Easton Van Nuys Center hosts field trip


A group of students from Marywood Palm Valley School got to take a field trip to our Easton Van Nuys Archery Center this past week. The day started off with a great presentation from our director, Don Rabska. From the dynamics of arrow flight to archery history and shooting technique, it was a really special opportunity to learn from all of his archery experience. Did you know that the Sultans of Turkey used to have archery competitions to see who could shoot an arrow the furthest? Sultan Selim III shot an arrow 972 yards in 1978! In Japan, there are competitions to see how many arrows an archer can shoot in a specified time. In 1696, Wasu Daihachiro shot 13,053 arrows in 24 hours, from 6pm to 6am! We also know that he must have been shooting a very strong bow, at least 100#, because his target was 120 meters away in a temple hall with a fairly low ceiling. Even from a kneeling position, the arrows must be flying pretty fast to clear the huge beams in the ceiling above.

Coach Rabska also brought in a modern day replica (complete with snake skin backing) of a Magyar (Hungry or Hungarian) bow which was slightly modified from the original Mongol design. “The Mongol’s conquered all of Eastern Europe by 1280, including Russia, Poland and Hungry. This was in the time when the Mongol’s controlled most of Europe (except parts of the west) and most of Asia…or three times more territory than Alexander the Great!”, shared Coach Rabska. The bow that he brought was 95# at 28”! However, he also noted that,”most war bows for the Mongols, I would estimate, ranged on average of 160# upwards to mid 200’s# at least. They carried two bows however, one for long range and one for closer combat. Also the fact that like any good soldier, the rule of “two weapons is one and one is none” fully applied here. If you had no back up and your weapon broke, you are not much of a soldier. They carried two quivers as well, specialty arrows in one quiver and general use in the other, totaling at minimum 5 dozen per mounted archer.” As you can see archery has a fascinating and rich history!

After that we moved out to the range so that we could work on NTS (National Training System). As a group we reviewed some fundamental concepts like holding, posture, barrel of the gun, and release drills. The students were quick to learn and were already familiar with many of the concepts, which was a testament to their teacher, Coach Pike. While the archers practiced these concepts at blank bale, they asked many insightful questions like, “Why is the follow-through important? Isn’t it more stable and accurate to just do a ‘dead-release’?”

“I think the best way to explain it is that the follow through is not something that is forced. It is something that just happens if you are doing the technique correctly,” explained Coach Rabska. “If you have to force your hand back along your neck, that is ‘faking it’. The Follow-Through is simply a byproduct of proper technique, it just happens. It is like swinging a baseball bat. The swing does not stop at ball contact….unless you want to hit a blooper to the pitcher for an easy out. When at full draw (Holding), the draw fingers and draw arm should be relaxed (ie. hold virtually all of the bow’s draw weight with the muscles attached to the scapula – back tension). If you follow-through with the draw side scapula and not the arm, then when you instantly relax your draw fingers while keeping that tension in the draw scapula and allow the scapula to move toward the target, then as a natural reaction the hand will automatically ‘follow through’ since it is not holding the string anymore…just like in a tug of war when someone lets go of the rope, you fall backwards. Next, by keeping that load in the scapula, the draw hand leaves the exact same position from the face as well as from the corner of the chin. If that tension in the scapula were not held, then the draw hand would move forward on release and the string would leave the fingers an inch or so in front of the face, reducing the bow’s power and producing left and low left arrows for right handers. Keeping the power in the scapula all the way through the shot maintains the same power or force out of the bow at launch and provides the consistent energy delivery that will allow your arrows to hit the same place on the target…time after time.”

We finished the event with some fun games. Our ESDF coaches got to play too as they were each given two students to make a team with. It was especially neat to hear students tell us that they could feel improvements in their form as well as see better results on the target, after all of the practice earlier. “Having my shoulders down really helps,” exclaimed one student. “The biomechanics behind it makes a lot of sense too.”

The archers of Marywood Palm Valley School were a joy to be with and we look forward to seeing them again.