Clubbin’: Archery Edition

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Bwog’s resident Boy Archer Zach Kagan paid a visit to the Archery Club and learned a thing or two about shooting arrows.

Arms straight. Bow extended, resting under the chin. The string touches the nose. Muscles relax. Eyes on the target. And then: let go. The enthusiastic archers at Columbia’s Archery Club have a Zen-like philosophy when it comes to shooting. Every Monday and Wednesday from 7 until 9, Barnard’s gym is converted into a shooting range, and a diverse group of Columbians gather for target practice. They line up along the thick yellow stripe painted on the gym floor and take aim. Then a chorus of “thwacks” and the all clear is given. The archers collect their arrows embedded in targets on the other side of the gym and then line up to do it all over again.

Derek Davis is the head coach of the club, as well as the women’s varsity team. Columbia’s girl’s varsity archery team is easily the most successful athletic club at the university. Coach Davis has seen them through three gold medal championships. Last year the team placed second to their arch-(no pun intended) rival, Texas A&M by a single point. But when he isn’t training some of the world’s finest female archers, Coach Davis takes time to train anyone that might be interested at the archery club. But while Davis may be the voice of experience, his assistant coach Jonathan Huang , SEAS ’05, is more active with the club. Jon was enthralled as a child by Green Arrow comics and inspired later in life by philosophical archery books such as One Arrow, One Life. It wasn’t until two years ago that he picked up a bow and fell in love with shooting. Now it is an essential part of his life, and he is pretty damn good at it: somehow he makes hitting bull’s-eye from 60 feet away seem effortless.

Jon wants to educate people about archery and increase the number of schools supporting archery programs. At first I was skeptical. A bow is a weapon after all. Jon was quick to dissuade my fears: archery has the lowest number of injuries out of any other competitive sport; there hasn’t been a single injury at Columbia. He also addressed the idea that archery is a sedentary sport. While not a lot of movement is required to fire the bow, a lot of muscle control is required. So in order to be a good archer you have to be a fit archer. Jon hopes to join the Columbia Business School so he can continue to train the team and promote archery in education. However, in the short term his plan is to start a competitive men’s team at Columbia. With some of the finest coaches in America and a great pedigree, now is the perfect time to get involved with archery.

So say you want to start shooting arrows, what do you have to know? There are two main types of bows. Recurve bows bend backwards, allowing the bow itself to bend and then spring back to launch the arrow. Since you can pull the string back as far as you need, people of different heights and arm lengths can use the same recurve bow. Compound bows use pulleys to propel the arrow, and the bow is designed so it can only be pulled back a set distance, meaning it must be sized for your arm. Chances are that you’ll start shooting with a recurve bow. From there you can add a wide variety of attachments, from stabilizers to guided sights that look like they designed for M16s rather than bows. Archers tend to accumulate these attachments as they develop, and quickly the sleek bows start looking cluttered. Still, after pulling back the string and lining up a shot I couldn’t relax my muscles enough to get the target in the center of my bows magnifying sight. It isn’t as easy as it looks. But Jon told me that with practice anyone can get the hang of it. “If you join up now you’ll be on the ground floor of something great,” Jon told me, and with his dedication and a little hard work you may see yourself hitting bull’s-eyes like the best of them.

Images by Zack Kagan

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Great write up. Go Archery!!!

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