I would like to field a few thoughts I have on archery and slingshot shooting. Please comment, and add your experiences and ideas regarding these
engaging methods of propelling projectiles at targets.
A few years ago I started shooting a longbow in the form of traditional archery. Anybody who has never shot a bow, especially a long bow, should give
it a try if you get a chance, it's a very enjoyable activity. There were two main reasons that drew me to traditional archery: I was reading a lot of
early Japanese literature relating to Zen and it's influence on Japanese martial arts, that, and my desire to master a weapon capable of taking game
for survival purposes. What is 'traditional' archery? Well, as I take it, you shoot 'instinctively' and do not aim or use aiming devices on your bow,
and of course you use a bow that is not a modern compound bow, but if anybody can elaborate further please do. To explain further, the Japanese art of
archery is called Kyudo, it is very ritualized and one enters a meditative state when shooting, hence the Zen connection.
Instinctive shooting is where you focus on the target only, you do not consciously aim. It is debated as to whether there is such a thing as true
instinctive shooting, as you are aware of your bow or slingshot in your peripheral vision and your brain makes calculations accordingly. However when
you sight or aim you are simply lining things up, so to speak, and making judgments on range, but you are utilizing a different part of your brain
when you shoot instinctively, similar to when throwing a ball.
About a year ago I rediscovered slingshots. Again I wanted primarily to master hunting with slingshots as a means of survival. As much as I have come
to love archery, it is a rather impractical means of hunting where I live as there is no big game. Also slingshots are more versatile, the ammo is
cheaper than arrows, I make my own lead shot with molds, or you can just pick up stones off the ground. Slingshots are small enough to fit in your
pocket, light and easy to maintain. You do surrender range with a slingshot though, but you can make them very powerful depending on what
configuration of bands or tubes you use and how you set your slingshot up. And it is great fun!
I find the two activities very similar, with regards to instinctive and aiming. Many expert slingshooters aim, and many shoot whilst focusing solely
on the target just as with archery. Both activities reflect each other, and as a practitioner of the two is see many similarities.
Where does Zen come into this? When shooting instinctively you must empty your mind and focus your thought on the target (this is my take on it
anyways, and my resulting accuracy testifies to this), any distractions will cause your shot to be off the mark. If I have something on my mind,
something bothering me, it will affect my accuracy. And conversely if I relax and just shoot with no thought I'm rarely off my mark. Of course, it
takes time and repetition to train your brain to make the calculations and compute the trajectories, and as anyone knows clearing and emptying your
mind of thought is no easy thing to do, thus the connection to meditation. As with archery proper attention must be paid to form when shooting a
slingshot. You must replicate your draw length, anchor point and release consistently with every shot, this leaves you brain with nothing to worry
about except hitting the target.
In Zen there is the concept of 'beginners mind' and is depicted as the drawing of a circle. If you begin to draw a circle you start with a point, this
is when you are an absolute novice, you pick up a bow or slingshot and have a go, more often that not you may hit your target, this is often called
'beginners luck'. As you draw more of the circle, this is when you are learning the basic technique of shooting, as you draw yet more of the circle,
this is when you are learning the more technical aspects of form and technique, and this is the most difficult part, eventually as you complete the
circle you have mastered the form and technique, it has become second nature, you have reached the starting of the circle again and attained
'beginners mind', you no longer have to think about anything you just shoot, and hit your target every time, this is a blissful state! (this can be
applied to almost any 'in the moment' activity, from playing jazz to a round of golf).
Thanks for reading.
Edit: I would like to stress that I have not hunted with either a bow or a slingshot. I would do so only in a situation where my survival depended on
it. That is not that I look negatively on hunting, so long as it is not for sport.
edit on 30-8-2012 by seabhac-rua because: (no reason given)
I enjoyed your post. My grandfather taught me the art of making my own sling-shots or catapults as we call them here in the UK (Scotland). I have been
hunting rabbit for close on 40 years, all for the pot. My own experience states that I am an instinctive shooter, always more accurate when hunting as
opposed to target shooting.
My style up till I was about 20 years old was good, based on an imaginary sight mark between the prongs of the "cat", but I found by shooting that I
was releasing on instinct when on a moving rabbit and didnt have time to line up and my hit percentage rose quite dramatically. Im in my 50s nowadays
but still use the cat 3 or 4 times a week for target practice and im now totally instinctive. I agree the mind or even middle eye takes over when you
have shot as long as I have. This can be evidenced by a decrease in accuracy if there is something on your mind, a problem or worry.
I have a friend that I shoot with that firmly believes that shooting or doing anything over a long period of time creates such a strong muscle memory
that it becomes second nature, your whole body, be it arms, legs, balance and brain are in harmony.. There is something to that theory as when I
change from left to right arm pulling its as if Im picking up a cat for the first time all those years ago....
Thanks for your insight. I can imagine you are an excellent shot.
For me I'm still at the middle to latter stages of completing my 'circle' of learning, and I'm really still trying to create the muscle memory you
speak of, through repetition. Hopefully after few more years of shooting I will attain a good level of accuracy.
But yeah, relaxing and leaving the everyday stuff behind you when you enter the 'dojo', as in my back garden, this is what I enjoy the most about
There is a great forum online for slingers, here's the link if you are interested: Slingshot forum
Ive shot both bands and tubes, tubes more so today. I feel some exponents of the catapult spend too much time looking to make the perfect cat instead
of trying to grow the perfect harmony with the V, the pouch, the tubes and your own body.
Regarding style, its always been adaptable and in the field I shoot both V up and side V. I dont have any reason as to why one shot style differs from
the other....both feel equally as comfortable. If doing some Target practice shooting on 6" disks I shoot both styles up to a range of 20 meters,
but prefer V up on anything longer....
My priority is always to get the head shot on a rabbit or to be quick enough to use a head plumb within 3 seconds of injury to finish the rabbit off.
Nowadays thankfully, my son comes with me in the field, not to shoot but to get to a stunned, out cold rabbit quicker to finish it off faster than my
old legs would carry me.
I was going to mention the sling bow,but you beat me to it.
They are easy to rig up,and are fun and accurate with a bit of practice.
I love the wildernessoutfitters channel on youtube,lots of old school skills and knowledge.
I get what you're saying about the Zen aspect of it, aiming-wise. With guns it's called point-shooting, though I don't practice it.
Give me a roll of pennies or nickels, and it's pure Zen aiming though, and with a snap of the fingers I can consistently hit and dent soda cans
across the room. The focus is entirely on the target and it's all about muscle memory and practice.
Once hit a guy in his motel room on the second floor (standing near the doorway), dead center of his chest with a nickel, hard enough that you could
see the circle and G. Washington's imprint on his skin, from the parking lot.
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