A funny thing happened on my way to a 100 lb. English warbow draw.
I ran into a different warbow tradition.
From the other side of the world.
It’s also highlighting a truism I learned from Solid Archery Mechanics and Tom Clum, Sr: the mind can truly focus on only one thing at a time. Or as I call it, Goal whack-a-mole. Each pursuit has value, but examining several in turn as distinct parts is like getting bopped in the face, covering your face, then getting bopped in the belly, and when you cover your belly…you get the idea.
- Basic infrastructure practice: 8 hrs of nightly sleep, 10k daily steps, twice daily meditation and mobility, thrice weekly (rotating) isometrics, and 2-3 times weekly varying cardio and roadwork – plus super clean low carb nutrition and plenty of water
- Then Archery Strong work twice weekly, to prehab for archery in general and warbow in particular. Only, after adopting this routine, the basic infrastructure consistency took a stumble
- Laid hands on a light (65 lb. draw weight) English warbow — yeah, baby! Ordered related research tomes (still on their way). Kept practicing a 3-fingered Mediterranean draw and instinctive traditional archery in the garage: no sights, no extra gear, what’s known as barebow
- Then, met some goodly folk shooting in the Asiatic style. Hard to miss: very curvy recurve bows, the arrow rests on the OTHER side of the bow, the right side, no arrow rest, shooting off the bow hand thumb. And gripping the string with the draw hand thumb, wearing a shiny thumb ring.
5. Hmmm. Studying that a bit. Pursuing a local Asiatic archery group, plus a translation of a military instructional archery text. And of course, Armin Hirmer and his innumerable YouTube videos, shooting effortlessly while sounding, as one commenter put it, “like a Bond villain”:
So, where did the fundamental infrastructure, Archery Strong work, traditional instinctive archery practice, and warbow prep go, to say nothing of content creation and social medial upkeep? Right, that!
Not good in a way. But good in another: learning from the shuffle, from changing up tracks.
There’s a finiteness to whack-a-mole. We all recognize when we’re doing it, and recognizing that it’s happening is the first step to getting off that treadmill. Took me about 3 weeks to round the corner on 4 pursuits to return to the fundamentals.
I also learned that 4-5 pursuits…is about the maximum I can flit between before wandering completely off the path. The ancient idea of making one goal your god, letting nothing come between you and it until you attain it, and then broadening your horizons, has a certain purity and appeal. It is, I daresay, very Asian. But while I have a hard time pursuing even 4 things simultaneously, I have a harder time going through life with blinders on. Chasing 5 things is silly — unless each pursuit pollinates and amplifies the others, and you stay all courses. Then things get really, explosively interesting.
Christian Williams of Archery Strong has been ever supportive and positive in prehabbing me during my archery journey from recurve to compound to traditional. He asked, “What has you interested in making the shift?” which of course prompted me to put a feeling of rightness into words:
- Asiatic archery has a current practice that treats archery as a martial art, including nocking, drawing, and releasing the arrow without taking eyes off target, and with an element of speed
- That includes warbow draw weights of 85-120+ lbs.
- Draw technique includes a pulldown from above style that takes advantage of more back musculature, with potentially less shoulder and arm stress, and greater career longevity for the archer
- Some curiosity about drawing with the thumb and shooting off the right side of the bow, which has a history going back millenia
- Finding Armin Hirmer and Justin Ma, and seeing what I might learn from them
I haven’t forsaken the English warbow and the goal of a 100 lb draw weight in my 6th decade. Even before I got enthusiastic about archery, I was an amateur history buff. The history of The Crooked Stick is a fascinating one that I’m honored to partake of. But I’ve long since moved beyond parroting what the ancients did as the highest expression — the exact copying — of their art. They themselves were in motion, and were a product of their own time and circumstance.
Tradition is fine, but it’s not final.