Category: Eagle Thoughts

Don Quixote’s Malaysian Adventure

My team-mate Pak Ajib and me (like him, many competitors were decked out in their traditional finery)

I had planned to just take part in competitions in Singapore and West Malaysia this year. I felt that it would be enough to keep this quixotic old archer sufficiently busy. When Coach Ali, our club’s good friend, recently invited me to join his club, Simply Archery, for a competition in Johor State on the 8th of April, at a venue a mere 15 minutes’ drive across the border, I gladly accepted it.

It was jointly (and very well) organized by the Archery Club of the states of Johore and Pahang at a school field near the Johor Zoo. About 10 archers led by Coach Ali went across and all of us took part on the traditional bow category. It was a quite a big event with about 200 archers taking part, divided approximately equally between the traditional and modern barebow categories. There were many local barebow clubs taking part. From the different club T shirts worn, I think there were maybe as many as 15 clubs.

The number of targets, a mix of 2D and 3D targets was also quite large, 22 in all. Participants had to do one round of 4 arrows at each station/target.  The novelty targets were interesting and we could borrow some of the ideas. For example, there was a station where the targets were hung empty plastic bottles which unless they were hit squarely, the arrow will not pierce and will just glance off. Few archers managed to register a hit. I was one of the lucky ones at that station. There were also swinging plastic foam balls at another station.

Me with the Simply Archery Team having a simple roti canai (prata) breakfast

I thought that I had a chance to get a top 10 to 15 placing as I had done well at local competitions, having received prizes at the very first two attempts at traditional bow competitions in Singapore. However, the Malaysians were very good traditional archers and I ended up number 48 out of about 90 competitors in the category. It turned out that I was only a mere kampong (village) champion.

But I had a lot of fun, with lots of opportunities to chat with the Malaysian archers because many wanted to know who this old Chinese man that Coach Ali had brought along was.

Don Quixote


My Recent Primitive Bow Archery Experiment

It all began with the club deciding to organise a bare-bow competition recently and we also decided to include this fast growing category, the primitive bow a.k.a. traditional-historical bow category. I agreed to liaise with the clubs that we knew had large numbers of such archers that we planned to invite.

Then I decided……. “why not take part too and enjoy a new experience?” So I got myself a what I suppose, is an Arabian Bow (it had some Arabic words inscribed on it). It is a small, light bow, so it’s probably a horse-bow, too.

This category of bow does/must not have a shelf or a window so the arrow is rested on the bow and the hand acts as an arrow rest. As a result, the arrow goes to the left when released if you are a right handed archer and are placing the arrow to the left side of the bow, like I do.

Canting the bow to the right
Canting the bow to the right

I found that I had to cant the bow to the right, in order to compensate for the tendency for the arrow to go left as well as to ensure that the arrow does not slip off the bow and the bow hand. I also found that the amount of canting needed, differed at different distances from the target. I found that I had to cant more the further the distance to the target. This was made worse for my learning curve as we were having an ‘unknown distance’ shoot.

I found out that the way to shoot the bow was to go instinctive or at least semi-instinctive, rather than to try to draw, hold and aim and to ensure ‘everything is right’ then release, like one would do with a regular recurve bow or a modern bare-bow.

But as I was practising, the one thing that I could not get or feel ‘instinctive’, was the tension on the string when using a glove. Even changing to a more thinly padded glove didn’t give sufficient ‘feel’.

Drawing the bowstring with Bare Fingers
Drawing the bowstring with Bare Fingers

So one day, I decided to shoot with bare fingers and found an immediate improvement. Now everything is instinctive, the gap, the cant and the feel of the string (which helps determine how much to draw).

I read up a bit on shooting with bare fingers and there were comments about how the string could twist less when released with bare fingers. I would add that the extra feel also allowed me to place the string more to the tip of the fingers (I shoot split fingers) so that the release is more instant and smoother. With a glove or a finger tab, I tend to place the string a little inwards (being afraid that it would slip) so that there tended to be a bit of finger hooking.

I had slightly more than three weeks to get familiar with this new form of archery. I seem to be shooting almost as well (or badly) as with a modern traditional bow after a while and was enjoying it. It was almost like back in the kampong (malay term for village) days shooting a catapult. Everything instinctive. That was the fun. And I did pretty OK on the day of the competition too.

I hope this ranting is of some use to my fellow traditional bow archers and those who wish to take it up.

– contributed by Don Quixote

…… the way, Don Quixote landed 2nd Prize in the Traditional-Historical Bow category at our 24th September 2016 Invitational Competition. A rather good result!!! We are waiting for him to go on a fully primitive bare-skinned shoot sometime 😛 – Editor

Archer’s Musings

Some sagely thoughts from our Mads, Founder of the Eagles Barebow Chapter.


I don’t always get what I want. Since I am not 2, I shall not lay on the floor and throw tantrums. I shall remember these notes to myself, keep trying and enjoy the journey.


  1. Don’t over-analyse

Overthinking the steps to a release, to whether the right form has been achieved and whether the aim is at gold, for example, slows the archer and leads to the arrow creeping forward as the draw weakens. Finally, a rushed and botched release follows.

2. Go back to basics every so often

It is easy to get frustrated when things don’t go right. One sure way of getting back on track is to reread the tips on form that were so helpful when you started. Takes a few moments but clears the cobwebs in the mind.

3.  Use the right equipment

Archery is not weight lifting or bodybuilding; it is a sport requiring precision much like darts or shooting. You don’t hear of dartsmen bragging about how heavy their darts are so why do some target archers go for heavy poundages that they can’t handle and which they can hit targets with when they are the size of cows?

4. Fight target panic

It takes a lot of time and mental strength to overcome and one frequent symptom is the way the bow arm locks up before the arrow is aligned to the target, leading to a premature release. Apparently, professional help is required to fully overcome this neurological deficiency.

5. Maintain consistent timing and aiming

Possibly another neurological defect is not being able to maintain consistent timing and aim. In a quick release, the eye sees down the shaft of the arrow. As the draw is held, the eye focuses on the tip of the arrow. The angles being different, the shot will go higher in the quicker release and lower in the slower release. Consistent timing probably leads to consistent aiming.

6. Steady with the bow arm

Sometimes, the bow arm is too relaxed and is noticed only after the release. The shot goes off and the bow arm is thrown, usually upwards or leftwards.

7. Keep calm and carry on Ignore your fellow competitors and focus on your own game. Easier said than done. Most of us report pounding hearts and cold hands and feet in competition. Some competition venues seem to turn on a rush of cold air when it’s your turn to shoot.

8. It’s good to shoot with better archers

It spurs you on and you learn a lot more. That said, it is also good to shoot with poor archers. You learn as much from the former as the latter.


A great thrill of archery is seeing one’s arrow launch, cut gracefully through space, land smack on some far target. And being part of a club that has a physical training ground does wonders for archer’s sanity, otherwise an archer could easily find himself shooting cross-eyed at the living room wall.

This Lynx has been fortunate enough to rest her feet and found good company at the current TBAC… and be in Singapore.

Only in Singapore, one can hop onto the public train service and emerge 10min walk to 70m outdoor archery range, or in some cases, land at a bus stop right outside the range itself. Take another 5 min walk and one would be greeted by markets, food centers, neighborhood shops and if lucky, even a shopping mall.

Dinner and movie date after shoot? sure can do. Just leave the gear in a locker in the mall and be free to roam about. If one is at TBAC, just take a short bus ride and one could, very easily and possibly, be on the next cruise to Indonesia or Malaysia.

Cool yeah? lynx thinks so too.

Singapore is also known as the Garden City… and one would think archers here get to shoot amongst the lilies and banyan trees, accompanied by birdsong and tea. Ah.. that’s actually is a nice thought…

Fact is, every inch of this urban garden is worth its weight in gold. The pressure on land space is so high that one would not find anymore, any spot on the island whose future for the next 10 years unplanned.

Co-existing in such tight areas, it is not uncommon for public curiosity to turn into police attention – Lynx had that personal experience while running fun-shoots for the community which was featured on the local citizen-journalism website discussing the dangers and legality of doing an archery shoot in an area where human traffic is so high.

Range space often have a lifespan between 2-5 years and whatever endures beyond this timespan are compact setups located in the heart of residential estates.For a long time now, local archers have lamented the lack of a permanent shooting facility. Not just as a home for the competitive national athletes, but a base from which the sport can be promoted as well along with a practical approach to public engagement and talent nurturing.

A dream? Maybe. Singapore is also known for aggressive land reclamation. With new soil, maybe just maybe, hope still exists for that dream.

Bow Weight Screw Leads to Master Tradesman

Gillo Screw (640x488)I lost a screw from my Gillo G1 riser bow weight, a rather small and uncommon mushroom head hex key screw that you will not find in your normal hardware shop. Our techie, Ex Machina was nice enough to try and find me some but they were too long. Hence, I anxiously searched the internet and found a local screw stockist called Pan Sun Hardware,  located at Block 803 King George’s Avenue.  This excursion to look for a tiny screw warrants a telling.

King George’s Avenue has an old world 1960s – 70s feel about it, a fast disappearing facet of post independence Singapore. I had brought my riser along to the shop and eyed one of the attendants behind the counter who just finished talking to another customer. After getting his attention, I unsleeved my riser and pointed to the screw that I needed….. with an economical “Do you have this?”. This guy nonchalantly asked me to remove the screw so that he could have a closer look. What happened after that is what I would call an amazing experience.

He held the screw head between his right hand thumb and index finger, then twirled the treaded end on his left thumb – eyes half closed with a distant and meditative look. I thought – “Oh my, he seems to be feel-measuring the screw without any tools… no calipers!” Quietly he asked, “Same length?” I nodded in the affirmative.

He put down the screw and walked into one of the rows of shelves at the back of the store, columns and columns of trays stacked neatly to the ceiling. There must be hundreds of small trays. He stopped near the front, reached out above his head and proceeded to pull out one of the trays, hesitating for a moment before removing it from the shelf. He brought the tray towards the counter and fingered the screws in there before picking one out to hand to me. “Try this”, he said. It looked right to me the moment he passed the object over and I popped it into the riser weight, giving it a few turns to lock with a tiny hex key. It fitted perfectly and looked indiscernible from the “original” screws.

I beamed at him and he was smiling too. “How many?” he asked. I only needed one but hell, “Eight”, I said and then “How much?” $3.20!” came the quick reply. I stood there silently for while, taking in what I had just seen this fellow do. “Why don’t I take 10 pieces then, easier for both of us.” A smile of acknowledgement then, “$4!”. He quietly packed 10 screws into a little plastic packet, stapled it securely before handing it to me. I paid, nodded and left….. reflecting. The transaction was over in less than 5 minutes.

I had just witnessed a Master of his Craft. No computer, no referencing of the catalogue, no checking of the stock level, no measuring instrument to check for or verify the size. Everything he did was carried out with economy, internalized and intuitive. He had everything mapped within his mind and perhaps his soul. What a marvelous tradesmen………..  now he reminds me of the mechanic who was described in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. A happy day, yet a sad day for me because such artists are rarely made and soon, perhaps never.