|A lengthy ponderous post about archery, opening with, of course, a brief rant.|
You'd think people who regularly teach an activity would get to know the common problems and the solutions thereto, wouldn't you? I'm pretty sure "bowstring catching the elbow" is a common problem. The teachy-people's proposed solution to this is "rotate your elbow".
It's now time for a bit of audience participation.
Make a fist with your left hand. Hold it out in front of you as though you've just slammed it down on a table (or slam it down on a table, if you like). Note how your elbow joint is angled such that if you bend it, your arm moves upwards. Now, without rotating your hand, and with your hand not on any surface, rotate your elbow so that the direction of flex is inwards rather than upwards. Can you do it? Probably, with a little difficulty. That's because rotate your elbow is not the right way to fix the problem - it's treating the symptom instead of the cause.
Start again. This time, hold your palm out in front of you, fingers pointing upwards and palm forwards, as if you're pushing something. Now your elbow's pointing the right way. If you like, bizarrely, you can now rotate your hand to the fist you had before, and the joint will probably remain where you want it.
Alternatively, from the "fist with the elbow wrong" position, punch your chest then swing the arm back - the joint will probably stay the way around you want it. Flex it up and down in the 'slam on desk' motion and it'll be wrong again. What fun! Have another go at just rotating the joint without making one of these motions. Elbows are freaky, aren't they?
Another piece of common archery motion is the mediterranean-style draw. Archery coaches must grow very tired of saying "elbow up and back". I don't think it's a problem with the coaches this time, but rather an aspect of the draw itself.
It's audience-participation time again!
Get the three central fingers of your right hand such that they're curved and aligned vertically (as they would be if you were holding a bowstring ready to pull). Retaining that hand-position, and with the imaginary string tension pulling 'away' from you (so the fingers have to stay pointing in the direction they are), move that index finger so it touches the point of your chin. Did your elbow go up and back? Probably not unless you're a regular archer, and even if it did it probably felt quite unnatural.
Now for the eastern-style thumb draw; hold your hand out flat, palm-down, with the thumb touching the bottom-most knuckle of the index finger. Again, keep the hand aligned like that (flat, fingers pointing away from you), and bring the thumb-knuckle up to touch the point of your chin. Did your elbow go up and back? Probably, and if it didn't then the motion probably felt quite unnatural, and possibly sprained your wrist.
And for a final point of analysis, western orthodox archery mounts the arrow on the left side of the bow (if you're right-handed). This is obligatory with most recurve bows since they have a cut-away section on that side. I can see advantages to this, even without the cut-away; the trajectory of the arrow will be aligned more similarly to how your eye aligns to the bow, and if you're shooting parallel to yourself, the string is travelling slightly away from your body, rather than catching on your clothing. But it's a pain in the arse to mount the arrow - you have the bow held out in your left hand, and you pick up an arrow with your right hand. Now you have to position that arrow such that its body is on the left side of your bow, and its tail is on the string. Basically this means either putting it 'through' the bow (which seems like a bad idea, likely to hit the fletchings against the string), or 'over' the bow (pointing it upwards while you pass the back of the bow, then swinging it down into the intended alignment), before nocking it onto the string. Some eastern alternatives mount the arrow on the right side, which has a fairly clear fast-nocking advantage, in that you can be settling the arrow onto the string at the same time as setting it against the bow.
This led me to wonder - in the Lord of the Rings movie, when Legolas is pulling his rapid-fire trick, how does he mount the arrows? This site of pictures perhaps holds the answer - in its bottom-most picture, which looks more like a hectic scene than any other, he has an arrow mounted on the right of the bow. Anyone with the DVD want to confirm my theory? Interestingly, higher up, above the caption "Oh, just look at the concentration in his little face!", he has an arrow mounted on the left. Also interesting, though in a completely different way, that it's nocked on completely the wrong part of the string - that arrow's going straight into the ground. I wouldn't trust my nose to that stance, either. He also apparently changes bow-hand sometimes.
Don't worry, I won't be posting archery blather all the time. I'll limit myself to no more than one a week. But this wasn't just archery blather - it had movies, it had audience participation, and it had elbows behaving badly! [11:55] [7 comments]