Archery As A Professional Sport

Archery is one of the oldest art forms which is practiced to date. It is the skill of using a bow to shoot arrows. The word Archery originated from the Latin word “ arcus “. 

Historically, archery has been used for hunting and combat. 

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1. Evolution Of Archery As A Sport

 The evolution of Archery began with the evolution of human history itself. The earliest evidence of Archery as a sport was found in China during the Shang Dynasty (1766-1027 BC).

They arranged various tournaments, which usually included a war chariot of that time carried by a team of three men- a driver, a lancer, and an archer.

Nobles at court attended archery tournaments that were accompanied by music and were a great source of entertainment in those eras. These tournaments continued till the end of the Zhou ( chou) Dynasty(1027-256 BC).

In 20,000 BC ancient Egyptians used bow and arrow in their lives. Later during 3,000 BC, they ended up adopting archery for hunting and warfare.

The Egyptians used archers on the back of light chariots who were highly trained and skilled and could easily outflank an enemy army with devastating effect. In the ancient Roman Empire, much of their military superiority were skilled archers.

When the Spanish Armada attempted to invade England in 1588, an English county troop levy consisted of one-third bowmen to two-thirds soldiers with guns. By the end of the century, the bow had been almost abandoned as a weapon. 

The use of the bow and arrow in hunting and intertribal fighting continues in central Africa and South America up to the present day. Although archery has definitely changed since the people of the Bible first used it, without it, history might have turned out much differently.

Bows and arrows saved many lives, and even do today. As a means of hunting animals for food, as a defensive or conquering weapon, or as an instrument in competition, the bow and arrow have impacted the world.

Physically, the structure of archery has developed, the circumstances for which archers use their bow and arrow has changed drastically, and how warfare utilized archery has nearly come to an end. In modern times, it is mainly a competitive sport and recreational activity. 

2. Archery As A Sport

A person who participates in archery is typically called an archer or a bowman, and a person who is fond of or an expert at archery is sometimes called a toxophilite. Archers are divided into seniors and juniors, with juniors being those under the age of 18. 

The World Archery Federation governs the modern competitive target archery.

2.1 Main Objective Of The Game

Competitive archery – that is, archery that involves archers aiming arrows at a target – has various forms. But all have the same aim, which is to shoot the arrows as close to the center of the target as possible.

In the Olympics, competitors aim at a target from a distance of 70 meters.

Typical rounds in the tournament include a ranking round, where the overall scores determine the ranking of athletes before a head to head elimination format.

2.2 Equipment

The modern-day version that we have today with all sorts of high-tech equipment and different techniques of shooting and competing with other archers as in the present time archery is no longer used for hunting.

There are four main types of bows :

a) Recurve Bows

They shoot faster and are more powerful than a longbow because of the number-three shape. The draw length on a recurve bow is more important than on a longbow.  

Recreational Recurve Bow vs. Olympic Recurve Bow

b) Compound Bow

They allow more accuracy and power from a greater distance. That means related skills, like stealth and concealment, are less critical. A compound bow also allows more customization than a traditional bow.

c) Longbow

They are deeper and thicker than a recurve. Which makes it bigger and heavier. It also means there is less chance of torquing or sideways movement in the string upon release.

d) Crossbows

It is somewhat similar to a bow. It consists of a bow-like assembly called a prod, mounted horizontally on the mainframe called a tiller, which is hand-held in a similar fashion to the stock of a long gun. Crossbows shoot arrows like projectiles called bolts or quarrels.

2.3 Scoring

Scoring in archery is very simple. Based on where your arrows hit, the points are added together. The highest score for a single arrow is 10 for hitting the inner gold ring, while the least (for hitting the outer white ring) is one point. Arrows missing the target altogether do not score at all.

How to score an archery target | Archery 360

2.4 10 Step Process For Positioning And Aiming

  1. Stand with both feet apart on either side of the shooting line.
  2. Ensure that your toes remain in one line, with the sides of your feet facing the middle of the target.
  3. If you are right-handed, grip the bow with your left hand. The left side of your body should face the target. Reverse this if you are left-handed.
  4. Connect the arrow to the bowstring.
  5. Place your index finger on the part of the bowstring that is above the nock (back part of the arrow that connects to the string).
  6. Place your middle and ring fingers under the nock.
  7. Grab the bow with your thumb pointing towards the target.
  8. Your bow arm should be aligned at around the same height as your shoulders.
  9. Rotate the elbow of your bow arm so that it is positioned out and away from the string.
  10. Pull the string along the bow arm in a straight line.

Once you feel the appropriate tension, use your back strength to hold the weight of the bow.

Aim and shoot!

2.5 Winning The Game

As mentioned, it would depend on the specifics of the tournament in which the archer is competing.

But in an archery competition, the winner is either the person who has the highest cumulative total score after a set number of arrows, or the one who has successfully overcome all opponents faced in a knockout scenario.

In the event of a tied score, the archer with the highest number of 10s (including inner 10s) is declared the victor. If that number is also equal to the one with the greater number of inner 10s is the winner.

Alternatively – or subsequently – a shoot-off can be used to separate the competitors who have tied. In the Olympic competition, athletes must shoot 72 arrows in 12 phases, with the overall cumulative score deciding their ranking.

They then go into a head to head knockout competition where they have to score more than their opponent.

Tournaments vary in format. The number of arrows a competitor has to shoot, and the distance to the target may change.

3. Rules And Regulations

  • Archers must adhere to all official rules in terms of the equipment they use in the performance of their sport, with the main emphasis being on them using no equipment or accessories that would give an unfair advantage over an opponent.
  • The maximum time permitted to shoot an end of three arrows in two minutes, and four minutes for an end of six arrows.
  • Athletes may not raise the bow arm until the signal to start is given, and penalties can be given in the form of points forfeits – if the bow is drawn after the official practice has been closed. 
  • An arrow cannot be re-shot under any circumstances. The arrow may be considered not to have been shot if it falls from the bow or misfires, or if the target blows or falls over. Extra time would be given in such circumstances.
  • An arrow that rebounds or hangs from the target will still score based on the mark it makes on the target face. Arrows that stick – Robin Hood-style – in the nock of another shall score the same as the arrow in which they are embedded.
  • Athletes can be disqualified, have points deducted, or be banned from competition for various breaches of rules, based on the severity of the offense.
  • If the equipment is damaged, appeals can be made to the judge for such equipment to be replaced or fixed, and any time allowances will be at the discretion of the judge.

4. Safety Measures

  • Archery and bowhunting safety rules cover all aspects of using a bow and arrow, including storing, handling, and shooting.
  • Always check local laws and follow these archery safety rules.
  • Only point the bow and arrow in a safe direction.
  • Only nock an arrow when it is safe to shoot.
  • Be sure of your target and what is in front of it, immediately behind it, and beyond it.
  • Never shoot over a ridge.
  • Only shoot when you have a safe range or a dedicated shooting area; with a safe backstop or background.
  • Avoid dry-firing a bow (releasing the bowstring without a nocked arrow). It may cause serious damage to the bow and can injure the archer.
  • Do not shoot an arrow straight up in the air.
  • Wear an armguard and finger protection while shooting bows and arrows.
  • Handle arrows carefully. Protect yourself and the arrow points with a covered arrow quiver.
  • Use a bow-stringer for stringing longbows and recurve bows.
  • Immediately repair defects in equipment.
  • Prior to each use, check your bow for cracks, dents, breaks, separating laminates, peeling glass, and defects in mechanical parts.
  • Check the bowstring regularly, and replace it if it becomes worn or frayed. Frequent use of bowstring wax greatly extends the life of a bowstring.
  • Check arrows for cracks, dents, or bends; discard any that have permanent flaws.
  • Store your bows in bow cases—preferably hard cases—and store recurves and longbows unstrung.
  • Do not drink alcohol or take mood-altering drugs before, during, or after shooting a bow.

5. How An Archery Tournament Works

5.1 Target Archery

Probably the most well known and popularized type of archery is target archery. Target archery is what you are looking at when you watch Olympic archery on TV. In fact, it is the only type of archery that is shot in the Olympics.

5.1.1 What Bows are Used in Target Archery?

In target archery, archers shoot mainly recurve bows and compound bows. However, only recurve bows are used in Olympic archery.

In some instances, other types of bows may be used, but for the most part, target archery is down to recurve bows and compound bows.

The good news for newer archers is that only a few tournaments have any stipulations as to who can enter. 

Usually, most of these tournaments are also pretty laid back. So, you shouldn’t feel intimidated or too much pressure when you compete. Many of these also actively encourage newer, less experienced archers to enter.

If you are not sure whether or not you are good enough to enter your first tournament yet, use the following guideline.

If your arrows are consistently landing on the target, not the bullseye, just the target itself – it is time for you to enter your first tournament.

If you are not sure what tournaments are in your area or available for you to shoot in, there are a few ways you can find out. A quick search online for something like: “archery tournament, your city, your state” should turn up some good information.

5.1.2 Target Archery Competitions

In target archery, there are both indoor and outdoor tournaments. The outdoor tournaments usually happen during the warmer months of the year.

During the winter months, the tournaments move indoors, and the distances shot varies from the outdoor tournaments.

Generally, you will be shooting at targets that are placed around twenty yards from each archer. In outdoor tournaments, however, you will be shooting at targets at several different distances away.

In target archery, outdoor tournaments will feature distances from thirty to ninety meters for men and thirty to seventy meters for women. Indoor target distances tend to be either eighteen or twenty-five meters away from the archer.

In both indoor and outdoor target archery, tournaments are split up into rounds. These “rounds” will be called by different names, depending on where you are competing.

They could have different names if you are in the United States, the United Kingdom, or Australia. You can check the website of the organization that runs any tournament that you are thinking of competing in if you want to find out more.

Many competitions are split up into what are called “ends”. In each end, every archer will shoot either three or six arrows. Exactly how many will vary from competition to competition.

Then all of the competing archers will head to the targets to score their shots. Typically, an indoor target archery competition will last for twenty total ends with three arrows shot in each one.

There is a time limit in these competitions, and all of the competitors will shoot until the end is over. Archers will then shoot at the next target distance, shooting at all of the various distances until the competition is done. There is usually a break for a few minutes about halfway into each tournament.

5.1.3 How Long Do Archery Tournaments Last?

For the most part, target archery tournaments tend to take about three or four hours to complete, but they can sometimes go on even longer. As a general rule, plan on spending the day at any tournament you enter, just to be on the safe side.

5.1.4 Target Archery Tournament Scoring

The circle within a circle type of target used in target archery is scored quite simply. The scores run from ten down to one, with the scores getting lower the further away from the center of the target you hit.

Each different-colored section away from the bullseye your arrow hits, the score gets lower.

The “bullseye” is worth ten points and is mainly referred to as the X ring, as there is a little X on it if you look closely. It is also used for tiebreakers – whoever shoots closest to the X wins.

The only difference is in tournaments or competitions using AGB rules. In AGB rules, the different scoring areas are worth nine, seven, five, three, and one, respectively.

Competitors will score each end of the tournament by adding up the total score of all of their shots through the entire competition, and the winners are announced.

The Rules of Archery – EXPLAINED!

5.2 Field Archery Competitions

In Field Archery, tournaments can also be shot indoors and out. One of the differences, however, is that while you may be shooting in a straight line – you will also be shooting at targets that are uphill, downhill, and more.

The added challenge of shooting at various distances, angles, and targets that may be partially obscured is part of what makes field archery so interesting.

The targets may or may not have marked distances – meaning you may have to judge the yardage yourself. The extra skill and talent it takes to shoot field archery are sometimes called fieldcraft.

Normally, outdoor field archery is shot in small groups of archers. Each archer takes turns shooting. You will walk a course outdoors, stopping to shoot at each target along the course.

In Field archery, you will be shooting at one of three different types of targets, depending on which type of “rounds” you are shooting.

There are hunter rounds, field rounds, and animal rounds, each with their own unique targets and scoring.

5.2.1 Field Archery Team Tournaments

In team tournaments, men and women are split into their own divisions. After this, three archers of each bow style are put together into teams.

So, there are teams of three that consist of one recurve archer, one compound archer, and one longbow archer.

All of the archers shoot in head to head elimination rounds, similar to individual tournaments. In these tournaments, the competition starts at the quarter-final stage.

The best eight teams will shoot three arrows at each target, one from each archer on the team. They start by shooting at eight targets with marked distances.

The top teams will then move on to the semifinals, in which the two losing teams of the semifinal will compete for the bronze medal – while the winning teams compete for the gold medal.

These rounds are made up of four targets with marked distances. Any ties will be resolved in the same way as in individual tournaments.

5.3 3D Archery Tournaments

 3D archery has its own tournaments for 3D archers. These can also be shot indoors or outdoors, and have their own sets of rules.

There are both smaller, more laid back local tournaments as well as the large tournaments in which the pros compete for bigger prizes. Both can be a lot of fun to participate in.

There are lots of smaller local clubs and organizations across the country, but the ASA and the IBO are the two big ones. Most 3D tournaments and shoots base their rules on one or the other.

How scoring works on a 3D archery target

5.4 Archery In Olympics

 Archery first appeared in the Olympic Games in 1900 and was contested again in 1904, 1908, and 1920. Women competed in the 1904 Olympics, making archery one of the first sports to include events for both genders.

The sport then had a 52-year hiatus from the Olympics. It was re-introduced to the program in 1972, with individual events for men and women.

During the first four games in which archery was contested, an athlete could compete in numerous events and win several medals.

Hubert van Innis, from Belgium, is the most decorated archer in Olympic history, winning six gold medals and three silvers in 1900 and 1920.

Second in the archery medal ranking is Kim Soo-Nyung, who competed in 1988, 1992, and 2000 Games and won four Olympic titles, one silver, and one bronze medal.

In addition to history, we have to include South Korea as the leading country in terms of modern archery. Some of the top archers in the world are from Korea. They have a strong attachment to competitive archery.

Olympic Archery Explained


Archery now is a well developed sport followed across the world. While there are many more formats and uses of archery still present, archery as a sport has made its own distinct space among athletes.

Archery is fun to play and compete in. The best part of archery is that while it can be enjoyed with a group of people, you can also practice and have fun with it even if you are alone.


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