Archery Annoyances #14 – “Watch the Pros”
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Archery Annoyances #14 – “Watch the Pros”

August 13, 2019

(music playing) With archery becoming an increasingly popular sport, more and more people are buying bows and teaching themselves how to shoot. Although the predominant recommendation is to go to a club and take lessons. It isn’t an option for many people. And some people just don’t want to mess around with the club scene. Fortunately there are so many resources available online, that teaching yourself how to shoot using video references is becoming increasingly viable. It is common online for people to recommend archery channels on Youtube. Among these channels there is Archery TV, the official channel for World Archery. Coverage of World Archery events including the World Cup and World Championship are put on this channel. And you can see the world’s best competitive archers in action. Because of these world class archers and champions, this channel is occasionally used as reference by some people to learn how to shoot. Watch the pros and copy them. Personally I don’t like that advice. While watching them as a spectator can be quite enjoyable, learning from elite athletes isn’t the easiest way to go about developing your skills. When people tell beginners to watch the pros an copy them, I get a little annoyed, because it kinda disregards the learning process and the individual’s needs. One thing to remember is the difference in equipment. The pro athletes are using target style equipment with modern materials, sights and stabilisers. If you’ve just gotten your Samick Sage and you’re shooting traditional bare bow, then it might not be a good idea to copy what they are doing on Archery TV. The shooting style is different, technique is different. And while there are similarities – Yeah they are both recurves and there are similar techniques. You wouldn’t really shoot a traditional bow the way would shoot an Olympic bow. Even if you do have the same equipment, remember – they are professional athletes. They spend their entire lives training and conditioning and competing. If you are only shooting casually once or twice a week, there are going to be huge differences in the way you shoot. For example, if you watch some of the matches, you often see the top archers hold onto the shot for what feels like forever. Now this is actually a bad habit. As a beginner you are taught to execute the shot smoothly and within a certain timeframe. You realistically have around 2 seconds to get to your anchor point and release. If you hold on for any longer than that, you start getting the shakes. And in fact if you look at some of the pro archers, they actually do go through the shakes when on the line. Now, the difference is that with the pro archers, they are conditioned to the point when they do have the muscle control and the stamina to hold the shot for that perfect 10. And as a casual shooter or as a beginner, even as an intermediate, you probably don’t have that conditioning. And it is still a bad habit. You should be focused on process and a smooth rhythm and shot sequence. Rather than trying to aim, hold and get that perfect shot. That’s something that only a pro can do. And even so, it probably is discouraged by their coach. And they are only doing it because they have to get that perfect shot. And even then it usually isn’t the case. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do that. It’s more of a skill that’s developed over time with intensive training rather than something that’s copied. The most important thing to remember when trying to learn from pros is that watching them is only only valuable if you know what you’re looking at. You can’t become a pro footballer watching Ronaldo. You can’t become professional boxer while watching Manny Pacquiao. They make it look easy, sure, but remember, these guys had years of training, with someone to explain concepts, they’ve learnt through experience. And they have skills which are specially trained up. If you never experienced the same kind of training, you haven’t been exposed to that, then it’s very difficult to pick up why athletes do certain things. I call this the spectator spectrum. Depending on your level of expertise and your experience in the sport, you observe different things. For someone who knows nothing about archery, watching the archers ath the Olympic games is lot like: “Hey a bullseye!” If you’ve actually done archery training, and you’re a novice or intermediate, you start making comparisons between what the pros do and what you’ve been taught. You observe their shot process, the stance, the rhythm, the anchor. You watch these really fine points in their technique. And you start observing and predicting which shots will be good shots and which ones will be bad shots. Even to the point where you can incorporate some of their techniques into your own style. And as you become more advanced, you become more critical of what archers are doing. You identify different shooting styles. You pick out habits that people have. You can accurately predict the result of a shot before it’s released. This is basically coach’s vision, if you have a coach they’ll do this. They’ll talk to you while you’re shooting, the coach is standing over here and they’re just watching you. They don’t care where your shot lands, they are watching you. And with enough experience, you can actually read a person so well, that before they even relese the shot, they know where it lands. They know it’s gonna go left, they know it’s gonna go high, just by watching what you are doing. That’s the advanced level. And from the spectator point of view, when you’re watching these pro athletes, you really look for these fine things like the way they use their clicker. And even things you can’t actually see like back tension. To benefit from watching pro athletes you need to have awareness of what they are doing. To get that awareness, you need someone to actually explain it to you. You have to learn from someone, from another archer. Or from someone who is commentating. Or from a coach and your own training. For someone starting out no experience and very little knowledge of archery, it’s very difficult to explain things like back tension and anchor and release. It’s very difficult to acquire these skills by yourself. And it’s one thing to copy what they are doing. But if you don’t understand what they are doing, you also don’t understand if you’re doing it wrong. When you’ve learned what anchor should look like, then it makes more sense when you watch somebody else. When you understand these nuances about archery, then you can fully understand why people do certain things. You start to understand why people personalise their equipment in a certain way. Why they use a certain sight, or why they use a certain stabiliser setup. Archery is such a personalised thaing, that it’s really about what suits you. Which technique suits you. Or which equipment suits you. Telling people to go and watch the pros, especially when they never really learned archery before, isn’t really helpful in my opinion, because the pros have thair established styles. And they’ve learnt through trial and error, through hard experience what their preferred shooting methods are. And really for a beginner, they should be learning more from their mistakes. The learning process is starting out from scratch. Learning everything as a new thing. Be taught the basic fundamentals, before acquiring advanced skills. And by watching pros, while you can be inspired to learn more about archery, which is fantastic, it’s not necessarily great learning. You’re not really bridging that gap. Watching the pros kinda skips that development process. And really, as a beginner, you will probably benefit more from doing your own shooting and figuring it out by yourself, rather than watching someone else and copying them. Arguably, the same can be said for nearly every sport. Now, I’m not saying don’t watch the pros and don’t watch these events. These events are greatly entertaining. And you can learn a lot from the top shooters. But my point is that the more you already know about the sport, the more you gain from watching better shooters. So my question is – Do you watch competitive events, and why? Do you get something out of it, or is it something you’re doing just for fun? Write your comments below. This is NU Sensei. Bringing you another archery annoyance.

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  1. As much as I enjoy the archery experience and coached lessons, I find watching competitions boring as hell. But out of curiosity Im forcing myself to go to the Vegas shoot to watch, since its "right around the corner" from where I live.  😉

  2. @Tom- I actually feel the same way most of the time. I'm not really into watching a competition, and doing the competition is far more interesting, since it is such a repetitive sport. I tend to only watch when I'm in the mood to observe in that "critical" mode. Or I'm watching compound shooters, as I find them fascinating due to the fact that I myself don't use one.

  3. On the case of shooting in smooth fairly quick releases this is especially true on wooden selfbows where if you hold it in full draw for long it'll harm the bow by causing a major set in the wood.

  4. Archery TV has been my head coach since day one 😀it's hard sometimes to not have a coach who can guide you but In my case someone like that just didn't cross my path.

  5. I watch WAO events. Only because I like them.
    I don't watch everything. I skip the compound part for instance.
    They also inspire me to do my best.
    I am amazed at how easy they make it look.
    I would be glad if eventualy I reached half of their performance.

  6. Agreed, just straight copying someone's form isn't really the best idea for beginners. If starting from scratch, a good coach is really the only way to excel in the sport. No harm watching and adapting parts of a pro shooter's form to your own, provided that you know what you're looking for.

    The reason that pros make it look so easy is that not only that they have good form, they also have the ability to remain mentally focused under high pressure scenarios.

    When I got a lesson from Kisik Lee, there was one thing he mentioned which really stuck; It's about 'software', not just hardware.

  7. I was giving moderate consideration to watching the competitive shooters and I think I tried once but the angle was strange facing the shooters. I only have a youth recurve bow at the moment and being in Canada it's a touch too cold to be shooting right now so I'm focusing a lot more on technique. How far up the bow to nock the arrow, how to hold it, how far to pull back, etc. In that regard your channel has been paramount. I knew where to place the arrow as it's only got the one rest on it, but I had no idea you had to curl the string when you drew back I was erroneously making a fist and around half the time the arrow would slide off. What I'm getting at is for a complete beginner who's attempting to teach themselves instructional videos like you put out are far more helpful than the observe and learn approach. 

  8. There's one more parameter. Pro archers are using what they find comfortable not what is considered "right". For example the commentators often point out how Oh Jin Hyek has a weird style, Frangilli is a similar case, van der Ven's grip looks so odd. Still those people hit the 10 more often than not. What can be learned from them then is consistency, not much more. 

  9. I watch to reinforce a mental image of a "good" form.

    I noticed all archery form are pretty "generic" and uniformed at the top level….except Ukraine as they anchor with their thumb behind their neck.

  10. I have watched competitions most for their entertainment value, but also to see what these skilled archers do and how they do it.  I agree, being a beginner, it is best to begin at the beginning and building upon your experience and knowledge over time.

  11. I love watching the pros on archery tv for for 2 reasons. 1) the involving, but relaxing atmosphere. not maddening like hockey or boring like golf. 2) for the laughs! The ironies that abound in "professional" sports are more obvious in archery. The essence of true professionalism is of course, being paid money! So you see one lonely compound shooter with a drop away rest. 99% of the rest of them use a blade rest. Does he know something they don't? Yes, he knows a drop away rest manufacturer who gave him money. Of course he loses, but probably went home with more money than winner.

  12. It's kinda like getting good at a multiplayer video game. You have to get your arse kicked a thousand times to get better. This is the hardest way to learn, but it is definitely one of the best. Watching professional athletes is kind of a good way to learn because you can pick up on their habits and find the ones that fit you best. So I think it's totally fine to just watch the pros, but it also definitely helps to focus on your own technique at first.

  13. I see the same thing with lifting and martial arts. People try to copy the training regimes or weird techniques of world champions which is one of the worst things a beginner can do. Better sticking to the basics and practising.

  14. Do I watch competitive events? Yes, I do. What do I get from it? A lot, I've been shooting 9 months, from picking up my 1st training bow to now having my own SF Axoim Plus setup, (No Samick Sage here) I go to a club, member of Archery GB, I get coaching from a top coach, I hit gold more often than not but why do I watch the pro shooting? I look for form, I watch the likes of Ki Bo Bae, Rick Van Der Ven, Brady Ellison, I compare, everyone shoots their own way, I don't second guess the shots, but I look to improve my own form, my intention is to take it as far as I can go, my 1st comp is the 31st Jan, my 2nd on 14th Feb, I watch the pro's to see the comp formats, the layouts, what to expect, but, in all that, at the end of the day, I'll go to the competition and I will shoot my own game and to the best of my ability, I'm no Rick or Brady, same with playing guitar, as I do, I watch Mark Knopfler play, but I'm not Mark, I play my style, but I get a lot from watching, so at the end of it all, shoot your own game to the best of your ability.

  15. one thing i was never able to figure out is many Olympic shooters hold their bow so loosely that after they shoot the arrow the bow falls forward held up by the wrist strap but i heard from many people that this is a bad thing and can affect the arrow as its still going through the bow. or is it because that Olympic bows propel the arrows faster than weaker bows so the arrow is long past the bow when it falls

  16. I had a look at a local archery club, run in a school gym. They give you 1.5 hours once a week and that is not enough for me. Also, they have to set up and put away all the targets every time using up the short time given. And then you see old farts with their composite bows in flight cases, cuddling them and talking out of their arses instead of actually shooting them. That put me right off and now I have access to two acres of field, belonging to my neighbour. I can do what I want there :o) I have targets set at 20, 50 and 100 yards for my bow and cross bow.

  17. I’m really learning a lot just by watching your videos. You’ve really convinced me to join a club first, get coached and a few shoots away from getting my own bow from our club. Thank you Nu Sensei! Greetings from The Philippines! (You said Manny Pacquiao!! Woohoo!)

  18. I find watching professional archers to be very pleasing on an aesthetic level. Archery is an art form, and there's just something about watching a good shot process executed properly. Also the set system can make for some very tense and entertaining matches, which is great in a spectator sport (but there's a reason the qualification round is used for world ranking). Lastly, I hope to some day be able to interest the next generation of my family in archery and I'm working on developing that coach vision.

  19. I only watch the professional competitions for fun, not for any pointers. The only "coach" I every had was my dad in the backyard, and my archery is more based on the hunting discipline. The important thing is not copying someone's technique, but to potentially equal the results.

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