Category Archives: not really archery

Countdown to Vegas: 12 days to go

29 January, 2018


“I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have.” – opening line of Andre Agassi’s autobiography.

I don’t hate doing archery. For the first time in a long while. The self-doubt fog is lifting. Lucky, lucky me. I have time to go and shoot, although it’s being fitted around a million and one other things. And things are going…. OK. I mean…

yes, I know the Vegas ones are different, don’t @ me

… you know, I’m not going to be worrying Brady Ellison come Saturday week, but they’re all landing on the face, right? Which makes a marked change from my last international tournament. It’s like, I have some kind of a shot, and can deliver it down range, but I’m still a bit short of the reserve strength to handle it and get that kind of consistency towards the middle.

But it’s looking better than it has, ever. Archery Fit in Greenwich, who I’ve written about before,  have been helping me down the road with some amazing coaching, as usual. I sense I’m keeping occasional pace with the better club recurves, rather than being a few minutes behind the peloton as usual. I can smash up gold paper with the best of them at 18m.

I start eyeing up the fun bits of Vegas on the internet, wondering what I’m going to do when not destroying the middle. This is gonna be goooood. 

Of course, this all goes well for several sessions, until a relatively stressful Sunday and a long and tiring Monday leaves me arriving at the range feeling empty and rattled. There’s a often repeated maxim, apparently attributed to Fred Bear, which goes like this:

I’m really sorry, but this is complete and utter bullshit. Unless old Fred shot blank boss all the time. Your mileage may vary, but for me it’s literally the opposite situation; nothing reveals and reflects a troubled, tired mind quite like shooting a bow at a target, amplifying the struggles and marking out distraction with numerical clarity. There’s loads of things I love doing to clear a troubled mind: walking on a beach, cooking risotto, listening to Eliane Radigue – but archery isn’t one of them. It increases my stress levels if they’re up there already.

What’s wrong? I can’t hit a barn door today. I rip the Vegas three-spot down and put up a piece of golden yellow A4 paper folded in half (an Archery Fit trope, apparently originally borrowed from rifle shooting drills). Today, I can barely hit that either. I have no energy and precious little willpower. I want to throw the bow across the room. Of course, I should just stand at a blank boss, but my ego – the one that was doing so well last week – won’t let me. Eventually I give up and put it all back in the case and stomp off to get a beer and the train home.

A couple of hours later, I’m thinking: maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. And I didn’t eat properly, or plan the day right, or stop for a moment and breathe. It’s part of being human, though, right? Huh.

God I hate archery. Tomorrow will be different.

It has to be.


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!

“The important thing is getting up. Right back up.”

11 September, 2016

carioca 3

Carioca Arena 3

You know what judo gives you? Learning how to get up after a fall. Judo, you take a lot of falls. You take falls every morning, every night. But the important thing is getting up. Right back up.” – Dartanyon Crockett

So I had an additional, last-minute gig at the Paralympics: covering the three days of judo competition at the Carioca 3 arena in the Olympic Park, over 40km from the Sambodromo and the arrows.

Judo throw 2

Miguel Viera (POR)

Judo at the Paralympics is only contested by visually-impaired athletes. Athletes are classified B1, B2 or B3, with B1 indicating total or almost total blindness and B3 athletes with around 10% vision, but all classifications fight together and are only separated by weight class.

SWE judokas 1

Swedish judokas

The rules are mostly identical to Olympic judo, the main difference being that competitions start with each judoka gripping the other’s jacket (a position known as ‘kumikata’). Fights last five minutes, four for women, and you can win with a spectacular ippon move that slams your opponent on their back or by tiny minor moves (yuko) or penalties (shido) for your opponent. (Yeah. I’ve been schooled this week.)

It can be slow, lumbering and attritional, punctuated by tense back-and-forths, or incredibly high-speed, twisting and violent, and there’s rarely a clue as to what you’re going to get by looking at people. Sometimes it can take ten or more minutes with the clock stopping, but the very last fight of all lasted just two seconds.


There’s a double repechage system, which awards two bronze medals, and basically means if you make it to the quarter or semifinals and lose, you get at least one more fight and a shot at a bronze. I muse more than once on whether this should be applied to international archery, and whether it would mean more or less Koreans dominating things.


Samuel Ingram of GBR about to go on

There’s a deep current in judo of respect for your opponent, woven right into the fabric of the sport. Bowing first and last. Even when you’ve lost, horribly.  Mesmerising. And three days it’s been full, here. Eight thousand seats, and the last day, featuring legendary Brazilian Paralympian Antonio Tenorio, completely sold out. He didn’t quite cap his career with gold, but taking silver means he has remained on the podium for a staggering 24 years. I got to shake his enormous hand.


Carmen Brussig

“You start when you are little. You grow up with judo. What does it mean? You’d have to ask me in five years. I live judo, all day, every day, all around the clock. You have to be strong in life. If you’re not strong in life, you can’t do judo. You have to be clever.” – Carmen Brussig

Makoto Hirose of Japan got a silver medal, the day before his wife Junko got bronze. After I’d finished speaking to him, he bowed to me, a very deep, full respectful Japanese bow. Mate, I should be doing that to you.


Makoto Hirose, daughter, every Japanese photographer ever

“What I would like to emphasise the most is that judo is not just a physical exercise; it has a mental side too. I would like to tell young people that judo is a good way to grow up, to be a good human being.” – Makoto Hirose

I got to speak, at training, to Dartanyon Crockett, the USA judoka with a fascinating life story. Built like a truck. Took a bronze, the least he deserved.

It’s rotten, but you almost get used to Paralympic narratives; the overcoming of circumstances, the triumph of will, the ‘I hope to inspire other people’. But this lot were less like that. They were first and foremost judokas, not para-athletes. The devotion was firmly to the sport, in which sight might not be the most important sense anyway.

“Judo gives you a lot of things, but it’s hard to explain what. It’s something you have to live. It becomes your life.” – Ramona Brussig

I left the arena after three days floored with respect for everything; the athletes, the crowd, the moves. It was beautiful to see another martial art so tightly wound into people’s lives. It’s a bit late for me to take up judo, but I kind of wish I had.

Tokyo 2020 logos: still some work to do?

14 April, 2016

Original logo designer Kenjiro Sano. Pic via Inside The Games.

Last year a furore erupted over the logo design for the Tokyo 2020 games, which was eventually withdrawn over claims that it had been plagiarised. I retain a sneaking suspicion that it was withdrawn not because it infringed the copyright of an obscure Belgian theatre company, but because it was really, really awful.  I wrote a longish, ranty blog post about exactly why so in July last year.

Certainly the glare of public opinion was not kind, but the London 2012 logo received similar levels of stick, and they stuck that one out. Given the loss of face involved – a huge deal in Japan – the decision to yank it must have been agonising.

Since that debacle, the organising committee held an open public competition to design a new pair of logos for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Anyone resident in Japan could enter, and nearly 15,000 people did. The four finalists, all currently anonymous, are below.

The reaction from Japan’s design community to the finalist designs has been spectacularly sniffy and condescending:

“Public submission seems more fair than a designer or agency picked by an elite, but the overall result will probably lack quality,” said Benjamin Thomas of Tokyo-based Bento Graphics, who said the logos on the shortlist fail to “immediately visually explain their concept”.

Another Tokyo-based designer, Ian Lynam of Ian Lynam Design, said the logos were “unprofessional in terms of structure, form and execution” and were more akin to “cartoons or caricatures”.

Designer Keiko Hirano said: “We must not fail to recognise that once again, the renewed competition will not be a reflection of the consensus of the Japanese people.”

Art director and the chairman of Japan Graphic Designers Association, Katsumi Asaba, told Sports Hochi said he preferred Sano’s effort as the new contenders were of a “really low level of design”.

This, of course, came hot on the heels of another, even bigger design row over the main Olympic stadium involving the late architect Zaha Hadid. After that, the organising committee made it very clear that they expected ‘Japanese-ness’ to be a big part of any design elements that were facing the public.

So here they are. What do you think? Personally I think that one is a lot stronger than the others. There’s a poll at the bottom. Choose one and let me know. Add a comment, why dontcha? And you can stick your oar in directly to the organisers here.

UPDATE: April 25th – the results are in:



A. Harmonized chequered emblem

Chequered patterns have been popular in many countries around the world throughout history. In Japan, the chequered pattern became formally known as “ichimatsu moyo” in the Edo period (1603-1867), and this chequered design in the traditional Japanese colour of indigo blue expresses a refined elegance and sophistication that exemplifies Japan.

Composed of three varieties of rectangular shapes, the design represents different countries, cultures and ways of thinking. It incorporates the message of “unity in diversity”. It also expresses that the Olympic and Paralympic Games seek to promote diversity as a platform to connect the world.


B. Connecting Circle, Expanding Harmony

“This design expresses the connection between the dynamism of the athletes and the joy of the spectators, and the expansion of peace and harmony throughout the world.
It seeks to encompass mental and physical strength, dynamic movement and speed, and the euphoric emotions that the world derives from outstanding athletic performances.
The design also expresses the respect and warm hospitality that will be accorded to visitors from around the world to the Tokyo 2020 Games.”


C. Surpassing One’s Personal Best

“These emblems were inspired by the traditional Wind God and the Thunder God, and seek to convey dynamic movement at the instant an athlete breaks the tape on the finish line. They also represent athletes as they endeavour to attain and surpass their personal best.
The Wind God and the Thunder God have been much loved by the people of Japan for centuries. (e.g. the famous painting by the early 17th century Japanese artist Tawaraya Sotatsu, and the statues of these Gods at the Kaminari-mon Gate in Tokyo’s Asakusa district)
In the original depiction, the taiko drums held by the Thunder God are represented by fireworks, while the Wind Cloth held by the Wind God is replaced by the portrayal of a rainbow to symbolise the concepts of peace, diversity and harmony.
The emblems also express the athletes’ continued contribution to peace through their mental and physical tenacity, and a connection to the future.”


D. Flowering of Emotions

“The morning glory flower as it faces up towards the heavens to greet the new morning, expresses the faces of athletes striving to attain a personal best and the bright faces of people as they applaud the athletes. The upward-looking morning glory also represents the climax of this range of emotions.
The seed of the morning glory sprouts, the vine grows, and the flower opens,—the process of the flower growing and eventually returning to seed conveys the sense of expectation for the Games and succession to the next generation.
This flower was particularly popular during Japan’s Edo period (1603-1867), and remains a firm favourite (e.g. as subject for “Ukiyoe” prints.)
It signifies a heightened sense of anticipation towards the 2020 Games and the warm welcome that visitors from around the world will receive.”


Quotes and pic via Inside The Games. Thanks.

how to multiply your time

29 January, 2016

Found on this post on Kelea Quinn’s excellent blog about archery, life and life hacking:

It’s not about throwing arrows down the range, but it’s about organising your life to be better – and the second thing helps lead to the first. Worth your time.

Best K-Pop Of 2015

18 December, 2015

Since I started writing about archery in 2012 I have developed a deep fascination with Korea. In 2015, me and Ms. Infinite Curve were lucky enough to finally go to Seoul and see for ourselves. Since that trip, we’ve never quite stopped looking up the latest in K-POP, the homegrown pop music of the Han peninsula. There are seemingly a million channels on Korean TV solely devoted to this vast industry, with so many bands that you sometimes wonder if K-POP is some kind of national service that all late-teens have to go through

K-POP is almost like Greek theatre; it follows a tiny set of rules, around which wild invention can spring. It is an eternally youthful world, a utopia of the young, fulfilling narrow roles and just occasionally, breaking out of them. It reflects a hierachical society, where artistic decisions are taken well apart from those chosen to execute them. It is, however, full of incredible creativity, flawlessly executed. Oh yeah, and the key words of the chorus are always sung in English. It’s just how it goes.

It’s manufactured, oh yes –  in the same way that network TV in the US is manufactured, vast teams of competing creatives in search of the gag that gets the biggest laugh. You don’t watch, say, Friends and think ‘wow, this isn’t reflecting the realities of flat-sharing in New York’. You enjoy the zingers, the interplay, the running jokes, the setups. You appreciate on one level or another, the work that has gone in – the precision manufacturing. You might try thinking of K-POP the same way. 

Unlike the decades of Western music and radio play that preceded it, K-POP is a purely audiovisual medium. Your appreciation of the following may depend upon your tolerance for squawking RnB hybrid bangers, bright colours, narrative videos, ridiculous costumery and youth. Always youth. And it’s spreading further round the world every year: you only have to look at the crowds that turned up in London to see girl group {fx} in 2015.

Anyway, here are our favourite tunes of 2015:

  1. Boys Republic – Hello

An epic mid-tempo ballad that wouldn’t have gone amiss on a mid-period Take That album, this nags at the heartstrings. Love the glycerine tears. Love them.

2.  Anda – Touch Official

It’s a bit easy to say this the ‘Korean Rihanna’, but if she is, damn is she good at it. Damn. 

3.  BIGBANG – Zutter

An offshoot of a larger boy band, this is K-HOP with a sense of humour. Bad boys out of their depth. Something like that anyway.

4.  TWICE – Ooh Ahh

Too many of them to count. Stands out with the belting 90s chorus. Stronger than the rest (and there’s plenty of ‘the rest’).

5. Red Velvet – Dumb Dumb

Big RnB belter with a title hook so nagging you’ll be singing it walking down the street. And again tomorrow. And the day after that. Incredible video, too.

6. Park Hyo Shin – Shine Your Light

I have to describe this one as ‘the Korean Sam Smith’. Really just an incredible song. Seriously, if Sam Smith banged some English lyrics on this soul burner, he’d have an(other) international hit. Hello? Sam? Are you listening?

7.  BTS – I Need U

One of the biggest hits of the year in Korea, this bunch of not-very-bad bad-boys have a superweapon chorus that will never leave you. I’m serious. You are stuck with it.

8.  KYUHYUN – The Day We Felt The Distance

Big ballad suitable for reality TV, but we really just love the one-shot video for this. Boy meets girl, boy forgets girl, girl remembers, snow, erm, something.

9.  Girls Generation – Catch Me If You Can

One of the biggest, and best.

10.  Neon Bunny – It’s You

A curio, this one – a K-Pop artist operating outside the management company / studio system. This fills a gap somewhere between fizzy indiepop and FKA Twigs. Recommended.

For more on K-POP and how it ‘works’, you might want to read this 2012 article by Spin magazine.


that’s one way to deliver a message

13 October, 2015

Apparently, at various times during Japan’s long history of military archery, messages once travelled through the air in the form of yabumi (literally: ‘arrow text’),  a folded letter attached to an arrow that acted as a speedy – if dangerous – message delivery service.

This echo of a distant age seems to still have a lot of resonance in Japan, and you can find the yabumi image of a lengthways-folded message tied round an arrow frequently used as a metaphor or a historical bit of fun.


Anyway, someone has revived this tradition using an arrow with a strong magnet on the end – no bow required – and you may be able to buy it here if you can negotiate the process in Japanese. Although it should be pretty easy to make your own, or borrow someone else’s plans.



More information here!

take my money already!

21 September, 2015