“Some people are under the impression that archery is easy, but it’s not”

By Ea Francisco

Everybody’s probably been exposed to archery in one way or another. For Luz Paula Abastillas, it was just something she saw in The Lord in the Rings. For Myles Cheang, it was something to try out in the local commercial ranges. What they’ve come to realize, though, is that it entails a lot more than they thought. Three years later, they’re president and captain of De La Salle’s Archery Club.

What makes archery distinct from other sports?

Myles Cheang (MC): What makes archery distinct is that you really learn about yourself. You know your limitations and how far you can push yourself until you break. Also, archery is in essence an individual sport. When you mess up or score low, you can’t really blame anyone but yourself. Whereas in other sports there’s always weight carried by other teammates or even the opposing team.

How is archery actually different from what people think?

Luz Paula Abastillas (LPA): It’s different that it requires absolute mental and physical discipline. There’s a limited number of shots in a competition and a maximum score, so every arrow must be perfect, or at least, decent. Every shot in a competition is make or break. Some people are under the impression that archery is easy, but it’s not. When you aim, you need to remain conscious of your form. I believe that archery is unique in that it is more mentally taxing than any other physical sport.

MC: It really irks me (and most archers) when people trivialize the sport by referencing the sudden uprise of archery in the media, what with Hunger Games, Arrow, The Avengers, and Game of Thrones, but I actually take this as an opportunity to prove them otherwise, inviting my classmates to the range to try out archery.

archery myles cheang

What difficulties did you face as you were learning archery? How did you overcome them?

MC: I was, and still am, at a wall in terms of improvement. I can’t seem to bring my scores higher than it has been for more than a year now. I’m at a point where I have to really work on my physical strength if I want to get better. I’ve recently bought new gear, which makes the arrow fly faster and arc less, but I need more energy to pull even harder than before.

LPA: One of the difficulties I encountered had to do with my focus. Early on, I developed what archers call target panic, the early release of a shot when you haven’t properly aimed yet. There’s no one cause or solution to it. Others get through it through constant discipline and force of will. I got past it when I started using a clicker. Another problem is my posture. It was difficult for me to change my posture to one that strengthens my form. It’s difficult to be conscious of other things when you’re struggling to aim as well as pull your bow.

What is training like for archery? Where do you practice shooting? Where else do you practice outside your university?

MC: As we always say, archery isn’t just a physical sport, but also a mental one. We have our basic workouts such as push-ups and bow training, like any other sport has. Also, we compete among ourselves as friends. While this seems like simple play, it actually factors in the pressure of competition.

LPA: We like to vary our training. Sometimes we do cardio to regulate breathing as it helps fortify the form, since there’s a lot of stress on the upper body. More often than not, we train with our bows. More emphasis is put on training upper back muscles, basically the scapula. We also regularly train our arms and legs for strength and stamina to avoid shaking limbs.

archery luz paula abastillas

Where do you practice shooting?

LPA: We usually shoot indoors in our range in Enrique Razon Sports Complex. Our shooting distance goes up to 18 meters, which is the standard for indoor competitions. Some of our members usually attend Benel Archery’s Monthly Funshoot in Mandaluyong. For outdoor training in the weekends, we usually drive up to F.R. Sevilla Archery Range in Novaliches. We also shoot in Manila Polo Club during and the week before their competitions.

What are the physical and non-physical benefits that you got from archery? How has it helped you in your daily life?

MC: I’ve mentioned it to many of my peers, that archery is a rather zen experience, When you get into the zone, shoot well consistently, it’s one of the best feelings ever, knowing that you can achieve that level. Archery is also a decent outlet for stress release. If you want to shoot well, you’re forced to zone out everything that’s on your mind, leaving only yourself, your bow, and your target.

LPA: Practicing archery has helped my mental focus and physical discipline. Any deviation from your usual form affects how your arrows fly and where they land, especially when shooting at long distances. Each archer’s form is unique, and they must always maintain it, unless they’re consciously improving it. Therefore, an archer must always be aware of their body’s posture and their arm and back muscles, so they know if what they’re doing is consistent. A lapse in focus can ruin your perfect shot.