The Myth of the Linear Draw (But, Wait, There’s More!)

The Myth of the Linear Draw (But, Wait, There’s More!)

When Kisik Lee came on board as National Coach for USA Archery, a discussion began on the merits of “linear” versus “angular” draws. I think the whole idea of a “linear draw” is based upon a mistaken interpretation. The linear draw is characterized as a draw in which the arrow slides straight back from its brace position (at address) to its full draw position. This behavior seems to me to follow from the usual development of young recurve archers.

When youths are taught to shoot, they tend to shoot with fairly good form and execution. (I separate form, which are our body positions, from execution which is how we get from one position to the next; some others do not, lumping it all into “form.”) And shortly into their first session they ask “How do I aim?” We tell them to just concentrate their attention on the spot they want to hit and their brain will figure it out (subconscious aiming). But more than a few students think there is a mechanism, an aiming mechanism, that if they can just figure it out will have them burying their arrows in target center like an Olympian, so they start experimenting.

The first thing they try is looking down the arrow shaft (also called “shotgunning”). This actually works at very short distances, but their technique is so poor (often tilting their heads way over to be able to “see”) that it usually does not. During this experimentation phase these experimental archers get another idea. If they set their bow into the correct position, the arrows fly into the middle of the target, so they estimate what that correct position is and then, so they don’t move away from that correct position, they monitor their arrow as they draw, making sure it doesn’t waver from where it was pointed at first. To do this the newbie archers kink their draw wrist severely so that the arrow slides straight back into what they think is the correct position. Thus, the linear draw is born . . . over and over and over, reinvented by myriad young archers.

Even though this is a real “stick bow” you can see the kinked draw wrist and the tilted head for “aiming,” exacerbated by using the dominant off eye to aim with).

Remember that these newbies have an instructor nearby, but not a coach per se. Archers who receive coaching are soon disabused of this practice by the mere expedient that they are taught to draw with a relaxed wrist. It is basically impossible to effect a “linear draw” using a relaxed draw wrist.

I tend to think of the linear draw as a straw man. It doesn’t really exist, except in rank beginners, but it is something to argue against. Even compound archers do not have linear draws. The reasons are simple. The draw arm hinges at the elbow. From the beginning of the draw, the elbow is out a bit from the central plane of the archer’s body. The force on the bowstring aligns with the elbow and when the elbow moves back, it does so in an arc. This pulls the nock of the arrow slightly out of line (away from the archer’s body) and then when the elbow completes its bend, it pulls the nock back into line.

The Equally Bogus “Aiming Too Soon” Concept

When I first encountered their writings, Recurve archery coaches were united in but one aspect. They all strongly advised against aiming too soon, or spending too much time aiming. Again, our beginners contributed to this somewhat. They aimed from the get-go, and then tried to draw sliding the arrow straight back (in a linear draw) so as to not spoil their aim. Some coaches taught vigorously against this “too early” aiming and it became dogma.

The mistake here is believing that aiming is a singular event, which happens just before a shot is loosed. I argue that aiming is a complex process, consisting of many parts. It begins when an archer takes their stance. If you don’t agree with this, try putting your bow side foot behind the shooting line and your string side foot ahead of the shooting line. Now take a shot. (Please do not hurt yourself or anyone else trying this.)

I tend to recommend what is called a “natural stance” to beginners. You find it by addressing a target (aperture/arrow point centered on the face), closing your eyes, drawing to anchor and then opening your eyes. If your aperture or arrow point is off line (left-right only), move your feet (both of them) until it is on line and repeat the process. Your natural stance is where you put your feet and your arrow ends up pointed in the right direction (left-right) because of how your body draws and anchors.

Not only does aiming begin at taking a stance, I generally stretch out the “final aim” from raising the bow (addressing the target) onward. What we don’t want to happen is to have to move our bows a great deal at full draw. We want to minimize the energy expended at full draw, and so we minimize the time spent at full draw. In this way we conserve energy and our last shot has as much energy available as our first (consistency is the goal). So, I want my archers to have their aperture/arrow point very close to their point-of-aim (POA) when they have completed their draw and anchor steps. To make it so, I have my archers determine how much their aperture/arrow point moves during this process by having them put their aperture/arrow point on target center at target address, then close their eyes, draw, anchor and open their eyes. Their aperture/arrow point will have moved. I then ask them, where would you have to start to get the aperture/arrow point dead center on your POA after the draw and anchor? Most figure it out rapidly. (It is a spot equidistant from the POA as the aperture/arrow point ended up at, but on the other side of the POA. So, if you start aiming at the X-ring of a 10-ring face, and your aperture/arrow point ends up in the blue at 5 o’clock, you should start in the blue at 11 o’clock.) I then ask them to practice this a bit, emphasizing that it is not an exactly thing, that they can make adjustments, but the idea is to get “close” to the POA so minimal corrections are needed in aiming. Minimal corrections of the aim at full draw take minimal time. Once an archer gets comfortable with this process, it happens naturally with little effort or calculation, even when target sizes and distances change.

So, aiming begins with the stance. It begins in earnest at target address (some call this a pre-aim) and then continues with great attention through the release (holding line of sight as long as possible, which means head position is held as long as possible).

Originally from A Blog for Archery Coaches.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *