Category Archives: Arms

Early Observations on the Practice of Archery

At its core, there are two main practices that inform the path of a martial artist. One is the external way (combat/fight focused) and the other is the inner way (development-focused). Both of these intersect, overlap, and weave through each other. The biggest challenges, like recognizing personal ticks, breaking bad habits, and breaking bad habits, absolutely rely on inner work.

My brother-in-law has been shooting for a few years now, and uses it both as a way to decompress (through focus) and a way to exercise (draw-and-hold). My ex had uncovered all my equipment and wanted to shoot, so I found a few ranges and bought more arrows. When we split, I remembered the reason I had bought them in the first place: I wanted to learn mounted archery.

Shooting for three hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays helps. It gets me out of the house, and it helped make the hobby mine again; rather than another remnant of the life we shared. I can’t think of a more soothing environment than a range nestled in a quiet grove, fresh with morning mist.


What a mess.

As you can see, I need some help. This is what it looks like when your inner chaos affects your technique. Practice pays off to an extent — all the arrows were on the paper — but there was little accuracy and less consistency. Hurt, nerves, fear, frustration, all these things eclipsed my awareness.

It was the same at Worldcon. I played push-hands with Nick Mamatas and Arthur Chu during morning tai chi. The second I lost focus or became agitated that I wasn’t winning, I lost. Arthur is legendary for being immovable, though. One story describes a time he was gazing out at the ocean and a friend jumped him as a joke. The friend literally bounced off and fell on the sand. Some people are naturally grounded. The rest of us have to work at it.

On the advice of Mike Loades, I sought out Justin Ma to learn the thumb ring technique (used in China, Mongolia, etc.), which would help me shoot from horseback. This method involves hooking the string around your thumb, as opposed to Mediterranean draw which is the three-finger technique you’ll sometimes see in movies. In addition to this particular technique, Justin gave instruction on body position, how different muscle groups work together, and even such small details as where your draw hand goes after the release. It turns out that the hand continues to move backward in a kind of graceful flow. I’m guessing that this motion helps keep your bow arm and shoulder in a more consistent position, so you’re not pushing the arrow to the left or right at the last second.

Justin also had a wealth of equipment knowledge, and told me that my arrows weren’t sticking properly because they’re too light weight — it had nothing to do with my bow or draw length. That made me feel better. Knowing that some of the factors working against me weren’t my fault took the pressure of perfection away. I settled into breath, body position, and observation with the goal of being consistent and present; not perfect. Perfection is tomorrow’s concern.


All those small details come together to produce a shot. Technique goes from your heels to your lats to your arms to your breath — that’s lot of muscle memory to attain. That’s all inner work. To achieve body awareness I had to let go of two things: my negative emotions, and the bullseye. I focused on position, and breathing. I relaxed. I paid attention to what I was doing, rather than what I should be doing (hitting the center, or “healing faster” from my breakup).

It seemed to help. This was one of my last shots from the same day.


Chronological history of female warriors, military commanders, and duelists

I came across this resource recently that names and dates women warriors across the globe. My initial post on this subject mentioned one woman every century or so, with some details as to why she was famous.

There are a lot more names on this list, but not terribly much information. It seems like a good starting point for further research if you’d like to zero in on a particular region or era. For more on the Female Single Combat Club (FSCC), visit their about page for information in English and Russian.

As a side note, they also published topical poetry and fiction.

List of Women Warriors, compiled by the FSCC

First Two Women Pass Ranger School – US Army History!

Each branch of the Armed Forces has been asked to integrate women into all positions—or provide proof that they cannot do so—by 2016.

Congratulations, lieutenants.

For the first time, women will graduate from the U.S. Army’s prestigious Ranger School, officials announced on Monday.

Two female officers have completed training in what is considered one of the most difficult military programs, and will graduate on Friday, alongside their male classmates, the Army said. Their names weren’t released. According to NPR, both are lieutenants who attended West Point.

The two-month Army Ranger School program, founded in 1950, is a physically intensive training that aims to mold participants into elite military fighters. It takes place in the hills of Fort Benning, Georgia, and in the swamps of Florida, where trainees hone combat and leadership skills while learning how to survive with little sleep and food.

Both women, officers and graduates of West Point, will speak on Thursday. Their names have not yet been released.

“Whether I agree or disagree with it, they have changed my mind,” says Sgt. Major Colin Boley, the operations sergeant major for the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade. Boley, a recipient of the Silver Star who served in the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, completed more than a dozen Ranger deployments and won the Best Ranger competition a decade ago. “I didn’t think that they would physically be able to bear the weight and I thought they would quit or get hurt, and they have proved me wrong,” he says.