By Mark V. Lonsdale
The Zen of Archery, as with any shooting sport, is the process of shooting one perfect shot, and then repeating it.
Novice archers spread arrows all over the target, and some off the bail, but when he or she lands a single arrow in the center of the target, they are immensely satisfied. This is good because anything that inspires the rookie to learn and practice is a positive experience, even if a more experienced archer would not be impressed.
But for the serious archer, he or she may put five arrows in the 10 ring and one in the 8, only to question why one missed the center. This is the true athletes’ quest for perfection. But to quote Vince Lombardi, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.“
The athlete does not rest on his or her laurels when they know they can do better. A winning score of 600 out of 720 should motivate them to shoot 650 next time. So this brings us to the Zen of of Archery. The goal is a shift in thinking from shooting a set of six arrows and adding up the score, to a making each arrow a perfect arrow. In other words, total focus and concentration on each draw, each anchor, each release, and each follow-though, as if it is the only one that counts. So the Zen of Archery is not shooting six arrows but shooting one arrow six times.
We have all thrown an arrow low, only to realize we had dropped our bow arm. Then, focused on the bow arm, we throw an arrow right, realizing we had lost focus on the string blur. We then try to consciously inventory our technique, but in the process lose the relaxed fluidity of good archery.
The Zen of Archery is not a process of chasing flaws in technique with all six arrows, but aspiring to make each arrow perfect. This requires one hundred percent focus and concentration on form, while at the same time being smooth and relaxed. The ultimate execution is when it comes naturally without thinking, a result of many thousands of arrows or repetitions. This is also where blank bail practice, without the pressured of aiming, becomes a valuable exercise.
Remember, “Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong”