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Comments on Monday 13 October 2003:
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! [03:55]

RavenBlack
(slight alteration made to original post)

Soli
I would love to take up archery.... I don't know of any archery range in the area, maybe I should look into it next time I have a few weeks where I'm neither at school nor a job.

nihil est.
Archery is fun... yes it is... unless one has to babysit young children whose parents give them several differnt types of bows... then it is a little scary.
It looks to me like you're right about LOTR

Nightshade
Re: Elbows... apparently it is both easier and more difficult for women to deal with the mis-behaving elbow in archery, than for men. This is because women's elbows tend to have even more of an angle than mens. In otherwords, it's more likely for a woman to catch the bowstring on her elbow because it gets in the way more... but once the 'rotate elbow out of the way' trick is learned, it's almost impossible to catch, because it can rotate out better than a male's arm.
I haven't done much study on this, but what I have done suggests it to be true.
Quick Query: Are you still using your Mongol bow?

RavenBlack
I never even got the Mongol bow - wasn't doing Archery in England long enough to get it, and didn't do any in America because the ranges were all tremendously unappealing. I have just ordered a Mongolesque bow, though.

Mat Fowler
Thank you so much. Fixed my discomfort i've had forcing my elbow round all the time. It always felt wrong and uncomfortable. I had actually given up trying and put up with the sore red marks instead. I shoot a Mongolian bow, arrow on right and thumb draw and it's much more practical and cleaner.

Mike
The right thumb draw seems to be the easiest as it doesn't take much time or effort on the archer's part.

Thanks for your tips, RavenBlack.
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