Aiming for the bull's-eye in archery and beyond

Updated: Dec 09, 2018, 11:08 IST | Anju Maskeri | Mumbai

As two archery enthusiasts roll out classes in the city, we sign up for one, and return with lessons that go beyond the sport

mid-day writers try their hand at archery. As exercise, we are asked to pull the string back and hold. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
mid-day writers try their hand at archery. As exercise, we are asked to pull the string back and hold. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

It's not advice that I normally dish out, but to help you focus, imagine your boss on the centre of the board," jokes instructor Himanshu Bhatia as we hold the bow, draw the taut string and aim for the inner golden circle. For better or for worse, the arrow misses the target. After all, archery, like any other sport, requires practice, patience and a clear mind, before everything else.

Get the stance right
We are on the second floor of Khar's Kid's Club, where since April aspiring Hawkeyes have been gathering every Sunday to practise the game. The sessions are helmed by Bhatia, a computer engineer, and Hussein Pitalwala, who runs a furniture setup along with a bow-arrow manufacturing business on the side. Together, they make for a robust team. Interestingly, the duo also taught the sport to actor Sushant Singh Rajput while he was prepping for a role. It's a trivia they don't like to advertise, but end up spilling during a freewheeling chat.

mid-day writers try their hand at archery. As exercise, we are asked to pull the string back and hold. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

For us, though, there's no covert agenda, except a keen desire to get a sense of the sport that has, for long, held intrigue. As a child, it began with watching Robin Hood fight for justice in Sherwood forest with his merry men, and evolved into adulting with episodes of Game of Thrones. Turns out, we aren't alone in our fascination. The participants (above 10 years) range from starry-eyed teens to senior citizens who simply want to learn for the love of the sport. "It began with three students, and now it's into double digits," says Bhatia, adding that they never allow the class strength to go above 15. "We want to focus on each student."

Nostalgia and glam quotient aside, it's a game that is harder than we imagined. It requires core muscle strength, which means you need to be able to draw your bow and hold steady. Our class begins with simply getting the form and technique right. The first 30 minutes is spent in understanding how to stand and hold the bow. The bow — an ambidextrous takedown recurve with a draw weight (power) of 30 lbs — feels formidable, and there's a tendency to hold it with your dear life. But Bhatia tells us to be gentle. "Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Weight should be even on both feet and your body needs to be at a 90-degree angle to the target," he instructs. The target stand is 15 feet away.

Instructors Himanshu Bhatia (left) and Hussein Pitalwala
Instructors Himanshu Bhatia (left) and Hussein Pitalwala

Hang in there
It takes constant reminding to ensure that when the arrow is on the dent of the recurve bow and the string is stretched, our index finger is placed above the arrow, with the middle and ring fingers below the arrow. "Don't begin by worrying about hitting the target. Just relax and shoot," he adds. We obey. Much to our delight, the arrow hits the inner part of the blue strip. That's where the beginner's luck ends. Our eventual arrows are embarrassingly off mark. But, our newly inducted intern turns out to be rather good at it right away. "You know the best part about the game is that you are only competing against yourself. It's your me-time," says Pitalwala. What also makes it a leveller is that anybody can do it, including the differently-abled.

As the 90-minute class progresses, Pitalwala's words ring true. The sport gets smoother, more fun and strangely liberating. Our muscles open up. By the end of it, we are nowhere close to mastering the game, but have learnt a lesson or two. Most important being, training our mind to focus on the present.

Where: Kid's Club, Kamla Global Academies, 11th Road, Near Madhu Park, Khar (West)
When: Every Sunday from December 16, 4 pm
Entry: Rs 3,200 for eight classes
Call: 9869602843

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