My dreams of shooting bow and arrow like Jennifer Lawrence, aka Katniss, in The Hunger Games quickly disappeared when my first arrow nearly impaled my friend. What are the odds that it would hit the wooden frame around the target board and fly back? Not once, but TWICE? I almost gave up at that point — I don’t want to hurt anyone, and clearly I have aim issues.
Dennis, the instructor working with my friends Amanda and Sharon and me, gave me a couple more attempts that overshot the target before switching me to a left-handed bow. It seems I have a cross-dominance handicap: I’m right handed, but left-eye dominant, and my right eye has somewhat poor vision. So I have to shoot left-handed, right eye closed. So much for one beautiful motion swinging while I draw, aim and shoot. I fumble awkwardly to load the arrow left-handed, squint my right eye, and try to remember everything I need to do before letting my weapon fly.
It’s hard being a beginner. I’m confident in the gym, where I know I’m strong. Archery quickly reminded me that I’m not a natural athlete, that my hand-eye coordination is terrible, and that watching a physical movement and replicating it is difficult for me. But the few times I managed to get everything right and the arrow sailed clean and true into the target I felt a little thrill, and with it, the desire to do it again.
I suspect this will be the case with all the sports I try in the next year, but I quickly found that archery is not as easy as it appears. A million shades of movement and thought, along with razor-sharp precision, go into a true shot.
Jennifer Lawrence had only 16 lessons before filming her movie, Dennis told me, and I’m training with a 20lb recurve bow like she learned with. I don’t expect I’ll be hitting game dead between the eyes when my archery experiment is over, but I’ll be pleased if I can show a little of her grace in that swing, draw and shoot. I’ve got my string bow to practice with between lessons, so at least I think all involved will be safe for now.