Not every athlete necessarily has to be able to run or swim for miles, control a ball perfectly or handle a racket. Even for people who would describe themselves as rather unathletic, there are sports in which they can shine, even become really athletic. One of these is archery – a sport that is suitable for you to prove your athleticism after all.
People with little knowledge might not call archery a “real” sport. However, this sport demands everything that makes a good athlete: strength, endurance, accuracy and concentration. Not only for this reason archery has fascinated people for thousands of years.
But what exactly is it that makes the sport of archery a precision sport? What types of bows are there and what types of arrows? And how can you learn archery and become a really good archer?
What is archery?
The generic term archery is probably familiar to everyone – it is a sport where you shoot with bow and arrow. In archery, energy is transferred to an arrow through a taut bowstring. This energy depends on factors such as the bow tension, i.e. the weight of the bow, and the extension of the string. The aim is not only to achieve a high penetrating power of the arrow, but also to achieve the highest possible precision.
In general, a distinction is made between Olympic archery and traditional archery.
Olympic archery, as the name suggests, is a competitive sport. Its rules are based on the guidelines of the World Archery Federation. The archer shoots from a line to a target at a maximum distance of seventy metres and a diameter of 122 cm. The athlete shoots two rounds of 36 arrows each. These two passes are in turn divided into six arrows in six passes. For each pass, the athlete has a time of four minutes. The hits are added up and noted on shooting slips.
While in non-Olympic competitions a distinction is made between age and bow class, i.e. type of bow, this is not the case in Olympic Games. In the latter case, the recurve bow is the only bow type allowed anyway.
The biggest difference to traditional archery is therefore the use of modern equipment such as sights. The latter does without equipment and is based solely on intuition, which is why it is also called intuitive archery. Mostly it is also about the choice of the used materials. The traditional longbow or a recurve bow made of different woods is often used; however, any bow class is allowed.
Traditional archery is not based on the principles of the Olympic sport, but offers a whole range of different rules. Since the choice of equipment used as well as the regulations are much more freely designed, traditional archery is now enjoying great popularity.
However, there are not only these two types of archery. Shooting with bow and arrow is varied and offers a wide range of possibilities.
Field archery is a discipline that takes place at the World Games, among others. It involves shooting in a course of twenty-four targets, between three and six kilometres long, which must be completed. The targets are set up at different distances and also differ in terms of the number of targets. A distinction is made between targets with the following diameters:
20 cm three spot
In contrast to the Olympic Games, field archery does not have a firing line, but so-called launching stakes, from which the shooter must estimate not only the distance but also the correct angle to the target. Furthermore, this discipline is complicated by various natural factors, such as light exposure, shadow play, wind direction and strength.
All of these things mean that the shooter has to have not only all his or her concentration and strength, but also a lot of stamina.
3D archery, similar to field archery, is about hitting targets in a kind of natural course. However, these are not targets, but lifelike animals. This gives the shooter a real “hunting feeling” without harming any living creature.
3D archery also demands not only high precision from the shooter, but also stamina, as long distances have to be covered. And here too, the natural factors mentioned above play a major role.
In traditional archery, bow material is used that has a natural origin, for example different woods. Furthermore, no modern tools are used, which is why traditional archery is also called intuitive archery. The bow used is usually the longbow.
Japanese archery is called Kyūdō, which means “the way of the bow”. This art, once reserved for the Japanese aristocracy, is particularly impressive because it has something highly meditative about it. The movement is very slow, the archer is never hectic and always at rest within himself. Japanese archery and meditative archery should not be confused, because Japanese archery is mainly focused on the sportive aspect, whereas meditative archery is mainly about inner focus and mindfulness.
Two different styles are distinguished:
Shomen, Wertlegung auf Eleganz
Shamen, Wertlegung auf Technik
Bow and arrow are traditionally made of bamboo, a very robust and at the same time flexible material. The bow has a much longer upper throwing arm, the lower one appears shortened. This asymmetrical shape guarantees both a high draw and a very fast arrow speed.
Other equipment such as visor, arrow rest and the like are not used. The arrow is placed on the thumb, with which the shooter holds the bow, before tensioning the string.
An important part of Japanese archery is the practice of various traditional movements, some of them in Japanese festive robes or armor.
Therapeutic Archery or also Therapy Supported Intuitive Archery offers especially people with psychological problems a possibility to grow and to be strengthened in their personality. As banal as it may sound, it is the high art of archery that ensures the balance of body and soul.
It is not only about the physical, but also about the meditative aspects. The archer experiences himself as self-effective and highly concentrated. Perfection can and should be put aside for the time being. The pressure to always have to function gives way to inner peace.
Of course archery does not replace therapy. However, it can be used sensibly to support such a therapy.
The Pros of archery
Why should I start archery when I could jog or swim?
Maybe you’re asking yourself the same question. There are many reasons why you should learn archery.
In today’s world, one thing is most important: performance. And it has to be performed everywhere and at all times. In addition to that, digitalization is not only advancing more and more, but also demands more from people than they are able to perform. Constant accessibility makes life difficult for you, causes your blood pressure to skyrocket and drives countless people into burnout.
Archery is a very pleasant counterpoint. The moment you stretch the string, you concentrate completely on your actions, you are one with your actions. And these are not fast and choppy, but slow and meditative. Your breath becomes calm and deep, your heart beats strong and steady. Body and mind come to rest.
If you do not only want to train your ability to concentrate or if purely meditative exercises are not for you, choose field archery or 3D archery. You move in the open nature, from which muscles and immune system benefit. Once you have reached your goal, you breathe deeply, stand still, draw the bow, take your time. And shoot.
Your adrenaline will shoot up, feelings of happiness will arise as soon as your arrow hits. A hormone cocktail makes you fall into a frenzy and you forget all your everyday worries. After your trip you are exhausted, but grounded in your thoughts and completely free.
Apart from that, you train countless muscles in your body with bow and arrow, which improves or prevents postural deformities. As with most sports, your cholesterol level is lowered and you have a positive effect on your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Last but not least, the archery community in particular is regarded as very cordial and fair. You will make friends and be in good company with your passion to learn archery.
Different types of bows
Various types of bows are available on the market, ranging from traditional bows to the most modern of all bows, the compound bow. In our bow guide you will get a small overview in the following sections.
Ideal for the beginners: Recurve bow
The recurve bow offers the beginner everything he needs. It is a very old type of bow that has been spread all over the world. This bow class is also used at the Olympic Games.
The bow is mostly made of traditional materials such as different kinds of wood and partly also of horn. Both throwing arms are bent, which guarantees a high energy transfer of the string to the arrow and at the same time makes it easier to tension the string.
Mostly recurve bows shooters use different aids. For example, sights and stabilizers are now standard.
The recurve bow is excellent for beginners, because it is easy to care for and fits well in the hand. What you have to pay attention to when buying a recurve bow, you will find out later in our bow guide.
Learn all about the recurve bow in our guide article: Buy Recurve Bow Advisor
Modern archery: Compound bow
The compound bow not only impresses with its high-tech look, but also with the so-called Let Off. This describes the abrupt release of the draw weight when the string is fully tensioned and is caused by the attached cams, small rollers at the ends of the limbs. The Let Off makes aiming easier for the shooter, as he does not have to apply as much force as with traditional bows. The result is a higher precision.
Apart from this, the arrow achieves a much greater penetrating power than with traditional bows due to the better transmission of force. However, the compound bow is only suitable for beginners to a limited extent. It has to be adjusted very precisely and special tools are required for this. Those who like it simple and traditional are better off with the recurve bow or the longbow.
Learn everything about the compound bow in our guidebook article: Buy a compound bow Guide
The handy one: the riding bow
If a longbow is too unwieldy for you, you can try a rider’s bow. This is shaped like a recurve bow, i.e. the limbs are bent. It is usually made of different woods. Its tendon consists of stretchy Dacron.
The rider’s bow is much smaller than a recurve bow. As the name suggests, this type of bow was once used by mounted archers, who of course could not use a huge bow on horseback. Especially skilled – and horse-loving – archers even today try their hand at archery on horseback.
If you think that a mounted bow does not offer the shooter as much shooting power as a recurve bow, you are mistaken. The penetrating power is in no way inferior to recurve bows. However, the much smaller throwing arms make it much more difficult for the shooter to hit. In addition, there is of course an increased risk of injury when shooting with a rider’s bow. Therefore it should rather be guided by experienced shooters. Ask for advice before you buy a riding bow.
Learn all about the longbow in our advice article: Buying a riding bow Guide
The traditional: Longbow
Next to the recurve bow the longbow is probably the most traditional bow class. It is a bent long piece of wood, on the ends of which the string is attached. This bow is perfect for intuitive archery.
The characteristic, which also gives it its name, is its length, because it is about the same size as the shooter. Moreover, its limbs are not bent away from the shooter like those of the recurve bow.
Learn all about the longbow in our advice article: Buying a longbow Advisor
Which bow suits me?
First of all you have to think about which bow class you want to choose. Already above we have introduced you to different types of bows and described their different uses in our bow guide. So if you want to become a professional archer, you will usually need a completely different bow than if you want to try your hand at reenactment at medieval markets. What exactly do you want to do with the bow? This is the question you should answer first.
After that other factors that are important for you follow:
Size of the arch
Equipment with various aids such as visor, arrow rest, etc.
Let us advise you in case of doubt, gladly also by mail or telephone in online shops.
Learn archery – this is what you have to consider for the start
The bad news first: You shouldn’t shoot with a bow just like that. If you get used to a wrong technique, it is very difficult to get rid of it. So if you want to learn archery, you should pay attention to certain things right from the start. The best thing is to learn archery from a professional. However, you will of course also get useful tips and tricks for the beginning in our archery guide.
The right shooting technique
If you want to shoot with bow and arrow, start with the basics. The most important thing is the correct archery technique and the posture.
The posture with bow and arrow
The correct posture in archery is the most important thing. If you stand wrong, you will never hit your target correctly. Make sure you have a comfortable yet firm stand. Your body should take up a slightly lateral position, your weight evenly distributed on both feet. The upper body is slightly tilted forward and straight. Head and neck point to the target.
Find the anchor point
The anchor point is very important, because this is the optimal position of your pulling hand. It should be on the jaw, in a position that intuitively feels right for you. The corner of the mouth can be such a place. It is important that the anchor point ensures the same distance between your eye and the tip of the arrow with every shot, otherwise you will hold your bow completely different every time and get used to a wrong technique.
The important thing is not to aim at the target with the arrowhead, but with your eyes. You can take your time when aiming, but only as much as you can comfortably shoot the arrow. At first, make sure that the bow is not quite as heavy so that your arms do not start to hurt after a few seconds.
If you find it difficult to aim at the bow, you can use a visor to help you.
Releasing the arrow sounds easy, but it is not quite so. Because you should be careful to maintain your posture until your arrow has hit the target. Otherwise you will be tempted to move too soon, your arrow will be deflected and will not hit the target.
When releasing, the tension in your body reaches its peak at the moment of firing, and both arms should be as firm as the string of your bow. Your three fingers release and release the arrow – your body remains tense for a moment and in the shooting position.
Equipment for archery
In order to learn archery, you also need the one or other accessories. However, the market is large and not everything that is offered is really useful. We give you in our archery accessories overview a few tips what you need and what not.
To be able to shoot with bow and arrow, you surprisingly need not only a bow but also arrows. And preferably the right ones, because the range of arrows available is relatively large:
Aluminium carbon arrows
Wooden arrows naturally make a very traditional impression and go well with a recurve or longbow – but that’s usually it, because a recurve bow exerts such a force on the arrow that wooden arrows are not recommended. They can break or splinter easily and injuries are imminent.
Aluminium arrows are relatively unsuitable for beginners because they warp quickly, especially when there are large temperature differences.
Carbon arrows are durable and robust and therefore the first choice, especially for beginners, but also for advanced players. But of course you can also try out cheaper arrows first.
Aluminium-carbon-arrows consist, as the name suggests, of both materials and have excellent flight characteristics. However, they are also extremely expensive. They are therefore not recommended for beginners, but rather for advanced and professional pilots. They are suitable for all types of bows.
The fibreglass arrow is made of glass fibre reinforced plastic and therefore has good flight characteristics. However, it can break.
It is best to get advice on which arrows are suitable for your bow. If in doubt, choose the higher quality – and therefore unfortunately also more expensive – arrows. After all, it’s not only about fun, but also about your health.
A credo for all types of arrows is the following: Check your arrow before each shot! Bend it very carefully to hear if it crunches. If this is the case, don’t use it anymore, otherwise you could get hurt.
Arm guard for archery
There are certainly people who claim that an arm guard is not useful in archery. But probably these people have never seen an injury caused by a rebounding bowstring.
An arm protection is always useful, no matter whether you are a beginner or advanced. For beginners the arm protection should be longer and reach over the elbow, advanced archers may use a shorter arm protection when archery.
A quiver is also useful. Of course you can also put your arrows on a table next to you if you want to do shooting practice. However, this can be quite annoying over time and the arrows are also less easy to carry.
There are different types of quivers, for example side quivers or back quivers. The quiver should be compatible with your bow so that it does not hinder you.
Finger protection (Tab)
A finger tab or even a shooting glove should be part of the basic equipment for archery. Such a utensil protects your fingers from numbness while shooting. It also prevents your fingers from getting sore.
Finger tabs and shooting gloves are available in different materials.
In theory, you don’t really need a target right away. For a beginner it might be enough to shoot at a bale of hay or to build a target yourself with DIY store materials.
The practice looks different: If you don’t use a target that fits your arrows, the arrows will be damaged and may even break. So it is better to invest some money and buy a target right at the beginning.
Archery terms explained
If you want to learn archery, you will not be able to avoid learning some technical terms. But with our archery guide we will be happy to help you and explain essential archery terms.
The extension length, expressed in simple words, indicates how much you can stretch the string of your bow. This is of course the basis for the optimal size of your bow. So before you buy a bow, you should find out your extension length.
For this purpose, there are several websites that offer a calculator. In this way you can also determine the appropriate arrow length, because this also depends on your extension length.
First, determine your wingspan by extending your arms to the side. Do not overstretch your arms, but let them relatively loose. A second person can now measure the distance between your two middle fingers, from fingertip to fingertip. Enter the value determined in this way into the pull-out calculator.
As an alternative there is the following formula:
(span in cm)/2.5 = (extension length in cm)/2.5 = (extension length in inches)
The value thus obtained is rounded up or down.
The stand height in archery indicates the distance between the taut string and the bow piece that is furthest away from it; usually this is the lowest point of the grip. It is therefore the distance between the string and the bow, which guarantees the best arrow flight.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when tensioning the bow, because if you overstretch the bow, in the worst case there is a risk of damage to the material. Before buying a bow, always ask the manufacturer for the correct height, so that you really enjoy archery and do not have to look for the cause of badly flying arrows, even if you do not do anything wrong when shooting.
When asking for the right height of the stand, you should keep traditional bows in mind. Compound bows are not affected by this question.
By the way, the stand height can be changed by adjusting the string differently. But you should only do this yourself if you really know your way around.
Basically, the spin value indicates how elastic an arrow is. At the moment of firing, the arrow vibrates and thus takes away some of the energy of the string. This makes its flight more stable.
If an arrow has a high spin value, it is considered soft; if the spin value is low, the arrow is hard. The stronger the bow, the lower the spin value should be. However, this value also depends on the material of the arrow, since wood naturally has completely different properties than carbon.
Calculate your optimal spin value with our spin value calculator.
Archery FAQ – Frequently asked questions
What different types of bows are there?
Recurve bow, either Olympic Recurve or traditional blank sheet
How much does a good bow cost me?
How much you have to spend for a good bow varies and depends on several factors, for example the intended use, the sportive ambitions, the processed material and of course the bow class
There are archery sets available that include everything an archery beginner must have; these can already be purchased at a price of about 100 euros. Of course, no miracle is to be expected in terms of quality, but for the first shots these sets are already suitable.
Which arrows do I need for my bow?
The arrows used depend on the bow and the intended use
With the longbow traditionally wooden arrows are shot
With the other types of bows mostly aluminium, carbon or aluminium-carbon arrows are shot
An archery set for beginners usually contains the right arrows
What are the dangers of archery?
A bow is not considered a weapon by law, but can definitely be used as such
Therefore, safety measures should always be followed, because of course you can injure yourself by archery
Apart from the risk of being hit by an arrow if you stand in the way, there are other, more frequent injury possibilities, such as the tendon rebounding against the shooter’s unprotected arm or injury from a splintering arrow
In general, however, you can protect yourself well from injuries and enjoy the sport of shooting – besides, every sport carries a certain risk