It’s official. Barebow is alive and well in California. The recent California Outdoor Championships included Recurve, Compound and Barebow categories. Barebow, alone, had eight divisions including Men’s and Women’s Cadets, Seniors, Masters 50+, Masters 60+, and Masters 70+. Juniors also shot Barebow on Friday.
This was the first State Archers of California (SAC) event to roll out the new Barebow 1440 format. All four rounds are shot at 50 meters, with two rounds on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. Rounds 1 and 2 are six ends of 6 arrows. Rounds 3 and 4 are 12 ends of 3 arrows for a total of 144 arrows / 1440 points. The 50-meter distance was adopted to conform with the US Open and other international outdoor Barebow match formats with the thinking that State events should be a training ground for National and International events.
The hope, now, is that the Barebow archers attending the SAC California Outdoor Championships will go back to their clubs and spread the word that Barebow is back and with a new format.
For those not familiar with Barebow rules, a target Barebow is essentially an Olympic recurve bow without the sights, clicker, or stabilizers. That said, any trad recurve, long bow or stick bow can be shot in the Barebow divisions. For the most part, Barebow archers shoot three fingers under and set up their bows to be point-on at 50 meters, or “lollypopping,” holding 6 o’clock on the 9 or 10 ring. So dust off that Barebow, or go out and invest in a new one.
Last but not least, big shout out to the SAC board, match coordinators, judges and volunteers who made all this possible.
It is a common wisdom that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, but have you ever given thought to just how much training is required to hit that 10,000-hour mark?
Looking at a skilled trade such as a carpenter or welder, the average apprenticeship is about four years which breaks down to 40 hours per week, times 50 weeks, equaling 2,000 hours per year, and 8,000 hours in four years. But a competent journeyman, fresh out of his or her apprenticeship, still needs a few years of experience to be considered a master at his or her chosen profession.
Now to the field of sports, and using Judo as an example, it usually takes an individual 5 years to make 1st degree black belt, depending on how often they train and how successful they have been in competition. Training three times a week for 2 hours in each session, adds up to 6 hours per week, times 50 weeks and you have 300 hours per year. So five years would equal 1,500 hours total training time, well short of the proposed 10,000 hours. The logic here is that a black belt is not the end of the road, but merely the beginning of a much longer journey. The real mastery of Judo comes many years later and at about the rank of 5th Dan.
Again, using Judo as an example, the road to mastery can be accelerated by dedicated judoka and elite athletes. By simply training more often and training with a national training squad, the athlete could be training 30+ hours per week and 1,500 hours per year. This is equal to 5 years training for the average recreational judoka, resulting in accelerated skills development, competition performance, and national rankings.
So how does this equate to target archery? An individual practicing at a club twice a week for 2 hours is racking up 4 hours per week, 16 hours per month, and 192 hours per year. Definitely not enough to advance quickly. For individuals who have made the decision to get serious about archery, and have access to a range in their backyard or nearby, then they may begin training every evening for 2 hours. This would generate 10-12 hours per week, 40 hours per month, and 480 hours per year. So at that rate, 10,000 hours would take 20+ years. This may be why we see older seniors and masters shooting very respectable scores because they have accumulated over 20 years recreational experience.
Backyard range with 40cm targets at 20 yards and 122cm target at 50 meters for Barebow training
Once an archer steps up to elite level training and national training squads, now he or she is training three to four times per day, six days a week, which is 18-24 hours per week just shooting arrows. This would be augmented by time in the weight gym and building aerobic endurance. This is where sports development becomes a fulltime endeavor and elite athletes are putting in 1,000 to 1,500 hours training time each year. Most are also shooting 240+ arrows per day in three sessions of 84 or four sessions of 60 arrows.
My personal Barebow training program at 50 meters is 60-72 arrows three to four times a day with an average of 1,000+ per week and 4,000+ per month. It takes 30 minutes to shoot 6 ends of 6 arrows at 50 meters for a 360 round, and an hour to shoot that twice for 72 arrows. I usually shoot at 9.00 AM, Noon, 5.00 PM and 7.00 PM in summer. But in some sessions, if I’m working on something in particular, I may shoot 120+ arrows knowing that I’m also developing better endurance.
On the subject of arrow count, you will also hear people say that an individual skill needs to be repeated 10,000 times to master it. Not so for target archery! So let’s see how this breaks down. If you are a serious recreational archer shooting 150 arrows a day, 3 days a week, that equates to 450 per week, 1,800 per month and 10,000 in five and a half months. Be assured that you will not have mastered target archery by shooting all 9s and 10s at that point in time. It usually takes at least a year or two for a serious archer to develop good form, a consistent shot process, and an 8.5 to 9 average in Barebow archery. So mastery of something as seemingly simple as archery is a process of years not weeks or months, but we all know that precision archery is actually quite a complex process.
Six in the gold at 50 meters with a score of 57 is very good for Barebow training. Anyone shooting a 9 average (54/60) is a contender for the Nationals
Warning – the quality of training is always preferable to mere quantity. Repeating a poor technique or having a poor shot process thousands of times only reinforces bad habits. While demonstrating good form, correct skeletal alignment, and a clean shot process hundreds of times per day serves to build the required neuro-muscle memory to execute the perfect shot repeatedly.
Finally – if you aspire to great things you must be willing to do great things, and this means many more hours of structured training.
To advance in any sport, it is important to not only put in the training time but to have a training plan. Part of that plan is a series of attainable goals.
While an aspiring athlete may have dreams of making the US team or competing in the Olympics, it takes considerable time, effort, and planning to turn those dreams into reality. So while most elite athletes work on a quadrennial training plan to coincide with the summer Olympics, the rookie athlete will begin with an annual plan with monthly metrics.
These metrics are the methods of tracking progress through improved performance and improved scores. In other words, attainable goals. These are tracked daily and and weekly, but it usually takes a month or two to see progress in precision shooting sports. It is also important to track if the improvement is a fluke higher score or a consistently repeatable higher score.
Keep in mind that the time it takes to attain these goals is directly related to the amount of time spent in well structured training. For archery, this is a combination of working on form and shot process, professional coaching, and putting in the time on the range. That said, the quality of training is more important than quantity of arrows. Shooting a lot of arrows with poor form just reinforces bad habits, while every arrow shot with good form builds the neuro-muscle memory for consistent precision and accuracy.
For the novice archer who has a grasp of the mechanics of archery and is committed to improvement and ultimately competing at the national level, the attainable goals and metrics, may look something like this.
The first goal will be to focus on technique and shot process while working to keep all the arrows on the target at 20 yards. Why 20 yards? Because indoor competitions are shot at 18 meters / 20 yards. At this distance, competitions are shot in a series of 10 ends of 3 arrows, for a possible score of 300.
For the Barebow archer, the next goal is to progress to 50 meters and be able to keep all the arrows on the 122cm target, since this is the standard distance for outdoor Barebow competitions. Considering the size of the target, you would think that this is no great challenge, but you will see more than one archer looking for his or her arrows behind the bale at competitions.
From there, the goal in training is to improve your score by first eliminating any arrows in the white (scoring 1 & 2) and black zones (3 & 4). This doesn’t even require keeping track of the actual score, but simple training with a focus on form and staying inside the black rings. Be patient – it may take a couple of months to stay inside the black and to develop consistency and repeatability at 50 meters .
The next goal is to get out of the blue “Smurf Zone” – scoring rings 5 & 6. This may take another couple of months of diligent practice – but still an attainable goal. Concurrently, if there are opportunities to compete in archery competitions, these are good practice and experience even for the novice archer. Just don’t expect to shoot the same scores in formal competition that you shoot in training since you will be contending with match nerves.
The next goal is to track how many arrows you can get into the gold zone (Xs, 10s and 9s.) At first you will be getting 2 or 3 out of 6 arrows in the gold. Then the occasional 4 out of 6. Since competitions are shot in six ends of 6 arrows, your possible score will be 360. So you can also begin working your way up from 250 to 260 to 270, etc. Again, you are looking for consistent improvement not just the occasional high score.
By the time you are getting consistent 3 or 4 out of 6 arrows in the gold, you will also be scoring 48-50 out of 60 and 280-300 out of 360. But you will probably be over six months into your training program. This is assuming that you are shooting upwards of 150 arrows per day and 900 per week. Again, the focus should be on good form and a repeatable shot process. With these, the scores will improve. However, you will also have bad days or bad ends where you are throwing low 5s and 6s in the blue zone, usually because of a weakness of collapse in your form. That is when you have to concentrate on good form, a repeatable shot process, and holding hard on the 10 ring.
The next goal will be 6 out of 6 in the gold at 50 meters, which is not that easy with a Barebow and no sights. The point of the arrow can completely cover the gold 9 and 10 rings if you have to hold high. This may also take 8 months of training 6 days per week, but you are now a contender for the nationals.
A score of 56/60 with 6 out of 6 in the gold 9 & 10 rings.
Another metric is to track your average arrow score. For example, if you shoot 48 out of a possible 60 your average is 8; while 300 out of 360 is 8.3. But if you shot 1100 out of 1440 your average is only 7.64. For most Barebow archers, the goal is to become a 9 average shooter, 54 out of 60, or 324 of a possible 360. For the Olympic Recurve and Compound archers shooting sights, it is all about 10s and Xs and perfect scores separated only by X counts.
Finally, just to keep yourself honest, write your training goals in a training log and then track your daily performance in a training log or in your computer. Track the date, the time, number of arrows shot, best scores for 6 arrows, best scores for 36 arrows, and the running total. My personal outdoor training program calls for 48-60 arrows four times a day, or 72-84 arrows three times a day at 50 meters. But I will periodically shoot several sets of 36 arrows with breaks in between to simulate a 1440 match (4 x 36 arrows). In the winter, the focus is on indoor training at 20 yards shooting 60 arrows three to four times a day.
Word of warning – as you increase the number of arrows being shot each day, it’s critical that you’ve established good form so as to avoid repetitive motion injuries. Good form with good skeletal alignment, with adequate conditioning and rest periods, will protect you from injuries, but poor form can result in painful tendonitis.