Love in the curve of a bow

The Archery Club takes on first-timers and experienced archers alike

Archers, like Chris Ormrod, ArtSci ‘14, gather three times a week to shoot arrows in the Duncan McArthur Hall gymnasium on West Campus.
Archers, like Chris Ormrod, ArtSci ‘14, gather three times a week to shoot arrows in the Duncan McArthur Hall gymnasium on West Campus.

Three evenings a week, students make arrows fly across the Duncan McArthur Hall gym on West Campus, practising a skill that’s been around since the Stone Age.

This Sunday evening, 22 students gathered to practice the sport. With five targets set out in front of them, the students — all from different experience levels — pick up arrow after arrow to attempt that well-placed shot.

There’s been evidence of archery’s invention in the Paleolithic Era, a time when stone tools were first used by humans.

It’s since been used as a tool for hunting and combat, with the Mongolians creating their empire with arrows on horseback. Nowadays, it’s a recreational and competitive sport, with a place in the summer Olympics.

One of the students tonight, Chris Ormrod, has been shooting arrows since he was young, a love affair that began when his uncle would let him practice with a bow and arrow at the family cottage.

“Let’s be honest,” Ormrod, ArtSci ’14, said, “it’s not hard to be entranced by the weapon of Robin Hood.”

But it’s not so easy to master the sport.

“That’s the lore of it, actually,” he said. “Basic archery is very easy to get the hang of but it’s the fine points in getting yourself really well-trained.

“That’s what takes all the time. That’s what all archers strive to do.”

According to Raymond Lee, president of the archery club, there’s a common misconception that archery is as easy as movie characters make it seem.

“[People think] it’s like The Hunger Games,” Lee, Kin ’13, said. “Seriously. People have the expectation that they can come in and be an expert archer but it’s not true.”

For Lee, who began practicing archery over seven years ago, it was the difficulty of the sport, classified as a recreational club under Queen’s Athletics, that drew him in.

“Archery’s a different kind of sport that’s not fueled by a lot of energy,” he said. “It’s mostly focused on concentration and very minute differences in accuracy, so that’s kind of the challenge.”

It’s a sport where a heartbeat can make a difference. It all comes down to muscle control, apparently.

Lee tells me of how, in Olympic archery where the target is 90 metres away, athletes must make sure they don’t shoot during a heartbeat. A pulse can shift the bow enough to miss the target.

“You do not have a huge range of discrepancy,” he said.

While the people in the room may not be Olympic athletes, the club, which is competing in a Toronto tournament in the coming months, still enjoys steady participation from the student body.

There’s an array of 75 to 100 people regularly attending one of the three weekly practices.

Still, Lee said, it’s not as much as it could be if the club were still on main campus.

“It’s a lot more accessible,” he said. “When we were back at the PEC we had better range … we had a lot more room.”

Archers outside reality

A common medieval sport, archery has been around for centuries. Lately, though, a bow and arrow have been in the hands of several figures in pop culture. It’s impossible to beat any of them in a tournament, but that won’t stop us from paying attention.

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)

She’s the outspoken, fiery protagonist in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling book and the 2011 movie, known for being quick to shoot with deadly accuracy.

Robin Hood (Robin Hood)

This age-old hero originates from English folklore. His trade? He steals from the rich and gives to the needy, using archery skills to beat the bad guys.

Hawkeye (Marvel Comics)

After The Avengers, people couldn’t help but mention Jeremy Renner’s incarnation of the comic book character. He was first introduced in 2011’s Thor, one of the films that led to The Avengers, as a talented archer whose best aim is to kill.

Legolas (Lord of the Rings)

This elven prince was in J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous novels before we first saw him in 2001’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. We saw him slay oliphaunts and orcs with that otherworldly talent in two more films before his return in 2012’s The Hobbit.

Janina Enrile

Shooting straight with the archery club

The pain was unexpected but worth it, especially after my first and only bullseye.
After about an hour of shooting arrows with the Queen’s Archery Club, I managed to focus my mind and body enough to land on
the most-coveted spot on
the target.
Despite all of that, my hands were still raw from holding the equipment. How do people think this can be so simple?
On a drizzly Sunday evening, two of the club’s exec
members — Wilkie Choi and Raymond Lee — instructed a group of five beginners on the
basics of archery. There were
17 other students confidently shooting in the room, but we held the
bows, unsure of how to even position ourselves.
“Hold it as if you are choking it,” Choi, Sci ’13, said.
Straddling the safety line, we took turns shooting at a target 18 feet away. It’s a much smaller distance than the standards enforced in archery competitions, but I still felt the strain.
Taking the bow in my left hand, I strung the arrow, waiting for the little click that meant it was in place on the string.
Down the row to my left were a series of archers who had been practicing for several months. They made it look effortless.
It was enough to make
anyone nervous.
I placed the arrow, ready to take aim. Little did I know about the high tension of the
bow’s string.
“Farther,” Lee, Kin ’13, said as he stood next to me.
I couldn’t keep pulling. The string, tightened to presumably help launch the shot, was proving tough for my too-weak arms.
It turns out that working out your arms in front of the bedroom mirror does very little. The first time with a bow and arrow has
the tendency to show you how your fears of being weak have come true.
“Farther,” Lee repeated.
I forced my muscles further, drawing my right arm back. I could feel my upper body shaking under the struggle.
“Release,” Lee said, finally.
I once read somewhere that shooting an arrow was best with an exhale, that you had to silence your mind before letting go.
And that’s exactly what it’s like. When you’re holding that bow, you have to focus enough to somehow ignore the people next to you and the fact that you’re now in possession of a weapon, despite its blunt end.
After multiple practice shots, I could feel my back muscles growing weary. I was beginning to hunch over.
I had to keep going, though. I had to get that bullseye.
I aimed the arrow slightly lower than the target. Too high, and it would fly over to the back wall. Too low, and it would just pathetically hit the ground.
I focused my eyes on the bullseye target. I could see my left arm beginning to tremble. I had to take the shot now.
With a soft exhale, I let the arrow go. It always hits the target faster than you think it will. You will always surprise yourself
this way.
And, just like that, the arrow landed on the centre of the bullseye. I put the bow down.
Was this just luck? I didn’t want to find out. I just wanted
to see if I could do it again.

Janina Enrile

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