Sunday, September 06, 2009

My new hobby is hitting the mark

I We might have found a new hobby – archery! Last weekend Pete decided to surprise me by taking me to the Church Stretton archery club, where he’d booked an hour’s instruction with a budding instructor who needed people to instruct so as to qualify for instructing. Apparently I’d mentioned to Pete (probably after watching costumed archers strut their stuff at some castle or other) that I’d like to try my hand at it too, and he’d taken that offhand remark at face value. I’m glad he did, because it was great fun. We were meant to be there for just about an hour, but we ended up staying on for six whole hours.

There were two young men whose instructing methods, etc were being observed by a senior instructor as part of the qualifying process. One of them, a lanky uber-cool young man clad all in black, with black sunglasses as well, was assigned to us. I have to say that going by his performance with us, he wasn’t exactly going to be the best instructor – not by a long shot! The examiner found it necessary to step in time and again to remind of things he should have told us, or asked us, or shown us, and to speak more clearly - if it hadn't been for his advice and comments, we would have been a lot less informed about the whys and hows of what we were doing. Mr Uber Cool did pass, but probably just by a squeak... the fact is that he's a very good archer (else he would very likely not have been considered for an instructor's job) but perhaps not yet confident enough in his teaching abilities.

Anyway, we started off shooting arrows at a target 20 metres away. What surprised me the most was the fact that you don't stand facing the target front-on. Rather, you straddle a horizontal line so that the lower half of you is at right angles to the target while you swivel your upper half to face the target. (Is this not a good enough description? Too bad, it's the best I can do.). I guess I've never watched any of the archery sessions at the Olympics or this might not have been such a surprise.


Pete got the hang of letting the arrows off correctly quicker than I did, making several bulls eyes while I just about managed to hit the target board. This pleased him very much because he values games of skill over games of chance - like cards - or games of chance that involve skill - like Scrabble.

My archery efforts were, meanwhile, for some time more on the lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was also not much of a shot, it would seem... always assuming he wrote the poem in an autobiographical frame of mind. (For non-Eng Lit students, it's the one that goes:
"I shot an Arrow into the air
It fell to earth I know not where,
For so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight." )

[Although, strictly speaking, I suppose I did know where my arrows fell - usually well outside the marked area on the target board. And the arrow the swift flight of which the sight could not follow could more accurately describe those shot by the Olympic entrants who were practising nearby.]

Still, eventually, after a while, my arrows began to hit the centre of the target more often than not, and after a couple of times of having all four of them hit the bulls eye, the instructor decided I was ready to move on to a target that was placed further away, at 30 metres. This was a bit more difficult as the technique involved was different - I had to pull the bowstring right upto my nose, with my curled forefinger under my chin, keeping my left arm bent just so. If I got it wrong, two things happened: 1. The arrow either wildly overshot or pathetically undershot its mark. 2. The bowstring caught on my arm, just above the elbow on the inside (which doesnt sound like much, but after a couple of times of catching your arm like that, it hurts like hell. I have a large painful black bruise, visible even on my dark skin, to prove that particular point.)

One thing which I thought was a bit overdone - at first - was the health and safety rules that were strictly followed. For instance, nobody but the archers (and the instructors, natch) were allowed around the shooting line - they all had to stand behind the observation line which was about 10 metres behind the shooting line (these are my terms for the lines, by the way). Nobody was allowed to go and fetch their arrows from their target until everybody at all the targets had finished shooting. And nobody was allowed to shoot arrows while there was anyone else on the field who was still collecting arrows from the other targets, even if they were really far away - like 90 metres away. (One of the archery contenders from Shropshire for the 2012 Olympics was practising shooting at his target which was 90 metres away. Since he is disabled, a colleague was deputed to fetch his arrows from the target.)

Like I said, it seemed a bit excessive to me at the start, but once I'd realised just how far beyond the target a wrongly-aimed arrow could go, I realised that maybe it was better to be safe than sorry. Especially as anybody on the receiving end of an arrow would most emphatically not be a happy camper.

We were meant to have an hour's instruction but it was so interesting and enjoyable that we ended up practising for 6 hours straight. Membership to the club for a year is pretty cheap and we get to rent our own bow and arrows and accessories (to take home) for £5 a month... so Sherwood Forest, here we come!


ummon said...

knightess shyam. robin hoodi. arjuni. rami, karni. :) but wow. you must have fantastic eye sight huh? sounds like loads of fun.

Pollux aka Paps said...

Sounds cool da. and V has called you all the names I would have, so won't repeat!!!

swarna said...

how exciting Shyam. Archery and shooting were (are still to some extent) couple of my fav skill based games. Way to go girl!

Teesu (very very Indian, very very good) said...

Wow. sounds great. But 20 m away? Really? Not feet?Hmmm. 'Interestinger';) Really nice of PA to have taken you for a lesson. What fun.:) And what can happen if the arrow hits someone? I mean, will it be really lethal and/or result in a very nasty wound?Am clueless and so i ask basics...

Kamini said...

What a wonderfully evocative post! I once tried my hand at archery and was a miserable failure! But then it was in some cheapo place with broken down equipment and no instruction to speak of, so maybe I should give it another go!

ra said...


??! said...

So I'm guessing your arms hurt quite a bit the next day?

Sounds like fun though.