We've talked about this idea, that the execution phase of an archery shot is an automatic, low cognition closed skill, and that's all well and good, but how do you train for that. How does one learn to switch off and trust.
Well, we will look to start with to other well-learnt automatic skills. Lets look at playing a musical instrument. The performer spends many many hours doing drill work, doing scales which are the drill work for musical playing, and then translates this into a performance during which they have no cognitive control.
They practice a piece until it becomes automatic, and as I say they practice through both block practice - the whole piece - and practicing small parts of it, which is drill work. They apply the skills that they have learnt and they see the actions as a whole - and that is the crucial part to automaticity. You must see the movement as a whole.
Of course, you will have drill-work that practices certain aspects of the shot. But, when it comes to performing the shot - when it comes to shooting, you must see the whole movement from start to finish as a single movement. No part of it has any greater emphasis than another. No part can be singled out and concentrated upon and then move on to the next part - it is a whole thing.
This is no different to a gymnast having to perform a complicated movement where it is perhaps a preposterous idea that they would stop half way through eg a tumble. They see the whole. At some point they have learnt the individual moves and they see how those moves are going to fit together, and the only way they can perform is by trusting the practice that they have done, the skill that they own and see the movement as a whole. Just like the pianist can not see a piece of music as an individual set of notes although at some point they have, when it comes to the performance, it is a seamless movement through the whole.
And so it is within archery - shot execution. One must see how the movements are going to fit together and then perform them as a seamless piece. It is almost as if within your head you have a start point - you have a finish point which may be the bow tapping you on the foot or the arrow hitting the target, and in between there is no conscious control.
Each part will lead to another part and you trust that that will happen. There can not be (there is no time for there to be) a 'I have done this, now I must do that'. This is where you see individuals struggling and losing tension when they are shooting a recurve, or punching when they shoot a compound.
So if you are going to see this movement as a seamless whole you must start to practice it as such. Yes there is drill-work and we will discuss drills and you will see some drills in the video work that we do. These drills will practice certain aspects of the shot but any shot that is taken on must be taken on as a whole.
I worked with a world-class triple jumper who explained that he never finished a jump in practice. This seemed very strange to us. All he ever did was drill work. He never jumped a full jump because in his particular sport he went 'I only have maybe 7 world-class jumps in a year, I'm not going to waste one of those on the practice field'. Now archery is the antithesis to that. Once you have become skilled - not elite, just skilled - your practice must involve an idea of acceptance and trust. Every practice session must reinforce the idea of the holistic nature of the shot - of how it fits together, all together. I start and then, rather like a waterfall it has to get to the end. I can't stop a piece of water half way down the waterfall and I cannot stop and pick out a particular part of the shot.
This is the vital difference between the novice, the intermediate and the skilled performer within this closed skill. If you do not see and understand that the whole must happen with no control during execution then without that you will be unable to consistently perform at all.
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