Stance - Foundation of the Shot
Often i'm asked about form and what separates a "decent" shot from a "great" shot. To be honest, it all starts with good form. But, we need to build that form from a solid base.
Your stance is the base from which your "form tree" grows. I describe it as a tree because it really has a lot in common with a tree when you think about it.
If you look at a sapling tree, its not really strong, has a thin base and, because of that, is easily twisted and leaned from one side to the other by just a strong wind. Now, as that tree grows, its base gets wider, stronger, and soon enough, it won't move as much. Archery form needs a strong base, or the rest will move just as much as that young sapling does. So if we build a good stance, we have somewhere to start from. And believe it or not, once you establish a strong base your form will get much better and your overall performance will improve.
So lets begin with the basic stance. In order to form a solid base, you need to place your feet shoulder width apart. So ideally you hips should line up under your shoulders, and your feet under your hips. When standing in this position, you have a strong set position from which to work. If you were to stand with your feet too close together, you would find that you could easily waver from front to rear, or from side to side. Most of the time it would happen without you even realizing it. A good test would be to have someone stand in front of you, or to the rear of you. Assume your stance and have them lightly push on your front shoulder or your rear shoulder if they are to the rear of you. If your stance is too narrow, you will find that you will be pushed out of line or lean over or back, with very little effort on their part. Once you increase the distance between your feet to shoulder width, it will be much harder for them to push you one in direction or the other. Conversely, though, if your feet are too far apart and not lined up with your hips, you will be back to square one, and easily fall off balance when a very low amount of pressure is applied to either your front or rear shoulder. So for step one, we just make sure our feet are shoulder width apart.
So thus far we have established stability from your front shoulder to rear shoulder. You're standing upright and have solid base to start from. Now remember the tree and the wind? Well if the wind blows in one direction or the other, the tree will move. Even with a good front to rear stance, you now have to concern your self with staying upright and making your base stable a full 360° around. As a test have someone stand facing you, chest to chest. You will find that if they apply a light pressure to the front of your chest, you will be knocked off balance. Same principal applies if they push from behind you against your back. So how do we fix this? Well the fix is simpler that you might think. Position your front foot so that the tip of your toes line up with where your base of your toes on the opposite foot as they appear in the illustration. Suddenly you now have stability all the way around. When pressure is applied to your chest or your back, you will find that you remain completely stable. Placing your feet in this position allows you to maintain a more stable center of gravity and thus forms a completely stable stance.
In a future article we'll discuss advanced techniques to make that stance even more effective with regards to your shooting. Small tweaks can add up to big results. But remember, you have to learn to walk before you can fly. For now, just concentrate on developing that stable stance and you will be well on your way to becoming a better archer.