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The sport of archery has been around since the days of King Henry VII of England, and in the early twenty-first century it was enjoyed by millions of people all over the world, including more than 2.5 million Americans. The popularity of archery is due to its limitless capacity to be performed by people of both sexes, all ages, and differing physical conditions. Archery is adaptable to individual physical needs, because of flexibility in types of equipment used, distances shot, types of archery practiced, and the year-round nature of the sport. The action of deliberately, and with total control, aiming at and hitting an object gives the individual a sense of pride in accomplishment, and builds self-esteem and confidence.

Archery is individualistic by nature, as it requires the archer to draw the bow, physically hold back the weight, aim the arrow, and release with accuracy on a consistent basis. However, the sport does offer opportunity for social interaction with family and other enthusiasts. In contrast to the social opportunities offered by participating in archery, no partner or team is necessary, and the individual can practice and compete without contact with other people, if so desired.


Benefits associated with participation in archery are both physical and emotional. The physical requirement of drawing the bow and holding the anchor position helps to build strength and endurance in shoulder and upper back muscles, and requires the contraction of abdominal muscles, which is necessary for maintenance of erect posture. Additionally, shooting a bow on a regular basis helps to counteract the atypical muscular actions and fatigue caused by prolonged sitting. Emotionally, archery requires deep, quiet concentration, and in this state the individual is able to find release from the tensions and pressures caused by daily life. The sense of accomplishment in handling a bow and arrow competently is personally gratifying and requires control in disciplining the mind and body, and in this context allows the individual to truly experience themselves.


The use of archery as a military weapon and hunting tool declined with the development of gunpowder and firearms. By the nineteenth century, archery was a recreational activity participated in by the "leisure class." The first organized archery club in America was formed in Philadelphia in 1828. Its early members were interested more in exercise and social camaraderie than in promoting the sport. However, it wasn't until after the Civil War that there was a renewed interest in archery in the United States. After the war, former Confederate soldiers were prohibited from using firearms, and two brothers, Will and Maurice Thompson, lived, for the most part, on game they killed with the bow and arrow. In 1878, a collection of articles written by the brothers was published. Although most of the articles concerned hunting with the bow, the last was on target archery, which led to the first period of archery as a popular sport in the United States. By 1879, the interest generated by the book led to the founding of the National Archery Association.

This popularity was short lived, and by 1883 archery began to decline. Reasons for this loss in popularity include the cost of equipment and the difficulty of its importation, along with the emergence of alternatives such as lawn tennis, baseball, football, and golf. A reemergence of interest in archery occurred in 1904 at the St. Louis World's Fair, which included in the athletic program the Third Olympic Games. Archery was then included in the 1908 and 1920 Olympics, sparking a brief growth of interest. This sporadic inclusion in the Olympics was due to the fact that if archery was not popular in the host country, the event was not held.

World War I interrupted the resurging popularity of archery, and its revival did not occur until after the war, with the motion picture industry being recognized as a contributing factor. In 1923, the silent classic Robin Hood was released. As a promotional campaign for the movie, the pastime was spotlighted, and this attention had the effect of popularizing archery as a sport once again.

Another contributing factor to the slow but growing interest in archery in the United States after World War I was the Boy Scout movement, which encouraged the revival of archery as not only a sport but also for developing young men's moral qualities. Two events during this time period added to the growing interest in the sport. In 1934, Wisconsin became the first state to grant a special deer season for archers, and when word spread that it was possible for a modern bowman to bag a deer, other states began adding an archery season. The second event was the founding of the Federation International de Tir A L'Arc (FITA) as an international governing body. The FITA established universal rules for international competition, and as international competition grew and gained momentum, archery was readopted for the 1972 Olympics. The growing interest in bowhunting and target archery was instrumental in developing the popularity of archery as a recreational activity and sport in contemporary society.

Technology and Archery

Technical advances in materials and design of bows and arrows have increased shooting accuracy and, consequently, interest in archery. The progression in bow construction moved from wood (traditional bows) to fiberglass (straight limb bows) to laminations of wood and fiberglass (recurve and compound bows). The most significant advance in bow design was the development of the compound bow, patented in 1966. The compound bow uses off-center pulleys, or cams, mounted on each limb tip. The result is that the energy required to pull back the bowstring is greatest at mid-draw and smallest at full draw, when the archer is holding to aim, resulting in increased accuracy. Similarly, advances in materials used for arrows have progressed from wood to fiberglass to aluminum to carbon. The advances in materials used to manufacture arrows have resulted in lighter and, therefore, faster arrows.

See also: Hunting, Olympics, Target Shooting


Barrett, Jean A. Archery. Santa Monica, Calif.: Goodyear Publishing, 1980.

Gillelan, Howard G. The Complete Book of the Bow and Arrow. Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1971.

Haywood, Kathleen M., and Catherine F. Lewis. Archery: Steps to Success. Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics, 1997.

Heath, Ernest G. A History of Target Archery. Cranbury, N.J.: A.S. Barnes and Company, 1974.

McKinney, Wayne C., and Mike W. McKinney. Archery. Dubuque, Iowa: William C. Brown Publishers, 1985.

Pszczola, Lorraine, and Lois J. Mussett. Archery. New York: Saunders College Publishing, 1984.

John J. Weber


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Archery is a sport that is among the oldest of recorded competitive activities. Cultures as diverse as the Chinese, indigenous North American peoples, and early Europeans placed value on the ability of men to skillfully use a bow and arrow. The legends of William Tell and Robin Hood centered upon the talent of each character to shoot an arrow with unerring accuracy. When archers were displaced in English armies through the development of firearms and cannon in the 1600s, archery gained popularity as a competitive sport.

Archery was introduced to the Olympics in 1900, and the sport was contested through the Games of 1920, when it was removed from the Olympic roster as a result of disputes among the competing nations regarding the appropriate rules for competition. Archery was reinstated to Olympic status at the Summer Games of 1972. Archery is also included at the Summer Paralympics as a wheelchair sport. As with the sports of the ancient Olympics that are still part of the modern games, archery is a sport that has not changed to a significant degree since medieval times.

FITA, the international archery federation, is the governing body for the sport worldwide. Modern archery is organized into men's and women's divisions, both as individual competitions and as team events. The usual international events require a competitor to deliver a prescribed number of arrows into a target from a variety of distances. For men, the distances are 30 m, 50 m, 70 m, and 90 m; for women, the maximum competitive distance is 70 m. The targets are divided into ten zones, with zone widths varying depending on the distance from which the archer shoots. The sport is very simple in its execution, as the archer with the most arrows delivered closest to the bulls' eye, the center of the target, is the winner. While physical strength and general fitness are important to an elite-level archery competitor, archery is a sport where physical size is not of primary importance.

As a machine, a bow is any stringed projectile weapon designed to shoot arrows. The modern bow used in archery competition is of the same approximate shape and dimension as the long bows first used by the English army at the Battle of Crecy in 1346 to defeat their French enemy. The modern bow is constructed from carbon fiber and other similar composite materials to create a maximum degree of response to the pull of the archer. The shooting of an arrow involves the application of a series of physical principles. The expression, "translation of energy," is important in the understanding of how the arrow is delivered with maximum effect. As the archer prepares to draw back the bowstring, the potential energy available to the arrow rests in the muscles of the archer's arm and shoulders. Once the bowstring is drawn, the potential energy is transferred from the archer to the bowstring. When the bowstring is released, virtually all of the stored potential energy in the bowstring is transferred to become the kinetic energy that powers the arrow into flight.

The flight of the arrow is a product of a number of physical factors. The velocity at which the arrow is released, the angle (calculated as the number of degrees above horizontal that the bow and arrow are aimed), the mass of the arrow, and the impact of air resistance and wind all contribute to the manner in which the arrow will travel.

Archery is a deceptive sport in terms of the approach to physical training and fitness required of the competitive archer. The general desirable physical qualities in an archer are strength, particularly in the core strength elements of the abdominal, lumbar (lower back), and groin, to provide stability to the archer as the arrows are shot. Flexibility is also an important quality, as is muscular strength in the upper body, to effectively draw back and deliver the arrows.

Aerobic fitness and a corresponding ability to control the heart rate of the athlete in the stress of competition is of critical importance to the competitive archer. Aerobic fitness assists an archer in offsetting the fatigue that results from standing for several hours through a competition, where during the delivery of the arrows the athlete must be strong and physically prepared to compete. The high level of mental focus required to concentrate during every attempt at a target (the archer may deliver over 50 arrows in a single session) is best supported by a body that is fit.

Archers employ a variety of mental conditioning techniques to prepare themselves for an event. Many of these devices include both visualization of the physical movements that the archer will complete to shoot a perfect arrow; other techniques encourage the athlete to use imagery to relax prior to the event.

As a general proposition, the lower an archer's heart rate, the steadier the aim. The rate at which the heart beats is a function of the autonomic nervous system, which controls other involuntary systems such as respiration. Most competitive archers employ one of a variety of deep breathing techniques prior to the actual delivery of an arrow to take the pulse to its lowest possible rate to create the greatest degree of stability and control over the delivery of the arrow.

see also Heart rate: Target heart rate; International Olympic Committee (IOC);.Motor control; Wrist injuries.


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archery developed as a sport from the use of the bow and arrow in hunting and warfare. The English and Welsh long bow dominated the battlefield from the 11th to the 15th cent., and governments frequently forbade other sports, particularly football, in order to encourage archery practice. When guns developed and the bow became redundant as a weapon, the sport was maintained. The Company of Archers, founded in Edinburgh in 1676, eventually became a royal bodyguard. The Royal Toxophilite Society was established in 1781. The Grand National Archery Society, set up in 1861, developed into the national body and an international organization, the Fédération International de Tir à l'Arc (FITA), was established in 1931. Archery was introduced into the Olympics in 1900, dropped in the 1920s, but brought back in 1972.

J. A. Cannon


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archery Target sport that makes use of a bow and arrow or a crossbow and bolt. Commonly, archers use a longbow to shoot arrows at a target that consists of concentric scoring rings of five colours. The three other divisions of archery are field, flight and crossbow. The sport's world authority is the Fédération Internationale de Tir à l'Arc (FITA), based in Milan, Italy. Archery returned to the Olympic Games in 1972.


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a company or corps of archers.

Examples: he rode through a hundred archery, 1465; signal for Englands archery to halt and bend their bows, 1814.


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ar·cher·y / ˈärchərē/ • n. the sport or skill of shooting with a bow and arrows, esp. at a target.