The sight of an archer pulling back a bow looks so effortless when seen in Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings or The Hunger Games. Yet it is a skill that takes a lot of learning, and requires considerable physical stamina. Angela Youngman takes a look at archery on screen and off…

On Screen

When you see actors like Russell Crowe and Sylvester Stallone pulling back a bow and letting an arrow fly, it is not stuntmen doing the work. The actors spend hours learning and training for their roles. For this, film companies call upon skilled archers to teach their stars. One of the most well known is Stephen Ralph, who has worked on blockbusters such as Braveheart, Troy, The Mummy and Robin Hood.

Russell Crowe was determined that his role as Robin Hood would be as authentic as possible. Crowe loved it, telling Empire magazine: “It’s great. I’m in love with the flight. I just love it when the arrow is released from the bow. You can only do that sort of stuff if you really take the time to learn the sport. It’s cool man, very cool.”

And as his mentor, Stephen Ralph pointed out: “I discovered Crowe had done a tremendous amount of research and he wanted to get someone who knew as much about the men and the weapons and the way it was built, as much as how to shoot it. He had a grounding when I got there, but we had to start again. He was learning archery, but not medieval archery.”

As Crowe and countless other actors have discovered, archery is very physical, very hard work and needs a lot of practice. When preparing for The Hunger Games, Jennifer Lawrence (who plays Katniss Everdeen) trained with Olympic archer Khatuna Lorig. Lawrence had to learn to use a 10 kg (20lb) Olympic style wooden bow, and even sustained injuries, from smacks to the face with her bow to snapping strings to the arm.

Off Screen

Archery has a long history – it has been known since the Paleolithic period and has been developed steadily within every civilisation.

Nowadays, archery is mainly used as a competitive sport and for recreation. Target shooting at the butts is the most common form, in which accuracy is essential in order to gain points. Field archery (also known as cloutie) is gaining popularity within Europe and America. Cloutie shooting is very simple – you fire high and aim for length, targeting small flags in the grass.

There are many different types of bow that are used in archery, from the traditional long bows and crossbows, to the recurve and compound bows. The modern Olympic recurve bow looks quite high-tech but in reality it is actually based on a bow style that originated over 3500 years ago. Most archery schools will provide the basic equipment – a bow, and a bracer (or arm guard) which protects the inside of the arm and prevents clothing from catching the bow string. Anyone who decides to become a serious archer tends to buy their own equipment.

No matter what type of bow you are using, the basic archery techniques to be learned are the same. Participants have to learn how to stand, place fingers and hand, how to draw a bow, anchor, hold and release an arrow. They also have to learn how to aim at a target, how to use sights and develop their technique. Simply putting an arrow into a bow and shooting is not enough. While anyone can learn to hit a target within a few hours, becoming a master archer takes years of training to reach a competitive level. Hours of practise are essential in order to reach a high standard.

So what type of physical skills does a successful archer require? You need to be physically fit and have good arm and hand muscles. Regular practise will have an impact on your level of physical and mental fitness. Archery is brilliant at developing hand/eye co-ordination, upper body muscles, balance, flexibility as well as mental fitness. The archer has to learn how to focus and concentrate, be patient while waiting for others to fire, and when firing arrows themselves. They also have to learn to obey orders – after firing arrows, everyone has to wait until the last person has shot before the command is given to collect arrows. This is purely for safety reasons – archery can be lethal. It is a dangerous sport and it is important that participants learn to be responsible for each other and for the equipment they are using.

In Kuwait

Within Kuwait there are many archery workshops and classes, and Kuwati archers are making a name for themselves on the international stage. In February 2014, a world Archery International Judge from Egypt, Dr Ahmed Koura, held the first archery judge seminar in Kuwait. Following the session ten participants became Kuwait’s first group of archery judges. The standards were very high as it was essential to obtain a grade of at least 75% in order to pass the final examination. At the Liberation Olympic Archery Tournament held soon afterwards, Khalaf Al-Otaibi, president of the Kuwait and Arab Shooting Federation commented that “we now have referees in archery who can run local and international events that we hope to organise in the future.” Winners in the Liberation Olympic Archery Tournament included Ahmad-Shatti, Abdallah Al-Ajmi, Salem Al-Saeed, Ali Al-Mutairi, Zaid Al-Saaed and Mohammad Al-Mutairi. Kuwaiti archers such as Ahmad Shatti also took part in the 2014 Asian Games held at Incheon.

One of the most recent developments has been the arrival of Archery Tag, which combines the fun of dodgeball with archery. Players use bows and special foam-tipped arrows to try to knock out the opposing team, while trying to avoid being tagged themselves.



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