Wednesday, 5 October 2011


one has to ask on occasion do we do things that only serve to make us irate, in my case this seeming to be almost anything to do with watching or reading the news, in particular the guardian. now just to make it clear this doesn't mean i'm off cruising the pages of the express or the mail, papers which easily succeed in making the likes of the guardian look like the complete works of tolstoy but just because something can look like something else it doesn't mean it is. and the guardian's lazy. complacent journalism certainly isn't.

today's offender was what looked like a fairly innocuous article about archery. now that's as maybe but the subtext of reading that article is that yours truly, once upon a time, was an archer of some repute and, in both athens and beijing, was fascinated by the archery competitions. not so for the guardian, for whom archery is posh darts, apparently favoured mainly by koreans. even schools can't be bothered watching it they tell us. because it's just not good viewing.

well of course not, especially if you don;t know what you're looking at. t, who is long inured to my liking for tv's minority sport, is these days, a big fan of the cycling when she has time to actually watch it. it was not always thus but the curiousity of seeing the person you live with engaged with a bunch of blokes seemingly doing nothing but cycling along a road had her looking for explanation.

maybe i wasn't quite as successful with the archery it's true but t was in no doubt as to the majestic performance of the koreans last time around. watching them shoot was transcendent. total stillness, total focus, if ever there was a zen sport it's this one.

in athens you could go along to the archery for nothing. beautiful venue, totally atmospheric. maybe lords isn't quite that but sports fields are where you do your archery in britain for the most part so as venues go, it's a good one. empty stands? archery isn't a jumping up and down sport! of course given the pricing for london you could buy yourself a set of cheap kit and join an archery club for the price of their tickets. i would recommend the latter.

archery is a beautiful sport that, once it's got a hold of you, is difficult to let go. it also, if you're going to do it at national level and beyond, requires massive commitment for very little outward gain. if the guardian and their ilk really want to be writing about olympic sport they should maybe start asking people who actually participate in them what it's all about.

me, i gave it all up years ago. i did have a brief return a while back but the club structure did nothing for me. i used to shoot every day, get coaching input every day so the notion of social shooting was completely alien to me. back then i could put three arrows in a milk bottle top at 20m seven times out of ten. that was good for juniors but nowhere near where i needed to be. back at the archery club they were about hitting the target, any notion of grouping was beyond them. whatever i did there it was never going to get me back to competition level.

but, that was me. everyone else there seemed to love it. and it was great to be back among the targets and nets, to listen to the quiet of shooting, to try and blank the mind so there is only draw and release.

watch the archery. be puzzled over what it's about. don't read lazy british journalism but get down to a club and give it a go. don't worry about hitting the centre of the target (tho please hit the target!). take three arrows, try and get all three within the space of the palm of your hand. achieve this. now do it again. and again. becoming a bit obsessive about that? now you understand....


Dominic Rivron said...

It's obviously a shame that there isn't a biathalon that involves mountainbiking and archery.

swiss said...

dominic you're a man after my own heart. that would be the coolest sport ever!

Roxana said...

you, an archer as well!!!!!!!!! you never cease to amaze me, swiss!!!

reading this brought back memories from japan, where one can stumble upon 'clubs' for Kyūdō, the way of the bow, just by strolling a bit around. and there was a huge kyudo-place at the university as well. every time i used to discover one, i would stand there, next to the fence, for a long time, peaking inside, breathless (many are outdoors). even watching makes one take a few steps on that way of contemplation and inner balance.

i am so grateful for this post.

ps. i am sure you already know of Cartier-Bresson and Zen archery, but nevertheless, this is such a beautiful essay:

Rachel Fox said...

Little one had a go at archery at Dalguise and much enjoyed it!

Best to only read news in the G... and maybe the odd interview. The rest is just space-filling (much of it, no doubt, by young jerks desperate to make it in the meedia - accent on the me). By now they may as well get a computer to write some of it... who knows... maybe they already do.

swiss said...

i think there is a lot of not very creative googling going on at the guardian so maybe they do. yesterday they told me jessie j had won a prize for being a musician. after what armageddon could this possibly happen!? not a word.

i hadn't heard of the cartier bresson thing but zen in the art of archery took me back. we definitely had that in the house!

i love that portrait of punt as well. they had another one of that series in the museum in edinburgh at one time. it was just his face emerging out of blackness. amazing!

Elisabeth said...

I'm here via your recent comment to Jim, Swiss. I thought anyone who loves Laing's Knots has to be a man after my own heart. I'm not a cyclist or an archer but I can imagine the bliss of becoming so mesmerized by an activity that it transcends the banality of life. It's therefore good to meet you here.

swiss said...

the transcendent bit is where the poetry comes in!

as for knots, it's an easy book to become engrossed with. i may have to look it out again very shortly!