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.
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.