target faces

Target panic techniques – Draw, track, come down

So I’ve covered a couple of techniques so far (drawing down and blank boss shooting) in this series of posts on target panic.
So the third technique I’m going to cover here is one I’ve adopted from Jay Kidwell’s excellent book “Instinctive archery insights“. I’ve written about his book before and would advise anyone who is interested in aspects of coaching or target panic to pick up a copy. It is a very easy read and offers some great insights. The book was recommend to me by another coach and I really should type up a full literature review on it for the site.

cover of Instinctive Archery Insights

Instinctive Archery Insights

There is a little preparation required for this approach and it is not something that I suggest you try with your normal draw weight bow. So one thing you will need is a lighter draw weight bow. I use a 16lb draw weight take down recurve with my students.
In addition to a light poundage bow, you will need a few modified target faces and a 6 sided dice. Okay, so I know this may sound a little strange, some would go as far as to say a bit far fetched, but stay with me. I have found that using a six sided dice can prove very helpful and no, I’m not talking about gambling or playing snakes and ladders. Likewise the simple modification to the target face will help promote focus.

Simple target face with couple of lines added

Simple target face with couple of lines added, one horizontal and the other vertical.

The objective of this technique is to help the archer overcome the urge to release as soon as they have drawn up. Instead they develop the skill, neural pathways or retrain their brains to draw up and track onto and off the target. Overcoming the desire to release immediately the arrow is on the gold or when the archer thinks its on the gold.
Anyway back to how a six sided die can help along your with archery practice.
As many of us spend hours on the range training alone, it is very easy to fall into bad habits or repeating the same pattern again and again. In some ways we want to be able to repeat good form, but in this exercise we need to include a random factor. Hence the six sided die.
In Jays book he describes how a coach or shooting buddy call out a number, to denote the number of times you draw up and track across the target. There are a couple of important facts. The archer track across the target without releasing the arrow. Secondly they do it a number of times specified randomly so don’t form subconscious patterns.
To provide the random factor when alone I used the dice.

six sided dice in a clear box

Dice in a box

I modified the dice so there was no 1,5 or 6. This was easily done by sticking a blank label over the numbers. I wanted the die to show 1 four, 3 two’s and 2 threes. This may sound strange, but you don’t want too many higher numbers when performing the exercise as you would get fatigued, nor do you want a single occurrence.
I then housed the die in a small clear plastic tub large enough to allow the die to roll and clear enough to see the result.
So the second thing I done is modified a couple of targets by drawing lines on them through the centre, one vertically and one horizontally. When on the boss it gives the archer something to focus closely on when moving on and off the centre spot.

Remember, since you undertake these exercises multiple times, it is advisable for you to use a lighter draw weight bow.

In Jays book there are 3 exercises and rather than going into detail of how each of them work I’m going to explain how I use them and adapted them for my coaching style and students.

Step one

Me trying to remember to shoot

Me trying to remember to shoot

I’ll got through these step by step

  • First, fit one of the modified target faces to the boss so you have one line horizontal and another vertical.
  • Pick up you light draw weight bow and set yourself up at about 10 to 15 yards from the target boss.
  • Roll the die to get your random number, lets say 3.
  • Draw up and when they get to full draw and aimed / focused on the gold or in this case centre of the target, you move to the right to the edge of target and then  back to the centre. Once at the centre track left, again to the edge of the target. All the time maintaining full draw whilst not releasing. That is the crucial part, not releasing.
  • In this example  you would pass over the centre 3 times before coming down. Right, left, right and down.

The lines on the target provide a guide for movement. The theory is you are retraining your brain to be able to draw up,  centre on the target and then move off and back on without releasing. The movement to the left and right doesn’t have to be huge, ideally 3 to 4 inches at most.
The advantage of using the pizza base targets are they aren’t that large so you are tracking left and right only a little.
An alternative to this method is rather than tracking left to right, you track up and down, moving vertically through the centre. This is why there are both horizontal and vertical lines drawn on the face.
Try practising this technique for a few weeks and slowly it will help you build confidence and control.

The next step

So by this stage you have hopefully learnt to be able to draw up onto the target and move off it. A subtle development of this technique is when pass over the centre, you actually stop and hold on the centre for a moment.

From my experience these exercises work well, with the die providing a random number of reps you have  to perform.

Development

When you have mastered either or both of theses techniques you can progress to a slightly different version. In this version you combine the above exercise of moving over the centre spot of the target but on the final pass you lock onto the centre and you actually release the arrow.
When I am coaching these technique with students I recommend, they don’t perform them for long periods of time. Even with using a light draw weight bow there is quite a lot of strain on muscles, not to mention the concentration required. Ideally 15- 20 minutes seems to be optimum. Any longer and it can become tedious and the students tend to lose concentration.
The other thing is to practise these techniques over a few sessions, as it will take time for you to retrain your brain into being able to draw up, move on and off target spot etc. It is not something you can do once or twice for a couple weeks and then stop. Overcoming potentially years of subconscious neurological programming takes time and effort. So give yourself time to learn these skills. It does help if you practise them.

Thanks for reading.

A few from the bookshelf

Help is out there – Literature and online resources

A few days ago I posted some resources to help you get through the UK lockdown titled Home isolation opportunities here are the followup details I promised.
You might be wondering where I am getting all these ideas on combating target panic or am I making it up as I go, based on a vivid imagination. Well no. I’m not that imaginative, just ask Sharon. She will tell you how I always struggle with Christmas and birthday present ideas.
The truth is there is a wealth of literature, along with hours of footage out there on archery of all forms and many of it addresses methods to control target panic.
Most of the techniques I mention initially come from a variety of sources, but have been tweaked or modified by myself. I do a lot of reading and reviewing of online material, along with active coaching of archers of all levels. I endeavour to learn from those experiences, trying different things, tweaking ideas for the individuals. Sometimes it works, other times it takes a while, but we get there eventually. For this reason, I would like to offer a list of resources that I have found useful over the years.

Literature

One very useful guide I’ve found which I’ve mentioned previously came recommended to me by another coach was “Instinctive archery insights” by Jay Kidwell. In the book, Jay who has a PhD in Psychology and is an archer the selves is offering a breakdown of how the human brain works with some very useful insights into practice techniques.
I’ve used versions of these techniques with several people, struggling with different manifestations of target panic or anxiety of shooting and found they work well. 
The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters may sound a strange choice as it has nothing to do with archery, but I have found the writings on the subject of mind management helpful. To put it simply it goes into detail of how we have two elements of our brain, the chimp brain and the computer brain. The key part is your chimp brain reacts faster, being more instinctive than the computer brain. The thing to remember is with work, you can program your computer brain which provides you with greater control. This is a really simplified definition of the book which doesn’t do it justice so please have a read as it can provide help when combating target panic.
Songi Woo an international archery coach mentioned using this book in a recent article in Bow International issue 138.
Bow international magazine tends to focus on more target elements of our hobby but it does produce some interesting articles on coaching advice and guidance.

Other sources are out there too

The Push ( https://www.thepusharchery.com/) podcasts have a wealth of knowledge and have run a series of podcasts on coaching advice and tips that provides a huge resource and can provide some great insights. You might recall I wrote a review of them a while back and I often go back to their coaching moments recordings.
Nusensei YouTube channel (youtube.com/channel/UC4IL0laJkpzH9JHmxNqjjMg) has some great material, though focused more on target archery it does offer some great advice and guidance applicable to all.
Joel Turner ( https://www.shotiq.com/) has done some fantastic work and offers loads of advice for archers. He has also produced a concept that offers great opportunities for archers in what he describes as open and closed-loop shooting. I’ll try and describe it in brief here.
Open-loop is when you have automatic movements or subconscious and does not have any time for feedback to stop or change the process
Closed-loop is when you make decision i.e choosing to move from one stage to another in your shot sequence, proving feedback so you can stop or adjust.
Archery 101 ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl-LVJYEHvPXzVyrduIMtIg) is also worth checking out for ideas on improvements.
Over here in the UK, we have a few YouTubers who have been producing materials for years.
The cuddly bear fronting Archery Adventures known to many as “Grizzly Jim” ( https://www.grizzlyjim.co.uk/) has produced some really good videos over the years along with the odd articles in Bow international.
Though he’s been a bit quiet on the archery front over the last few years Wolfie Hughes has produced some great videos in the past. ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnkId_L6JEv0r_x1MzMvxfg)
Richard Head Longbows has been producing videos for years on different topics so check out their channel ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCr0ec0H7tNwfEEgoQ8qWoPQ)
I hope you find these of use, if you have any other resources you feel should be included then leave me a comment here or drop me a line.
Thanks for reading.