–S. Nicola Chemlir- Thwack! The crisp string of your waxed bow snaps across the bridge of your inner arm. Nearly jumping out of your skin, this electrifying zap instantly resets your mind and body, saving you from your ever-wandering and anxious mind.
Bringing you back to the reality of shooting a flight, the “thwack,” as my coach has always called it, offers a uniquely startling jolt that is able to surprise one out of their most dreadful dazes and dizziest daydreams. As I am sure many of you can attest to as well, when on the shooting line my mind tends to wander from the present. My thoughts are often so out of the blue that I end up thinking about how I thought of the topic in the first place–a continuous and never-boring cycle for my most curious mind. But how to stop, how to focus, this is where the “thwack” comes in handy.
Almost as if intentional, the thwack leaves a physical and dutifully present aftershock upon its receiver, like the patterns of a grave tsunami or earthquake. Closely following the initial blast of the string’s blow, as anyone who has ever been hit surely knows, it leaves a tingling, burning sensation upon the flesh. Buzzing like a dentist’s electric toothbrush upon your gums, the almost planned attempt seems aimed at honing one’s senses to those necessary in archery.
Sight. Either refreshingly washing away the image we all burn into our minds of past mistakes through watering eyes, or exciting our eyelids to their farthest point across our surprised-looking faces, the thwack of a string helps our eyes forget the troubles of the past and sharpen the present.
Sound. Can’t you just hear it? The initial whoosh of air as your fingers lax and release an arrow, followed by the sudden, startling sound of your bow string slamming against your skin. You tense with a sharp sniffle to hold back tears. Then naturally you relax. Just like the physical stillness of skeletal position and the bodily sigh as you release an arrow. This mere sound forces your mind and body through the “follow through and reflect” portion of the shooting steps, which inevitably carries you straight into a fresh, adapted next shot.
Touch. As that string snaps across your skin, you feel the phalanges within your fingers immediately tighten your grasp upon the bow’s grip. A hot wave flashes across the entire extent of your body. But then, just as your body relaxes, your grip loosens and you cool off. The memory of your shot flies right out of your mind as you focus all your attention on not making a scene and getting back on track. After all, two minutes and thirty seconds feels a lot more pressing on the line, especially when sidetracked for a moment. With a blank mind, this physical shock and mental distraction helps orient yourself towards the next arrow.
More complex than often appearing, good archery depends not only on the talent of whoever holds the bow, but more importantly the sheer focus of sight, sound, and touch on a single arrow.
When standing in the exact same spot for nearly an entire hour, it’s only natural for the mind to space out. Although not necessarily crucial to a great flight, the thwack acts as an instant reset and honing device to one’s senses and focus.
Nicola was a 2022 student contributor. To view her other submissions, click here.