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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Archery Teaches Self Control and Discipline

With box office influences such as the "Hunger Games", Disney’s "Brave", Hawkeye from the "Avengers" and the newest Hobbit movie "The Desolation of Smaug" it is no wonder why so many youth are drawn to archery.

Since archery isn't a team sport it also forces children to become more self reliant - if they make a mistake, they recognize it is their own fault and they have to learn from their mistakes. This means learning a degree of humility, self control and also self discipline.

Children with ambitions to become truly great in the sport of archery often take part in local archery competitions, with aspirations of proving their greatness. But before they can even have a chance at winning they would need to practice, practice hard, and learn to discipline both their bodies physically and their minds emotionally.

Archery lessons, school archery clubs, after school archery programs, Boy Scouts / Girl Guides - these are all beneficial ways for children and teens to build their archery skills and learn such discipline - but it is often just practicing on their own, often with only a coach present, that allows young archers to truly grow in this perfectionist of sports.

Archery classes begin with an introduction to the basics of archery, with a focus on equipment, equipment maintenance, safety fundamentals and information to help them be successful.

The really nitty gritty archery tips - things like learning to control your breathing, breathing into your stomach, how to hold your shot steady, how to follow through on a shot... These all take a lot of time and require the young archer to keep striving harder, concentrating harder and learning everything one lesson at a time.

What happens often is people begin archery with an expectation that they will get really good in a hurry. Which is partially true, a young archer can become "proficient" within the first couple of months of regular practice, but it takes years to become a skilled archer - and decades to become a master at the sport.

Archery is a fairly inexpensive and highly rewarding sport, offering many benefits to participants. Increased strength, increased concentration, there is even reports of archers developing better visual acuity / observation skills.

According to a study at the University of Pennsylvania, youths who are involved in archery tend to be better students in school, due to the patience, focus and discipline required for the sport.

"Archers have to learn to take their time, go through the safety and fundamental archery steps and make sure every aspect of the shot is perfect and safe," says Grant Caraway, the recreation assistant for Outdoor Adventures. "Good archers are patient and methodical, allowing them to put a good shot down range."

Since archery is an individual sport it allows athletes to progress as fast as they desire - practice very little, they will progress slowly, but practice daily and they will improve in their skills in a hurry. Archery skills are commensurate with drive and dedication, the number of hours put in to improving themselves both on the physical level and mental preparation.

On the physical level some people are very serious about. Charles Moffat, a personal trainer in Toronto, uses personal training techniques to forge his body into a more efficient archer - so that he is physically stronger, has better balance (so you can maintain stillness while aiming) and even yogic breathing exercises so he can better control his breathing during a shot.

Moffat is also a zen archery enthusiast, following in the footsteps of Japanese zen archer Awa Kenzo, and also zen monk Takuan Soho, and believes strongly in the power of the archer's mind.

"You can't shoot for perfection if you are too busy being distracted by feelings of hate, hunger, greed and ego. Humility is an archer's best friend and those archers who are too full of ego have good days and bad days. A humble archer who has control of his mind can control his feelings and shoot well every day." - Charles Moffat.

But not everyone can afford such a thoughtful archery instructor with so much self control, so they send their kids to summer camps - summer camps where the focus is on fun and the archery instructors barely know how to shoot themselves.

Students attending such summer camps are no doubt hoping to learn a new skill and have some fun in the process - but if they are serious about becoming good at archery then the shoddy equipment and shoddy instructors at summer camps just isn't going to satisfy them.

"I am excited about shooting the bows, it looks fun and it will be my first time shooting," said 8-year-old Michael Wells, a participant in the USA's After School Archery Program.

The program takes the young archers through the appropriate range safety commands and signals necessary to use archery ranges. During each class, students learn how to safely and correctly use a recurve and/or compound bow. Students are instructed on what each safety signal (eg. "clear" and "live") means and what is appropriate behavior for the archery range.

So that is a good way to learn the basics of archery and safety procedures, but if they don't have an archery coach they will be learning how to aim, proper form through trial and error.

Archery Injuries

Muscle groups that make up the back, shoulders and arms are used repeatedly while archers draw back their bows. The weight archers pull back varies depending on the bow and their abilities, making correct form a necessity for injury prevention.

Many people overemphasize the use of back muscles - which is used a lot in archery, but often results in overdeveloped back muscles and can result in injuries if people rely too heavily on one set of muscles.

Another common archery injury is "archer's elbow", commonly known as tennis elbow. This is due to overuse of one's elbow during the practice of archery.

Thus it becomes important to hone other parts of the body physically so a person does not become so reliant on their upper back muscles and elbow muscles. Practicing proper archery form is important but can be difficult to maintain if a person doesn't also build up their physical strength too, thus doing so is a great way to prevent such archery injuries to the back and elbows.

Archery gives everyone an opportunity to release stress and have fun. Whether you want to take up bowhunting, go to archery competitions or just practice for fun, people from all backgrounds can enjoy the sport.

Archery is found every culture around the globe, dating back to the stone age. No one group can claim ownership to the sport - and thus archery is for everyone. Not just Katniss fans, although they are certainly welcome too.

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