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A well-defined shot sequence increases the probability of a consistent outcome

This is an excerpt from Archery by USA Archery.

The Importance of a Shot Sequence

A well-defined shot sequence, consistently followed, increases the probability that you will have a more consistent outcome. As a beginner, just learning the basic step-by-step process of shooting the arrow can be complicated because the intricate details of each step of the shot process are still unfamiliar to you and your focus is on the many details of each step of the shot. You might have difficulty performing all steps correctly and consistently. Initially, the entire shot sequence might take 20 to 30 seconds. As you become more comfortable and coordinated, the shot sequence might decrease from 12 to 15 seconds because some of these details will have become automatic subconscious actions. However, you need to have a well-defined shot process with specific steps to excel to the next level. Each step has a specific goal, and you must continue to focus on these steps of the process, especially in competition.

In intense competitions, such as in national championships, world championships, and the Olympic Games, your level of awareness can be different from that during training. Oftentimes the pressure creates a drastic change in awareness. Some athletes report feeling mentally “numb” and that they can easily forget what they are supposed to do, whereas others say they are aware of everything and feel overwhelmed. Having a well-defined shot process helps you stay focused in pressure situations and gives you a set of instructions to follow, thus allowing you to be more consistent and oftentimes to perform better in competition than in training.

The Shot Cycle

Biomechanical strength plays a role in your success in high-pressure competitions. Ideally, athletes who are stronger biomechanically have an advantage in competition. A shot sequence derived from biomechanics gives you an advantage because it allows you to practice more. Proper biomechanics also decreases your probability of being injured because you are using the correct motions throughout the shot cycle.

The shot cycle provides the major steps of shooting correctly and is the foundation of the National Training System. The shot cycle is a series of actions within phases of the shooting process developed with the use of biomechanics by world-renowned archery coach KiSik Lee and first introduced to the world in the book Total Archery, by KiSik Lee and Robert de Bondt. KiSik Lee is one of the most successful coaches in the international archery community and has been coaching professionally for over thirty years. He has developed successful national programs in South Korea and Australia, and now in the United States. Coach Lee's athletes have won nine Olympic gold medals and numerous other Olympic, World Championship, and international medals since 1981.

The purpose of the shot cycle is to give you a set of steps to follow to create a consistent shot process and to allow your body to shoot the bow in the most biomechanically efficient manner. The shot sequence also creates a solid foundation for the mental routine you need to follow to stay focused in competition. The most important goal of the shot cycle is to allow you to shoot every shot with holding. Holding is the feeling of being completely braced in the bow and able to withstand its force.

Figure 3.1 shows a basic diagram depicting the shot cycle and outlining the thirteen basic steps of shooting. The diagram shows how the basic steps of the shot cycle come together to flow into one complete action. During the shot cycle, Newton's laws of motion play a part in describing the forces you encounter. For example, the force the bow applies on you, pulling you forward during the shot and after the release, can be described by Newton's third law of motion. The third law of motion states that every force has an equal and opposite force reacting to it. As you continue to draw the bow back, the bow continues to exert a force on you, pulling you forward. This force is also directly related to the shot process, from holding to follow-through. Holding allows you to resist that force through bone alignment, and the follow-through is a reaction of losing the force that the bow exerts on you while you increase the force applied to the bow.

The thirteen basic steps of shooting follow:

  1. Stance
  2. Nocking the arrow
  3. Hooking and gripping
  4. Set position and mindset
  5. Setup
  6. Drawing
  7. Loading
  8. Anchoring
  9. Transfer
  10. Holding
  11. Expansion and aiming
  12. Release and follow-through
  13. Feedback and evaluation

Defining the Concepts
Some key concepts need to be covered before the shot cycle steps are described in detail because many of these concepts are used in this chapter and in many of the remaining chapters. The principles should be the same for everyone, but some of the details will vary for each archer because of body type, size, and strength.
A difference exists between focusing on movement as opposed to focusing on muscle contraction. Commonly, in technique sports, people focus on tightening a specific set of muscles and thus create too much tension in one area, making the movement more difficult. An excellent example can be seen in the ways you can move your forearm to your upper arm. First, focus on contracting the biceps to bring your forearm up to your upper arm. Notice this action takes a great deal of effort, causing your forearm to move to your upper arm in a slow and possibly shaky manner. Now focus on moving your forearm to your upper arm without focusing on contracting the biceps. Your forearm moves naturally to your upper arm and with less tension of the biceps. This more natural movement happens because many small muscles in your arm simultaneously contract and relax to create it.
The best archers make shooting a bow seem effortless because they are focused on the movement, not on a specific muscle contraction. Describing movement is therefore the main focus in explaining the steps of the shot cycle. Although movement is the key focus, feeling tension in specific areas is necessary for you to confirm you are in the correct position, thus allowing you to become more consistent and to coach yourself through each shot.

Figure 3.2 shows the major muscles of the back, which play a major role in many of your movements and provide you with the strength necessary to properly execute the shot. The middle and lower trapezius, the triceps, and the deltoids are the larger, stronger muscles of the back, shoulder, and arm. These muscles used in combination with the correct bone alignment give you the strength to shoot comfortably and consistently.
An important term in learning the correct shot cycle is LAN 2, a half dollar-sized area on the outside of the upper arm, halfway between the shoulder and elbow which you can see in figure 3.2. It is the back of the triceps, located about where the sleeve of a short sleeve shirt ends. Focusing on moving the LAN 2 area during the shot cycle allows you to use the stronger muscles of your body and facilitates the body's smooth movement.

More Excerpts From Archery