight is there an archer with a bow and arrow that is the equivalent of Excalibur. It turns out there is but it’s not an English legend, it’s an Indian legend called Arjuna, whose bow was called Gandiva.
The legend of Arjuna and Gandiva comes from a Hindu text called Mahabharata. This is a major Sanskrit epic of ancient India which tells the story of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of Indian princes from the Pandava and Kaurava families who fought for the claim to the throne of Kuru. The Mahabharata also contains philosophical teachings, which includes the four goals of life known as purusharthas and the book itself is the longest known epic poem in ancient literature. Arjuna is the third of three Pandava brothers in the royal family of Hastinapura. He had training in religion, science, administration and military arts by Bhisma. Later comes another tutor called Drona who becomes the Kuru princes’ teacher of weaponry. Drona taught weaponry to all the princes and Arjuna was his favourite and most accomplished pupil. Arjuna becomes a master in archery and in one famous incident he shot a bird straight in the eye on a tree, which proved his ability with accuracy to be the best in India. To test his students and for Arjuna to show off just how skilled he was with a bow Drona put himself in danger and got Arjuna to save him from a crocodile attack. There was also another act of showmanship where Arjuna shot accurately without visualizing his target. Drona was so impressed that he promised to coach him to become the greatest archer that ever lived.
As part of his gurudakshina, a tradition where the student reciprocates his training to his master, Arjuna and his brothers attacked and captured King Drupada. Drona had a grudge against Drupada and after his capture the king was so impressed he wanted Arjuna to marry his daughter Draupadi. That came later after when the feud with the Kaurava family had begun. While in disguise at a royal challenge to win over her heart he had to perform a very complicated archery skill. It involved the use of a bow of the Hindu god Shiva called Pinaka or Shiva Dhanush. The trick shot was use Pinaka to shoot and pierce the eye of a golden fish whilst looking at it’s reflection. Arjuna scored a direct hit and won her over much to Drupadaa’s delight.
After a while the Kauravas come out of hiding and when they show up they become leaders of one half of the Kingdom of Kuru called Hastinapur. At this point his cousin Krishna comes into the story and they develop their friendship. This is where the Gandiva bow comes into the legacy of Arjuna. While roaming in the Khandava Vana, Arjuna and Krishna meet the god of fire, Agni. Agni is hungry for something to unleash his fire throwing abilities and enlists them to help him in burning down Khandava Vana. They help by bringing in the god of the oceans, Varuna who blesses Arjuna with Gandiva. This is how he came into possession of the bow. The fire god Agni was then able to burn down Khandava Vana along with all it’s demons and evil spirits.
Now that Arjuna’s story has come full circle to Gandiva it’s only logical that the story of Gandiva comes to the fore. Gandiva was created by Brahma, the creator of the universe and it was passed onto several different hands for five hundred years between each hand. Varuna was the sixth person to own it and passed it onto Arjua with a chariot and two quivers with unlimited arrows in them. According to the text the bow had hundreds of gold bosses and radiant ends. In the hands of Arjuna he has invincible and when he fired on arrow on Gandiva it made a rumble the sound of thunder. The bow had a number of some very incredible features. It had 108 bow strings and could fire hundreds of arrows at a time with a great range of several miles. Gandiva had killed many great warriors and the gods themselves. This bow was forged by Brahma out of a heavenly tree called the Gandi. It was so heavy that very few people could truly wield it, including Arjuna who was believed to be worth of wielding it just like the gods that it had exchanged hands with. Gandiva is designed as a double curve and the strings had a celestial origin and therefore they were unbreakable. Every time the bow was fired the bow glowed so brightly not many people could look at it properly. Making Gandiva a celestial weapon of dominance on the battlefield in the Kurukshetra war. After the war Arjuna returns Gandiva to Agni along with the quivers.
The bow with which Arjuna used to win over his first wife also has a story to tell. Pinaka was given by Hindu god Shiva to the King Devaraatha, the ancestor of King Janaka in a story told in another Hindu text called Ramayana. Janaka had a daughter called Sita and he offered a challenge to anyone who life the divine bow and string it. While trying to string Pinaka a prince called Rama broke it but won the princess’s hand in marriage. When Parashurama, an avatar of Vishnu and student of Shiva hears of this he challenges Rama for breaking it. Getting out his own Vishnu bow Rama is asked to string it and fight a duel with him. He does this by snatching it, stringing it and placing an arrow on it and finally aims it at Parashurama’s heart. However before he fires it Parashurama realizes that Rama is an avatar of Vishnu too and his successor at that. So he forgives him and accepts defeat.
The story of Traditional Asian archery continues with the champions of the current modern target archery: Korea. Although the Koreans are masters of target archery they have a long standing tradition with the bow and arrow stretching back for thousands of years. The bow was primarily a weapon used to unify the Korean peninsula over 1300 years ago and then later to repel the Japanese invaders in the late 16th century when Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried to conquer Korea and China. The Koreans used two types of bow, one is a modern laminated bow, the other is a traditional Korean composite bow similar to the Mongol bow called a Gakgung. Gakgung means ‘nation bow’ and it’s made from several different materials. It comprises of a bamboo core, which is sinew backed with an oak handle. The belly of the bow has a water buffalo horn and the outer ends of the limbs are made of mulberry or acacia which is spliced onto the bamboo. The average draw weight of these bows is about 50 pounds and have a range of up to 400 meters. They were quite short when strung with a length of about 125 cm. This made them useful for horseback as well marching across the battlefield. In Korea there is a name for Korean traditional archery called ‘gungsul’, ‘kuk kung’ or ‘goongdo’, which translates brilliantly into ‘the Art of the bow’.
To fire the bow the Koreans used their own thumb ring but it was different from that used by the Mongols, Manchus and Turks. Korean thumb rings are called the gakji and it’s available in two types, one for men and one for woman. The male thumb ring sticks out as an extra appendage, while the female thumb ring covers the front joint of the thumb only. Both of them used to be made of the horn of water buffalo but now it’s possible to buy them made out of plastic.
The history of Traditional Korean Archery is so vast and steeped in culture that it’s story reads like a novel about glory, power, passion and intrigue. With all the tales to tell here I think it deserves to make this post it’s own title. The tales here began with the Korean wars with the Chinese dynasties and nomadic peoples recorded from the 1st century BC. This was the time of the ancient Three Kingdoms of Korea that dominated the Korean peninsula: Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla. Legend has it that the founder of Goguryeo, Go Jumong was a master of archery with such an impressive ability that he was able to catch 5 flies with one arrow. The first king of Silla, Park Hyeokgeose was a highly skilled archer. The ancient Chinese heard of these archers and were aware of their potential as military opponents in combat. The Chinese had already been masters of archery over a thousand years earlier, as it was one of the Six Noble Arts of the Zhou dynasty from the 12th – 3rd century BC. When Genghis Khan began his campaign across Asia and Europe the Mongols began invading Korea from 1231 – 1259. The Mongols with their brilliant and powerful bow technology were no match for the Korean army who were armed largely with swords and spears. When the Mongols went onto rule the proto-Korean state of Goryeo in 1270 a military regime was enforced and the Koreans learnt how to master the composite bow in a rebellion against their Mongol Yuan rulers. The Goryeo dynasty became a governor of a vassal state and a compulsory ally of the Yuan dynasty for 80 years. When the reign of the Yuan dynasty collapsed in China in the 1350s, King Gongmin pushed the Mongolian garrisons back and they reclaimed the Korean peninsula. From then on Korea would become the master nation of archery.
In 1392 the state of Goryeo was no more when the modern came into being with the arrival of the Joseon dynasty. The Joseon’s first head of state was it’s founder Yi Seonggye who was known to have been a master archer. He was one of the Korean warlords that brought about the end of the Mongol rule during the late 1370s and early 1380s. During that time repelled organized Japanese pirates in a series of battles along the Korean coastline. Armed with a Korean gakgung bow there is an adventure in which he killed a samurai commander called Agibaldo with two arrows in a dramatic order. The first arrow knocked the warrior’s helmet off his head and the second arrow entered Agibaldo’s mouth.
Yi Seonggye was such a clever and powerful military leader he rose to the rank of general. During his time in the army he led a fight against the Red Turban Rebellion. The Red Turbans were a Chinese group of rebels who were opposed to the Yuan dynasty who contributed to it’s overthrowing. In 1359 they invaded Goryeo and took the city of Pyongyang when it was a staunch ally of the Yuan dynasty. Generals Yi and Choe Yeong of the Goryeo army pushed them back and out of the country. Yi supported the Ming dynasty and Choe was in favour of the Yuan dynasty and when the time came the two generals would become rivals in the royal court when the Ming dynasty came to power. After leading the Mongols out of Korea Yi withdrew from a planned assault on the Liaodong Peninsula and quickly returned to the Goryeo capital Gaesong and dethroned the Yuan supporting King U and took control of Korea. Afterwards he formally ended all Korean territorial ties to China.
Later Yi put forth the bow and arrow as the main stay of the Joseon military. Archery was so important to the Koreans that it became part of the national service exam held annually from 1392 to 1894. It was so important that Yi introduced a standard for the Royal Guard where they had to pass a set of tests which included hitting three bullseyes on a target 150 meters away. They also had to master riding on horseback while shooting in order to be able to defend the kingdom. Archery became such a powerful tool to Koreans that it led to the invention of several different types of arrow, one of the most famous of these was the pyeonjeon.
The pyeonjeon is one of the most powerful arrows that has secured the bow as a weapon that has saved a country. A pyeonjeon is a small ‘baby arrow’ that was fired from a gakgung from within a long bamboo shaft called a tong-a. This allowed a full size bow to shoot a short bolt and it was the Korean’s army secret weapon. It’s small size made it impossible for it to be reused by their enemies to and it allowed the Koreans to double or triple their ammunition in a siege. It also has advantage in doubling the range of the gakgung. With an ordinary arrow the gakgung could achieve a maximum range of over 400 meters, with a pyenjeon arrow up to 700 - 800 meters. This awesome potential of range and firepower made the Koreans almost impenetrable to foreign invaders. These so called baby arrows had longer range and flatter trajectory with a faster velocity and penetrating power. During the Joseon dynasty Korea was invaded 800 times and the gakgung and the pyenjeon repelled every attempt of an assault on Joseon. Korea was firmly established as the masters of archery. The pyenjeon came in useful in defeating the Japanese invasion of Korea during the Imjin wars in 1592 and the Manchu invasions of the early 1600s.
By the 1600s firearms started to replace bows and arrows across many Asian armies and so some armies such as the Japanese and the Koreans started to use rifles like the matchlock arquebus in the Imjin War. Despite this the Korean composite bow halted the Japanese at two major battles and firearms didn’t take over from the bow until much later until the reforms of King Gojong in 1894. Around this time Korean archery started to transition from a form of warfare to a recreational sport and the country underwent a series of sweeping reforms in government that saw Gojong as the first emperor of Korea. In 1899 Prince Heinrich of Prussia came to visit Korea and watched a number of shows of strength from the Korean martial arts. Among them was the archery which he said was familiar to that of Turkish and Hungarian archery. Heinrich convinced Emperor Gojong to reinvent the art of the bow from a millitary force to a recreational sport and so the nature of the bow and arrow was standardized. Korean traditional archery now uses one type of composite bow, bamboo arrows and a set target of about 145 meters. It was developed further under the Japanese occupation and it was formally written in a textbook called ‘Joseon eui Goongdo’ in 1920.
I have to say the history of Korean archery is a very fascinating tale. They took out their own conquers with their own inventive skills and took back their land. They have mystical heroes with a fine art in shooting arrows and crafting magnificent weapons of honor and glory. The bow and arrow gave them protection and strength for thousands of years and they survived all forms of invasions and abuse from major powers. I have a great admiration for the talents of Korean archers and I find their culture, history and skills with archery to be most exciting. They really are worthy of the title of masters of archery.