Archery stuff

My Arm is whole

Have just reassembled one of my two bows preparatory to tuning and begun the long slow process of restoring my shooting muscles to usable standard. There is a sensation, which must be not unlike regaining one's sight or sense of smell. The rediscovery of the joy in a long disused skill. There's something very pleasing about the dynamic heft and feel of a bow. The conversion from mute components into a living thing with a will that says "I live."

Now I know this is pretty subjective, but if you can't indulge your subjectivity once in a while, then self awareness becomes somewhat over-rated. I suppose it's one of the reasons I love shooting a bow rather than a gun. With a gun, all you get are the recoil and the smell, with a bow, you become the weapon. For me there's always been a large element of Zen in shooting.

From a prosaic mechanical engineering perspective, a bow is a very simple mechanism. Energy is stored and released from elastic compression by the action of pulling back and releasing a bowstring, Yet this is not the whole of the thing. There is much more to a bow than that as any bowyer will attest. For a start, the whole 'elasticity' thing is a bit of an over simplification. The media of a modern bow is comprised of several layers of materials with differing qualities. Energy is 'stored' by compressing and stretching the layers utilising a lateral pull on a slightly elastic bowstring so that upon release, the whole will rapidly return to a 'resting' state, where the elements of the bow are held in a form of dynamic tension. This is what gives a strung bow its 'feel', or semblance of life.

For me the sensation of my back, chest, and shoulder muscles winding into perfect place is like the joy of a perfect golf shot; the simple kinaesthetic sensation of a perfect strike, and all it takes is practice, calm and technique. The calm 'zone' feeling, especially when shot after shot follows the same trajectory.

Having won medals as a tyro Archer at club and county level, I know the sensation when it arrives. I also know how delicate the feeling can be, and the frustration of when well meaning advice poorly delivered during a competition puts you off your game. During my competition shooting days the one thing I truly dreaded was seeing a 'coach' standing anywhere near me on the firing line. It used to give me the jitters, then my shooting went to hell and I had to retire from the match.

That's what drove me away from competition shooting. Unwarranted interference with your train of thought during a competition shoot. I always wondered why people couldn't see my 'busy' sign? Then there was the nitpicking dress code, where Judges would wander the firing line during a competition and reprimand you for not having the correct shade of green for your jumper, or slightly off-white trousers. This sort of thing used to happen a lot at open shoots, and upon reflection has the smack of low practice on the part of the Judge. Having been caught like that on the firing line during competitions, I've felt my calm drain away, followed by my aim. Then I'd retire from the shoot, knowing that the pleasure of the day was gone along with the 'zone' sensation.

Well, I say what the hell, if you aren't happy shooting then it's time to call it a day. Which is probably why I only really like shooting as part of a hunt, or field shooting for practice. The whole competition 'points' thing lacks a point as far as I'm concerned. It's the individual shot that counts. Then again, there is a school of thought that says if you can't take a little barracking, you've no business being on the competition firing line. Which is probably why you won't find me there. I go to shoot.

With a good bow in my hand, my arm becomes whole.

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