In my last post, I talked a little about how archery has been brought out of the dark ages in the last decade or so thanks in large part to popular media that have featured modern day Robin Hood-styled characters armed with bows.
So I thought for this post, I’d comment on a video that’s been making the internet rounds lately and currently has racked up over 25 million hits on youtube at the time of this writing, again catapulting archery into the limelight. I didn’t even know there were 25 million people who even cared one way or another about archery, but you learn something new every day.
You’ll have to watch the video (linked above) to get the idea, but basically, Lars Andersen is a Danish archer who put together some videos of himself employing an unorthodox way of shooting where he holds arrows in the hand that draws bowstring, allowing him to shoot faster. He also claims to have figured out this technique by reading old archery texts, which as far as I (or anyone knows), he certainly could have. Bows and arrows have been around for a long, long time, there are lots of ways to shoot them, and lots that’s been written about them, some of which is probably good, some probably not, just like stuff written today.
So I can’t really comment intelligently on any of the historical aspects of what he says (that’s been picked apart ad nauseum by his critics anyway, as discussed below). My only take on the historical bits is: isn’t all this conjecture now anyway? How many people walk around wearing armor to ward off arrows these days? Okay, yes, maybe if you work at a renaissance faire. But even there, people are not being killed for the sake of entertainment. And yes, although people can certainly argue about the practicality/lethality of whatever medieval military practice from a historical perspective, but, come on, people have guns to shoot each other with now.
Academics aside, what I will comment on is the level of fervor that the video has sparked. You can read some on youtube or in any of the response posts (e.g. this one) and videos (e.g. this one). Then, if you’ve gotten through those, here are two more pages of responses from facebook (1, 2). It’s interesting that there are both Lars supporters and Lars haters, and like the US Congress of late, most of the time, they can’t seem to agree on anything other than their own personal view being right. Occasionally, someone will concede Lars’ skill in a backhanded kind of way, saying something to the effect of, “Well, he obviously practiced a lot and is good at what he does, but 1.) these techniques wouldn’t be effective on a medieval battlefield, or 2.) he must be using a really light bow, or 3.) if I weren’t too (insert some pejorative personal characteristic), I could do that, too.
Which is probably true. Perhaps we should all keep that in mind. It’s a remarkably optimistic and hopeful view of personal achievement. You know those those gold medals folks win at that thing called the Olympics? Yeah, you could probably win those, too. Yup, just like that. President of the United States? Sure! Why not? Anyone can do it, right? Made it to the NFL? Finally got your PhD? Ehh, no big deal, sure, you could do it if, you know, you tried. But you don’t feel like doing that right now. But later, you know, no problem. Just let me send a few text messages and finish this can of Pringles first.
To be fair, Lars’ supporters also end up sporting the same kind of fanboy/girlism in the veracity of their support (just read the comments in some of the links). But this kind of thing is nothing new. People are divided on lots of polarizing topics, both big and small – Republican vs. Democrat, PC vs. Mac, Sega Genesis vs. Nintendo, Apple vs. Android (actually, my brother wrote an article that touched on the latter two), pro vaccination vs. delayed/no vaccination, prochoice vs. prolife, Nancy Kerrigan vs. Tonya Harding … the list goes on and on. I guess the only difference now is that the internet has given anyone with access to it an honest, uninhibited voice to be heard in a public forum with the anonymity of a computer screen that protects against real-life retaliation, violence, and social ostracization. Because when you turn the computer off, all those flame wars go away.
Or do they?
One does have to wonder, when Lars’ staunchest opponents are alone with their bows, those moments when the range is empty or they are in their backyards somewhere where no one can see – do they get an urge to fiddle around and see if they can figure out how Lars shoots? Do they flip on one of his youtube videos on their phones or computers, try to copy what he does, and mutter under their breaths, “Wait, what does he do again?” and then go back and rewind for a better look?
And one has to wonder – what about all of Lars’ supporters? For all their staunch online defense, what do they get? They flip on one of his youtube videos, try to copy what he does, and mutter under their breaths, “Wait, what does he do again?” and then go back and rewind for a better look … is that what happens, too?
That, I would say, is my main critique of the video – the man doesn’t tell you exactly what he does and how he does it. And that is … damned frustrating in this age of instant gratification of information available at our fingertips. But why should he? I mean, if *you* read ancient texts from the library of Alexandria (or whatever) and figured out a lost secret hundreds of years old, would you give that shizat out for free? Hellz, no!
So, at over 25 million views, he clearly did something right. Whatever publicity he gets, good or bad, it’s good for him. And hopefully, good for archery as well.
Not that this really relates to anything, but what would Logan from The Thirteenth Hour think of all this? I always pictured him as the kind of guy who held his arrows in the same hand that held the bow (or stuck them in his pants, like in the picture below).
He seemed like the kind of guy who wasn’t really organized enough to, you know, have all his arrows in an actual quiver. I pictured him as someone who’d just grab a few on the fly and then kind of hope for the best. So I’d guess he’d like the idea of the Lars Andersen technique of holding arrows and might try it a few times but, in the end, scratch his head in confusion, shrug, say the hell with it, and go do something he liked better, like skipping rocks or something. Because he wasn’t really a guy who was super into archery. For him, it was just a means to an end. A tool in his tool chest. And that gets to the idea that, at the end of the day, archery today, which is done as a hobby, should be fun. Lars Andersen says so on his youtube page, and that’s probably something we can all agree on.
(P.S. If you actually want to lean to shoot like Lars, I have found only one place – so far – that attempts to reverse engineer and explain what he might be doing – see this youtube playlist for more info. It’s harder than it looks!).
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