Korean archery secrets pt. 27: bungee-jumping

3 April, 2017

Somehow missed this excellent short about the Korean team which came out shortly after Rio last year. It features Kang Chae Young, who had to suffer the agony of coming fourth, by the tiniest of margins, in the Olympic trials and not making the trip to Brazil. It’s pretty amazing to me how she dealt with it.

On a wider level it contains some interesting notes about the Olympic roots in traditional archery, mental strength and about dealing with fear – apparently by bungee jumping. The long-repeated canard about the Korean team once being made to handle live snakes in order to face down fears comes out again, although I’ve never been able to ascertain if this is true or not.

At the end Kang says that she hopes to be able to come back and win medals at the Olympics or the Asian Games again; notably, the World Championships are missing from that list. :) It’s difficult to get across just how important the Asian Games are to Korean archers and Korean sport in general, played out against a backdrop of fierce historical rivalries and regarded almost on a par with the Olympics. (Next year’s edition will be in Indonesia). Anyway, enjoy.

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Korean bow documentary

27 March, 2017

If you haven’t yet watched this fantastic doc from KBS1 about the history of the Korean bow and it’s influence on the current Olympic team, do so immediately.  (Click on the little ‘CC’ button to access English subtitles).

P.S. Still looking for an English-subbed version of Game Of Numbers. Does anyone capable of translating it want to add some captions themselves? You can just go ahead and do that these days….

moving towards the light

13 February, 2017


Archery Fit – coaching range

I’ve been writing about archery for five years now, but recently, not doing very much of it at all. I wrote a while ago about trying to improve, before I got reminded of my status at the Lausanne Archery Classic. That’s all changed in 2017. I’ve caught the bug again.

I know most of you out there are archers of one stripe or another, and if you are, you’ve probably run through the same gamut of emotions that everybody else has had. Incredible urges to go out and shoot, to get better, to master it. Getting home from a bad shooting session in a foul mood and throwing your bow into a cupboard for several weeks, or months – or even years. Sessions where you surprised yourself with inner strength and confidence. Sessions where you couldn’t hit a barn door if they stood it up in front of you. Fun sessions. Boring sessions. And everything in-between. 

I spent 2015 and 2016 doing scrappy, occasional hobby shooting at my club. Stick-flinging, in the British parlance, capped by a disastrous short metric competition at our local rivals last summer where I abandoned the last few ends rather than put any more arrows in the green.

I realised that I needed to start from scratch. It was pointless to continue as I was without coaching, without structure – which raised another problem.  I live in London, which is great for many things in life but isn’t the focus of archery in the UK, which is centred (roughly) on the Midlands.


did this with a Samick Polaris, no clicker, at 18m. YEAH.

Greater London boasts at least twelve archery clubs, but not a single archery shop. The slim margins and the need for a large range space preclude it, despite the fact that the demand to learn archery in London, since the post Hunger Games / London 2012 boom, has long outstripped the supply – the beginner’s courses at our club were booked up for two years in advance at one point. There are just a tiny handful of qualified coaches in the city, and most of them are busy or available only sporadically. 

Indeed, getting to higher levels in archery is something of a postcode lottery in Britain. You need to be lucky enough to be near a coach or a club with a deep tradition of coaching and someone with the time and energy to take you on. Good luck. Ultimately, the majority of archers after completing a beginner’s course are left to fend for themselves with a mix of the odd half-coaching session and ad-hoc advice sourced from club members, books and videos, and the internet. A handful each year go to the open residential courses at Lilleshall. Imagine if you had completed a six-week beginner’s judo course, graduated, and were sent on your way with a: “Great. Now go and make it to black belt on your own.”  That’s the reality of archery tuition for most of the UK.

the lift

Luckily, someone finally realised the pent-up demand for archery in the capital and opened, in 2015, the wonderful Archery Fit in Greenwich, on the river east of the city centre. It is the first and so far the only dedicated commercial indoor range in the country where you can book a slot any time they are open, and they provide something else which is almost unique in the UK: bookable coaching, usually in small groups of just two or three. 

Roman and Kate, the transplanted Russians who built and run Archery Fit, aren’t keen on stick-flinging. Everyone who comes to the club gets taken under their wing, but it’s very clear this is not the casual, pinging-away pastime atmosphere of many UK clubs. It’s a place to learn how to be an archer. In a gleaming, modern basement with plenty of light and space, they have built a club with atmosphere and style. There is an emphasis on formal, well-trained shooting with full warmups, but they’ve managed to keep a sense of humour about the place too.

By accident or design, there’s a lot of recurve barebows around, although beginners are encouraged to try all bowstyles.  It’s seen a few luminaries since it’s been open: Vic Wunderle, whose shirt now hangs on the wall, and Natalia Avdeeva have made appearances. There’s a strong community spirit, and all levels at the place made a successful trip to the indoor nationals last year. I love my club and I’ll be there forever, but I feel like I’m part of this place now too.

I have a coach. It feels odd just saying it. Kate Zalyubovskaya is a former Russian national champion. There is no doubt about what needs to be done.  She saw what I had brought, and shook her head. Since December, she has rebuilt my recurve shot from a hotpotch of inherited ideas and oh-maybe-I’ll try-this into a formal, strong, upright delivery. There’s no hiding place. She spots everything; the tucking in of the head, a push out of the chest, even the tiniest pop of the fingers on release. Nothing is missed. I’m getting used to the wry smiles, and the cries of “elbow… head… focus…hold it!”.

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Better than that, with regular coaching I’m starting to figuring out what could be wrong before the arrow has left the bow; coming down and resetting rather than just letting it fly. The more garbage shots you can leave on the line, the better.

There’s some way to go, but I no longer feel like I’m struggling with the bow, like it’s something I can’t control. The draw is starting to feel like I’m charging something with magic. The fourth or fifth arrow in a training end is still clumsy, but the first three are starting to fly confidently, with a snap. There are few things more satisfying than a consistent strong draw, releasing with confidence and hitting something like the mark, and the cyclical building of confidence that comes with that.

More than that: I want to go and shoot now. I want to be there. I see it coming closer now. Being an archer, without that sense of feeling like an imposter. I know I’m not Tokyo 2020 material, but there’s some other goals that could be set. I’m not even scoring yet – coach says that’s further down the line – but I’m kind of itching to start. It’s part of me again, and you can take the confidence away with you. It’s something even more special that I remembered.


Joining forces!

6 January, 2017


So it’s all change for 2017. Me and Dean Alberga are joining forces under the Dutch Target banner.

I’ve been working with Dean on various international events for a couple of years now, and he’s been the same absolute gent that many of you have met over the years. We are both running archery blogs, and it seemed a little odd to be working at cross purposes, as it were, so, after a fair bit of discussion, we’ve decided to meet in the middle and create something even bigger and better.

The blogging will be under Dutch Target, but the Facebook page is staying the same, and The Infinite Curve will remain up with everything still there. Most importantly (haha), I’m staying the same – am going to continue to provide independent coverage for archery. I’m very glad so many of you have enjoyed what I’ve done so far, and I’ll carry that on just as long as I’m able.

I’m really looking forward to this new venture in such a big year for archery and looking forward to seeing where it leads. I hope you are too! John x

New year, new Urban Archery

31 December, 2016

Patrick Huston, recurve archer and Olympian for TeamGB has plans. Big plans. He’s been working on a concept called Urban Archery, a ‘real life video game’ involving foam-tipped arrows, pop-up enemies, and shooting all your friends. It’s kind of urban field archery, wth crazy angles and making extraordinary shots possible. Let him explain it to you right here:



You can watch the other promo video here. The first Urban Archery centre is planned to be open in a warehouse in Manchester early next year. It’s going to target recreational gamers, “people who are more used to playing Call Of Duty than getting off the sofa”.

That’s not all. There’s plans for an elite ‘X-Games’ version called UrbanXArchery. That’s not all either. There’s plans for an archery festival involving music and food as well early in 2017. There’s plans for TV. It’s lucky Patrick has a lot of energy. He’ll need it.

Have a look at the Crowdfunder page here, which explains a lot more of what’ll be going on. You can get behind it in a more concrete way:


This is obviously a massive project, but with a great deal of potential for a broad sell to all sorts of people who would never take up target archery.  Has it got what it takes? I hope so.



29 December, 2016

Photo: Guardian / Ricardo Stuckert


Photo: Guardian / Ricardo Stuckert

Just before Christmas, the UK Guardian published some striking images from Brazilian photographer Ricardo Stuckert of an uncontacted Amazonian tribe, taken from a helicopter.

There are just a handful of uncontacted tribes left on the Earth, and the number is shrinking every year. The definition of ‘uncontacted’ is wide; usually certain groups are known to exist locally, and may even trade with others, but do not emerge from their territory. Given the history of uncontacted people making contact with the developed world, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, it’s not surprising; unresistant illness, assimilation, and murder are likely outcomes, at least historically.


Photo: Guardian / Ricardo Stuckert

The reason they are in here, of course, is that they are wielding bows. Not just as sport or relaxation, or recreational hunting – as a matter of life or death, as a fundamental tool that has to be understood, learned and respected. It’s easy to forget the origins of that most human of objects.

Across the Atlantic, you can read about the Sentinelese, an ‘uncontacted’ tribe of legendary hostility living on an island in the Indian Ocean, luckily now left in peace by the rest of the world. Probably the most isolated of pre-Neolithic tribes of all, no-one in the world outside the island can speak their language, but legends tell of the accuracy of their flatbow, only occasionally photographed, usually with the business end pointing at the photographer. In 2006 Sentinelese archers killed two fisherman who were fishing illegally near the island. An Indian Coast Guard helicopter that was sent to retrieve the bodies was driven off by Sentinelese warriors, who fired a volley of arrows.

You may love your bow, but It’s as well to remember that for a handful of people, quietly and proudly living on the same planet, the bow and arrow remain not just part of their identity, but part of their very existence.

Read more about uncontacted peoples here. 



Chang Hyejin wins… again.

22 December, 2016


Copyright: MK

Chang Hyejin, the Rio double gold medallist, has won yet another award, this one first prize at the 2016 MBN Women’s Sports Grand Prix, this following on from her award for Female Sportsperson of The Year last month. She’s also opened up to the media about her plans for Tokyo – and getting married.

Despite her comments below about feeling awkward, from the pics that are coming out it looks like she’s been waiting a long time to glam up and take the spotlight. This, of course, follows her excellent turn in Korean Vogue a couple of months ago. Enjoy.


The big star is Chang Hyejin, nicknamed ‘Chang Kong’, who has been transformed from obscurity to star by winning the double gold in Olympic archery.

Her cute appearance and her witty interview style when she stated that gold medals at individual divisions tasted like chocolate pies and that gold medals at team divisions tasted like rainbow coloured cotton candy, gave her the spotlight.

“I think I won’t be forgetting this year since I’ve received such a big prize.”

She won the highest honour at the ‘2016 MBN Women’s Sports Grand Prize’ ceremony held at Lotte Hotel in Sogong-dong, Seoul on 19th December, but was still shy. Hyejin, in her fancy pearl dress stated, “I laugh and smile a lot usually, but I thought I was going to die out of awkwardness and uncomfortable feelings when taking pictures in the dress.”


Copyright: MK

Hyejin took photos with her fans well after the awards ceremony and showed a reluctance to be a ‘star’. “I still use public transport, but, I get autograph requests in restaurants from time to time.”

This attitude is the reason Chang has played a pivotal role in gaining fame in 2016. Four years ago she did not go to the London Olympics after being ranked fourth in the representative tournament, but made third place in the year and eventually found her archery potential was blossoming.

When asked about the year-end and New Year plans, Hyejin said, “I started winter training last week, and I think I will probably return over Christmas and train.”

“As I’ve expressed that I’d want to write a new page in history, I won’t have any time to rest in 2017. The national archery team that will meet will be selected again, both the coaching staff and the athletes. Olympic gold medalists are no exception”

“The Olympics are already over. Just because a person has been at the top of the world once,  that skill rusts over time. As time goes on, my goal for participating in Tokyo is becoming crystal clear.”

Hyejin will try to make the team for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, and if she wins a gold medal in the individual event would become the first individual archer to defend a title in history. 

Chang will be 30 years old in 2017. Being currently single, she expressed, “I don’t feel ready to marry anyone right now, but I get anxious that it might be too late to marry someone by the time the Tokyo Olympics are over. Two consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games are a dream, but I have other dreams too”, she explained, shyly. 

Hyejin, who once said that gold medals taste like ‘chocolate cookies’ in Rio, is still hungry for more. “I am trying to accomplish successive individual golds, marriage, and kids all at once. I suppose I want to taste other flavours as well, but I’ll know when I actually taste it.” she said, smiling. 

Copyright: MK

Original news articles by Sport MK, and can be found here and here.  Thanks to Sooji Kim for additional translation.



What does it say on Choi Misun’s quiver?

16 December, 2016

Choi Misun Quiver card

Choi Misun’s quiver card

Was looking through the year’s photos, and I noticed this from the Odense World Cup final in Denmark. It’s a laminated card attached to Choi Misun’s quiver. Either I’d not noticed it before, or it was new – either way, I zoomed in voyeuristically for a shot.
This week I asked a Korean friend to translate what it says on it.  It’s weirdly simple:

1. Hold the left grip
2. Aim accurately
3. Maintain the bow arm until the end when shooting
4. Have trust and shoot confidently!

I guess that’s all it takes to be the world number one. Unless she’s trolling everybody? :)

You can have a look at what it says in Ki Bo Bae’s notebook here.  What does it say in yours?



13 December, 2016

A sweet Rio postscript: this (above) is Raquel Lucena and her daughter Zahra, who at the Rio Paralympics were a very vocal presence supporting Zahra Nemati, who you will remember shot in both the Olympics and Paralympics for Iran, taking a gold medal in the latter.

Raquel sent me a rather nice message and some pictures today saying that her “little Zahra” had started taking archery lessons with Renato Emilio, the Brazilian archer that competed in four Olympics for Brazil from 1980-1992. She says “I wish she could know that little Zahra and I are practicing archery with her in our hearts!!!”. (I’ll try and let her know).

Yeah, that’s what it’s all about. Right there. :)


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designs from the Olympic Museum

7 December, 2016

the Olympic flame

In Lausanne at the weekend I visited the Olympic Museum, one of the town’s best known attractions, in the home of the IOC. There’s not much dedicated archery material apart from the bow Zhang JuanJuan used to win the women’s individual title in Beijing, but it isn’t really about sport-specific stuff. If you are interested in the Olympics generally I recommend a visit if you’re in that part of the world.

My favourite part was the section dedicated to Olympic design and communication. One of the most popular posts I have ever put up here was the the piece I did about Olympic pictograms, which still quietly ratchets up thousands of views every year.

Outside archery I have an extensive interest in design and typography, and the best Olympic design work is enormously influential on spreading ideas about visual design, as well as becoming part of national identity and collective memories, shaping global perceptions for decades to come. I still think the clean, modern ‘Swiss’ work done in the late 60s and early 70s remains particularly strong.

The designs for the first two Japanese Games – Tokyo ’64 and Sapporo ’72  – were exceptionally good. I really hope that whoever is on the case for 2020 delivers something that matches them.

There’s plenty of resources about Olympic design on the web, I recommend Adam Harris’s Pinterest page as a good jumping off point.




that radio is awesome








Awesome Mexico ’68 dresses, actually worn by some of the volunteers!