Focus on... Archery

Omar Al-Mushadani

Archery is one of the oldest pursuits of mankind. Over the millennia, it has evloved from a skill used in hunting for food to a form of combat. Indeed, it played a pivotal role in the success of the English over the French at Agincourt and the conquest of much of Asia and the Near East by the Mongols in the Middle Ages. Today archery is a sport practised by people of all ages and abilities, both competitively and as a pastime. Its core requirements of accuracy and control under pressure are valued as much in the Modern Olympic Games as they were in the time of the Ancient Greeks. Few other sports can claim to have inspired the teachings of Zen Masters as they train their students to reach their goal of Enlightenment. For in arcchery, the mind can prove a greater adversary than any human opponent. Victory or defeat can hang on a hair's breadth and any faltering in your belief can lead to your downfall.

Just as the reason for pursuing archery have changed, so has the equipment. Arrows are now made from aluminium or carbon fibre and there are several types of bows. The most widely used bow is called the 'recurve', referring to the shape of the bow ends or 'limbs'. Other bows include the traditional longbow and the modern 'compound' design, resplendent with its system of pulleys and asymmetric cams. Although some bows are still made of wood, most people now shoot with handles made of metal and limbs made of advanced materials such as carbon, Kevlar, syntratic foam and ceramic laminations.

Despite the name, the Cambridge University Bowmen is a club for both genders and it specialises in target archery which involves shooting at a target from a known distance. Points are awared according to how close the arrow lands to the centre of the target. Archery is a Half Blue sport in Cambridge with the Varsity Match against Oxford dating back to at least to the 1950s. Besides this annual exchange, the club also competes in many other tournaments against other universities and public clubs. There are around forty university teams in the UK who shoot in the BUSA competitions and local leagues.

The club practises both indoors and outdoors all year round. After shooting 20 yards for the inddor season, the club moves outdoors to shoot at up to 90m in the Summer. The majority of memebers ony take up the sport upon becoming a student at university. Thus, the club actively encourages beginners and provides both equipment and coaching.

For more details about the sport visit the CUB website at or email us at

(The Cambridge Student, 08/11/2001)