Why Creeping or Collapsing is an Issue for Barebow Archers

By Mark V. Lonsdale

“Accuracy is the Product of Uniformity”

Understanding that consistency is critical to accuracy in archery is often more difficult to execute for barebow archers than other archery or shooting disciplines.

One of the big differences between rifle shooting and bow shooting is that where rifle shooting requires fine motor skills (laying still and squeezing a 1-2 pound trigger, archery requires the coordination of both fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Recurve target archers must pull a 30 to 45 pound bow to full draw, utilizing major muscle groups and skeletal alignment, while holding, transferring, aiming, and then releasing.

So what makes barebow shooting more challenging for the archer? First, one of the foundational principles of recurve target archery is that while we use the term “hold,” in reality there should be constant motion to release, even it is infinitesimal and measured in millimeters or fractions of an inch. To aid in this, the Olympic recurve archer has a clicker. He or she first draws into the clicker, and then during the hold/transfer process is drawing through the clicker in a slow, imperceptible 1-2mm movement to release.

The barebow archer, lacking a clicker, draws to full draw, anchors, settles, aims, and then releases. During that settling and aiming process, just prior to release, is when even top tiered competitors can experience creep.

Creep is evidenced by usually slight, but sometimes significant, forward movement of the draw arm elbow. This can be observed from behind but the archer must also be aware of this creep.

At the low end, creep can be the slightest movement of the draw arm elbow moving outward or forward. But in severe cases is is seen as a collapse of skeletal alignment and form. Creep and collapse can also be a component of target panic or shot anticipation.

Since the barebow archers do not have clickers to draw through, competitors may find that they after they have pulled to full draw, and then settled into their anchor, their focus moves from their form to the aiming process. During this aiming process, while holding full draw and possibly fatiguing, they may be unaware that their draw elbow is gradually creeping forward. When an archer perceives this, he or she may panic and release the shot, resulting in an ugly 2 or 3 on the target. Since it is difficult to recover from collapse or target panic, a more experienced competitor will interrupt this downward spiral by lowering his or her draw and begin the shot process again.

To overcome this shot anticipation and potential creep in the draw arm, the archer should practice drawing through an imaginary clicker. Again, this rearward movement after coming to full draw and anchoring is so slight that an observer would not see the movement. We are talking about 1-2 millimeters or 1/16ths of a inch. It is more a mental process of staying in motion than coming to a static hold and release.


How’s Your Form?

By Mark V. Lonsdale

When we discuss form in archery, it is not about the scores on the target, but your body alignment and bio-mechanics in relation to the bow.

One point worth considering is that in precision shooting, the shooter or archer can have poor form, but if they execute the shot, albeit incorrectly, exactly the same every time, then they can still group and score well. “Accuracy is the product of uniformity” so even uniformly poor form can be accurate. This is a common problem with self taught shooters who have never had professional coaching.

This resultant problems with form become more apparent the more one progresses in competition. Eventually those bad habits will become a road block, which then must be unlearned to progress.

Even if you do not have a coach, there are numerous coaches online who will happily critique your form. But even an experienced competitor can be helpful in setting a novice on the right track.

At first glance you may say that these two pics are the same but an astute coach spotted the difference. The image on the left has quite good body alignment but on the right the draw hand elbow was beginning to creep forward. This is a common issue with holding too long, being over bowed, or collapsing prior to the shot.

Still images and video are both useful training tools, but video has an advantage in that it can be analyzed frame by frame to find any weaknesses in form or technique. The key points that you are looking for are skeletal alignment, as opposed to muscling the draw, and no creep or collapse during the anchor, transfer to holding, aiming, release, and follow-through. Yes, collapsing, even after release, or dropping the bow arm can result in some ugly low shots.

As with any precision shooting discipline, the goal is to arrive at a point where all the mechanics are done automatically and sub-consciously, but in the early days, self analysis is critical to developing the correct form. As an aid, the National Training System (NTS) is definitely worth studying. To this end, “Total Archery – Inside the Archer” by KiSik Lee & Tyler Benner is highly recommended.


Where Were You on 9-11?

By Mark V. Lonsdale

“No matter how long it takes, no matter where we have to look, our United States military will patiently and surely hunt down the murderers and killers and terrorists, and bring them, one by one, to justice.”  President George W. Bush – Commander in Chief 

    Monday, September 10, 2001 had been a crisp, clear day at the USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC). It was sunset as 5th Platoon, 1st Force Recon Marines, their faces ominously obscured under layers of green camouflage paint, went through last minute equipment checks, preparing to be inserted into the mountains for a five-day recon-patrol exercise. MBITRs (multi-band inter/intra-team radios) frequencies had been set and tested; sat-com radios were safely stowed in already bulging rucksacks; PVS-17 night sights were clamped to M-4 carbines and SAWS (squad automatic weapons); and all loose straps were neatly taped and stowed. 

With 5th Platoon, 1st Force Recon at MWTC – 10 Sept 2001

     Captain Fiscus and Gunny Blakey moved amongst the group checking equipment, quietly asking questions and giving encouragement. It was essential that every man understood the mission and knew his specific tasks.                 

    The planned airborne parachute insertion had been aborted an hour earlier when the CH-53 troop-carrying helicopters could not make the pre-sunset time-line. With the flexibility typical of any spec-ops unit, the platoon commander opted for a vehicle insertion to the pre-planned DZ at 7,500 feet elevation.

    As the Sierra Nevadas turned purple and faded into total darkness, and before the moon could break through, the Gunny signaled the teams to saddle up and silently move out. It was impressive to see and yet not hear twenty Marines, each burdened with a hundred pounds of weapons, radios and equipment, move off into the inky blackness without so much as a single sound.

    So by midnight I found myself with two choices. The first was to link up with the “opposition force” and try to find these phantoms – but since they had already proven themselves adept at night movement and had the advantage of Gen III night vision devices, there was little to no hope of finding them that night. So I opted for the second choice – to drive back to Los Angeles with the plan of returning to MWTC for their extract in five days.  

    Arriving home at five-thirty in the morning, and after two days without sleep, I showered and hit the rack. Sleep came quickly but not for long. Sometime before zero seven the phone began an incessant ringing. It was my neighbor babbling something about watching my place while I was away. “While I’m a way?” I asked groggily, “I just got home!”

    She then blurted out that terrorists had attacked New York and the Pentagon and I needed to turn on the television. Flipping to CNN I was just in time to see a passenger airliner hit the World Trade Center. Then there was footage from the Pentagon; then back to New York as the second tower was hit. Confused and half asleep I felt like I was watching a Schwarznegger movie. Was this really the news? I quickly flipped through the local morning news line up – ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox – but all coverage was focused on New York and the Pentagon.

     By mid-morning I had a passing thought about the Marine Force Recon platoon that had just disappeared into the mountains the night before and would be emerging in five days to a very different United States. Having worked in counter terrorism and training for over 20 years, I knew that what we were seeing was a whole new level of terrorist violence and destruction. The news media was already speculating on the potential casualties in New York and it was in the thousands, many times more than Pearl Harbor.

     But now the proverbial “gloves were coming off.” The US military was going to be given the teeth to hunt and kill those who meant us harm.

Never Forget 9-11


Why Competition Can Impede Novice Athlete Development & Learning from Other Sports

By Mark Lonsdale, Judo Training Development, National Coach

Let me preface this article by saying that I love competition as much as the next man or woman and also believe that it benefits children, but only when they show an aptitude, are willing and enthusiastic, and have been adequately prepared by their coaches. 

We often hear the maxim that, “it is not important whether you win or lose, only that you play the game.” But unfortunately modern society, and even the school system, places tremendous pressure on kids to win in sports and score high on exams. Another sports maxim gives credit to, “the man in the arena…,” but what of the child or athlete who does not want to compete – who simply enjoys sports for fun and exercise?

This begs the questions, how important is competition in sports, and is it better to simply perform well or must we score high? The Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” was proposed by Pierre de Coubertin on the creation of the International Olympic Committee in 1894. This indicates that the purpose of sport is to run faster, jump higher, and become stronger, but is this true? Isn’t the purpose of sport to provide an active and healthy lifestyle that builds character and improves one’s quality of life?

Coubertin went on to state, “These three words represent a program of moral beauty. The aesthetics of sport are intangible.” But this is very different to the competitive nature of the three words, since now he is talking about the moral beauty and aesthetics of sport. The other less formal, but equally well known motto introduced by Coubertin was, “The most important thing is not to win but to take part!” So now we are back to the concept that simply participating in a particular sport or the Olympics is more important than winning, but try telling that to an Olympic coach or athlete whose income is dependent on producing medals.

To better appreciate the relationship between enjoying a sport, for the sheer beauty of that sport, and competing, we will start with a sport such as archery and then look at judo. As with judo, archery is both a martial art and an Olympic sport. It is not a conventional Asian martial art as most people see martial arts, but as with fencing, the javelin, and discus throwing, it is most definitely a sport derived from early military training. As with the bow and arrow, archery possesses a style and beauty all its own, so is therefore an art form and a sport.

To teach or learn archery, it is imperative to first master good form which is no easy task. Unlike shooting a gun, the challenge in archery is to achieve a high degree of precision while handling the heavy poundage of the bow. Where an Olympic pistol shooter is dealing with a trigger pull of less than 2 pounds and shooting at 25 meters, the Olympic archer must contend with a 40 to 46-pound draw weight and still hit a very small target at 70 meters. It is equivalent to a golfer trying to sink a hole-in-one from 80 yards out. The only way to do this is through years of practice, a detailed understanding of body mechanics, and developing a solid, repeatable form.

For a novice, trying to hit the 10 ring can detract from focusing on good form and body mechanics, and developing the necessary feel for the sport.

For a novice, trying to hit the 10 ring can detract from focusing on good form and body mechanics, while developing the necessary feel for the sport.

Teaching the basic form for archery and the bio-mechanics that will be the foundation of all future training and development begins at a relatively short range with a bow of low poundage and shooting at a blank bale. This means there is no target on the 3-foot wide stand, just a blank surface. Why no target, you may ask? Isn’t the objective of archery to hit the target?

Archery coaches have long understood that as soon as you place a target on the stand, everyone will shoot for the gold ten ring or bullseye. It is human nature. The reason this is detrimental for the novice archer is that it takes the archer’s mind off of developing good form and makes them focus on hitting the 10 or X ring. Similarly, if there are other students on the line and one of them shoots a bullseye, then anyone not shooting bulls-eyes will either feel inadequate or try harder to hit the bull. The result is a downward spiral with all conscious effort that should be directed to improving form and gaining a “feel” for archery, lost to the competitive nature of the sport.

If this was a group of high school students participating in an entry level Olympic Archery in Schools (OAS) program, permitted to shoot targets right from the start, some would feel immediate gratification by luckily hitting the bullseye, while others would be discouraged by missing the target altogether. But the entire group will have suffered by not learning or focusing on good form. It is therefore up to the coach to get the students learning good form before distracting them with scoring on targets.

This does not apply only to beginners. Quite often, national level champions will begin a training session by shooting at a blank bale so that they can focus on their form and develop the correct neuro-muscle memory and feel before moving on to shooting for score.

So how does this apply to other sports and in particular judo? After covering basic dojo etiquette and breakfalling, the primary role of the judo instructor is to teach the new students basic judo techniques. With this, the emphasis is on teaching good form, posture, balance, and execution. A student lacking in good posture and balance will have trouble doing throws, often evidenced by falling over or not being able to execute the throw cleanly.

Now, take this new judo student who has been coming to judo for a few weeks and has learned four or five throws, and you throw them into a hard randori session or local tournament. What is the result? The student is fearful of being thrown, stiffens up, stiff-arms their opponent, tries to use strength instead of technique, and achieves nothing. Even worse, if this is the first competition for a little kid, and he or she gets thrown hard, they may end up crying, hating judo, and quitting.

We have all been at junior judo tournaments where all too many little kids end up in tears, and all too often they were pushed into competing by their peers, parents or coaches. We have also seen parents and coaches cheering them on to “beat the other kid” like this was the most important thing in their world. What happened to holding off for a year or two until the kid really knows and understands judo, has been trained for competition (if he or she so wishes), and is then permitted to compete just for the fun of competing? What happened to the parents and coaches who should be quietly supportive of their kids and not pushing them to “beat other kids?”

I was recently coaching one of my judoka at a junior tournament where the other coach spent three solid minutes yelling instructions to his player, while I sat quietly watching my student. As all certified judo coaches should know, it is not permitted to yell to your competitor during play, only during the matte-hajime breaks. It is also required that coaches stay in the chair and not address the referee, and yet here was this coach bouncing up and down and yelling incessantly. At the end of the match his player came off the mat crying because she had lost, and mine came off content with her performance. But even when my players lose they do not cry, they are taught just to learn from the experience. They are also not coached to “beat the other player,” only to do their best, attack relentlessly, and try for the big Ippon win. The challenge is to execute a clean technique on an unwilling opponent, not to “beat the other kid.” Winning is just a byproduct of doing good judo.

So a word of advice for coaches and parents – let your kids enjoy judo, archery, or any sport without putting undue pressure on them to compete. Judo instructors should place importance on teaching kids good Kodokan judo, not competition grip fighting and tactics. Youngsters will gravitate to competition in their own time, often when they see their friends and other club members having fun and winning medals. Yes, winning medals is important in sports, but as a reward for training and effort, not for beating some other kid. It is up to the parents and coaches to keep things in perspective and to ensure that their junior judoka grow into healthy, happy, well rounded athletes with an elevated sense of respect and sportsmanship.

Finally, even though Professor Kano promoted sports and was the first Asian member of the Olympic organizing committee, he was quite concerned about the effect competitive sport would have on judo. He had developed judo as a form of physical fitness, recreation, self defense, as an art and as a lifestyle. The competitive side of judo was only a small and relatively unimportant part of his grand plan. Unfortunately, human nature and society drive people to compete in all things including school, work, games, sports, and even how we drive. But it is okay to just enjoy an activity or sport for the sheer pleasure of participation. It is not essential that everything becomes a competition, and in some respects, competition can actually detract from the joy and beauty of sport. There is nothing uglier than a red-faced coach or parent screaming at a 6- or 7- year old who is just trying to have fun.


Tracking Progress in Archery Training

By Mark V. Lonsdale

There are many tools for tracking progress in training, not the least of which is competition scores at the club, state , or national levels. But one simple, useful tool in day-to-day training is averaging.

Rather than simply recording a possible out of 300, 600, or 900, the archer totals up the score for each arrow shot in a training session. For example, if the archer shoots 60 arrows with a possible score of 600 and scores 420, his or her average arrow value is a 7 (420 divided by 60 arrows). The goal over time is to improve that average.

In this example of just six arrows, counting X as 10, the archer has shot 1 x 10, 3 x 9, 1 x 8, and 1 x 7 for a score of 52 out of a possible 60. So the average arrow value is 8.6 (52 divided by 6 arrows). This gives the archer one more metric to track progress.


Quality Over Quantity in Archery Training

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Last week I was on a rifle range watching a group shooting at 100-200 yards. While a few were taking carefully aimed shots from a stable position, others were shooting standing off-hand, pulling the trigger as fast as they could. They were slapping the triggers, not controlling recoil, and jerking the semi-automatic rifles, while completely missing the targets. This is a type of undisciplined shooting I call “ammunition disposal.”

While they may have been having fun, they were actually reinforcing bad habits and poor shooting techniques. The goal of any precision shooting sport is to first build a foundation of solid fundamental marksmanship and then, with time, develop a degree of speed without sacrificing accuracy. These shooters seemed to have no grasp of precision marksmanship.

The problem with undisciplined rapid fire shooting is that the shooter is developing poor neuro-muscle memory. The brain, communicating with the the stance, grip, sight alignment, and trigger control, does not get the opportunity to become programmed correctly.

In the quest for consistency, the novice should first strive for keeping all his or her arrows inside the blue, then the red, and ultimately in the gold. This begins at 10-15 yards, then moves back to 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards/meters.

Applying this to archery shooting, if the goal is simply to launch a specific number of arrows at each training session, rather than score a high percentage of 10s and Xs, then the individual may be sacrificing quality for quantity. Similarly, continuing to launch arrows when fatigued, distracted, losing concentration, of feeling arm tremors then, again, he or she risks negative neuro-muscle programming. It is better to finish strong with a set of solid 10s and Xs and call it a day.

As many of you may know, the zen of shooting is not to think in terms of shooting 6 shots, but to shoot 1 shot six times. In other words, each arrow should be seen as an individual perfect shot. Where a novice will draw satisfaction from hitting a single 10 when the other arrows are spread all over the target, the veteran will question why one arrow hit red or blue when all the others were in the gold.

To aid in this process, archery training should not be seen as a chore where one must simply launch 100-200 arrows in each session. While training for national level competitions is definitely work, requiring a high number of arrows in training, it should still be enjoyable if for no other reason than knowing you are improving. While finding time for training with a busy work schedule and family commitments can be challenging, time for training should be planned and scheduled. This is like hitting the gym. All too many people say they don’t have time to workout, but this is usually a motivation issue not a time management issue. You don’t find time for training – you have to make time for training. It must be given a higher priority if you want to see progress and stand on the podium one day.

To conclude, training should not become a chore. Quality is more important than quantity. It is better to shoot 60 to 100 good arrows than 200+ poor arrows. As little as 30 minutes to 1 hour of training 4 to 5 days a week is more beneficial than 2 to 3 hours training once a week. That said, you still need to develop the physical ability and stamina to be able to compete in various matches that could run 90 to 200 arrows over a one or two day period.


Tight grouping is a good indicator of a consistent repeatable form. Bow is a Hoyt Xceed with Velos limbs. Arrows are Easton RX7-23s sent up for barebow competition.

Relaxation in Archery

By Mark V. Lonsdale

There is a dichotomy in many precision sports. To shoot well one must be relaxed, relying sub-consciously on neuro-muscle memory. In other words, after months or years of practice and several thousand arrows, the archer’s form and technique should be smooth and repeatable. On the other hand, learning and mastering precision shooting requires an in-depth understanding and awareness of correct form, body mechanics, and consistency. This requires constant self-analysis and body awareness, especially in the formative years. But this self analysis can also interfere with a smooth and relaxed form.

Ideally, the proficient shooter should only need to self analyze when shots are going astray on target. With time and experience, the archer should know exactly what mistake he or she made based on where the arrow impacts.

This is an example of an archer with consistent form when focused, but when he rushes shots, plucking the string, the arrows go high left. This is easily corrected by launching the next set of arrows focused on a clean and relaxed release.

For novice archers, at least for the first year or two, practice sessions are a constant process of self analysis, body awareness, in search of a relaxed repeatable form. This begins with addressing the bow, all the way through set-up and draw, to hold, aim and release. The archer will move his or her conscious thought process from grip, bow hand and bow arm position, keeping the bow shoulder down, correct draw hand position, keeping the elbow high, drawing to anchor, transfer to the back muscles, and a smooth release and follow-through.

In the beginning, it will be difficult to analyze which part of the form is causing the arrows to go astray. But with time and coaching the archer will learn which potential flaws in body mechanics produce which impacts on target – high, low, left, right, etc. The archer will be running a mental inventory of personal body mechanics each time he or she shoots. This is also where competent coaching can greatly shorten the learning process. In the absence of a coach, videoing yourself can be very useful. There are also coaches specializing in distance learning who will accept videos on line and will respond with a critique.

Through all this, keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to be able to stay relaxed and just focus on the target and shooting 10s. Vexing over the many aspects of body mechanics and overly self analyzing on the line can and will interfere with that process. Your best shooting will come when you have put in the requisite training and can enter a competition with a relaxed confidence. As most elite athletes will attest, competitions are won or lost in the mental game.



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