By Mark V. Lonsdale, Shaft Shooters
When developing good form and a consistent shot process, there are several aspects that a competent coach can help with. These are all externally observable attributes such as stance, draw, anchor, alignment and release. But there are other physical aspects that the coach cannot observe. These are elements that only the archer can feel. One of these elements is bow hand alignment and pressure.
Even though the bow has a grip, the archer does not actually grip the bow during the shot process. The primary contact with the grip should be the palm pad at the base of the thumb applying pressure into the center of the grip.
Traditionally, archers were taught to “push” into the target with the palm heel, and even to increase pressure during aiming and just prior to release. This has transitioned into “reaching” toward the target with equal and balanced pressure between the bow hand and the draw hand. This is the part that is difficult for the coach to observe and can only be felt by the archer.
As with many sports, archery requires self-awareness, a keen sense of feel, and kinesthetic sense. Kinesthetic sense is defined as, “The ability to know accurately the positions and movements of one’s skeletal joints. Kinesthesis refers to sensory input that occurs within the body. Postural and movement information are communicated via sensory systems by tension and compression of muscles in the body.”
As with the golf swing, the archery shot process requires a keen sense of feel built on thousands of repetitions – and grip pressure is a big part of achieving consistency and accuracy. If the palm pad at the base of the thumb is not centered on the grip, then shots will impact left or right of the aiming point. If the spot pressure increases or decreases then the shots will hit high or low respectively.
It is therefore critical that the archer develop a good kinesthetic sense of a balanced, in-line draw to anchor, through to release and follow-through. If the bow is correctly set up and tuned, the impact of the arrows will indicate any variances in grip pressure.