Wednesday, 5 September 2012


Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m the least sportiest person in the world. I’m not a runner; I fall on my face (could be something to do with being top-heavy). I used to do kickboxing - about 15 years ago. I’m not that person any more. I go through fads of going to the gym (in my actual residential block) three times a week. These fads last about three weeks. Then I get bored. I’m forcing myself to go each time, and it never gets easier. I don’t enjoy it, I go because I think I should. It makes no change to my weight or body shape, but that hardly matters. It’s just boring. Trainers, coaches, internet people - they will give you ‘new’ and ‘exciting’ workouts, but at the end of the day, it just doesn’t make any difference. It may as well be cooking or yoga or playing the piano - it just doesn’t grab me.

A few weeks ago, I’d had three weeks off work and found myself in need of distraction before I jumped off the balcony just to amuse myself. I appealed to the internet. I asked people to give me a sport that did not include all that running around bollocks, minimal interaction with teams or other sportspeople, that would be something worth concentrating on. Oh, and preferably included shooting something.

The answer I was given was ‘archery’. At first I laughed - why not just suggest walking on the moon or interpretative dance? But then I thought, if I can find a proper archery place here in Hong Kong, I may as well go and try it. I could cross it off my list of ‘trieds’ and get on with the long list of other hobbies I could attempt.

Imagine my surprise when I found, not only an Olympic-certified coach in Jordan, but also that the lesson was mind-bogglingly good. Not in a ‘Whoa, this is cool!’ kind of way, but in a way that made me book another lesson the following week, and discuss the possibility of joining in with the group meets - yes, groups of people! Me! In groups of people I do not know!

I think half of the attraction is that it’s a sport - with no running around. I’m tall, I’m wide, I’m a Victoria’s Secret 36DD, and anything that entails running around is not going to end well. Picture the Honey Monster trying to join in with a McDonald’s birthday party and the carnage that would ensue. There you have it. So there’s the non-leaping-about aspect. Then there’s the pressure of controlling your limbs and entire upper body, conditioning it to snap into the right shape and posture without thinking about it. That’s hard, and perhaps I’ll never get it right, but I can’t stop wanting to. It’s like that thing you can’t have so you want it even more. I hate giving up on anything (which explains my current obsession with getting my PS3 to stream from my iMac without stuttering), so there’s that. Oh, and the fact that you’re holding a loaded weapon and have certain protocols to follow so no-one gets a tip in the eye or fletching in the ear.

Then there’s the fact that, in the last 35 years, I’ve never actually appreciated that my right side exists. I’m left-eyed (and left-handed) so naturally, I should be drawing with my left hand with the riser in my right. However, due to my complete ineptitude and overall incompetence with all things right-sided, my left side is much more developed than my right. Which means, boys and girls, I have to bring that side - the dark side - up to the same level as my left. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? ...Jury’s still out on that one. Suffice to say, along with not being able to get arrows out of a hip-mounted quiver with my right hand (I actually started to reach around me to use my left, before I realised I already had a bow in that one), my actual nocking of an arrow needs some work. I can’t keep my fingers in the right places. Even at full draw. But hey, I’ll get it. Also? Checking your line of sight - and that your abnormally huge elbow muscle isn’t right in the way for a string attack - is really hard when you thought you only had one eye.

Exhibit A: Transcript of attempt to check lines of sight:

Coach: Lean your head in slightly until you can see all the way down the arrow. No, you moved your head too far. You shouldn’t need to--. Oh. You’re using your left eye. Use your other eye.
Me: Right. Yes. Got it.
Coach: Closing your left and opening it again does not make it your right. Close your left eye.
Me: Ok. Ready.
Coach: No, that’s your left eye. Close it.
Me: Ok.
Coach: No, that’s still your left. Ok - try this: close both eyes.
Me: Ok.
Coach: Now only open your right. [pause] No, your right. [pause] Your other right.
Me: This is my other right.
Coach: No, that’s still your left.
Me: Exactly - my other right.
Coach: [sigh] Ok, can I just put my hand--
Me: Do it, or I’ll never get this.
Coach: [gently guides my left eye shut. Holds it down. Other hand pulls up my right eyelid] There, see?
Me: Oh! That’s new! Oh hey - I have another eye!
Coach: [facepalm] Now we’ll try it again.
Me: With my new eye! Cool!
Coach: I can see we have a lot of work to do. [pause] Right, now. Feet - back, abs, shoulders. Drop your shoulder.
Me: That’s dropped.
Coach: Drop it more.
Me: I don’t think it drops any more than that.
Coach: Let me--
Me: Please.
Coach: [attempts to guide shoulder down] Oh. It doesn’t drop any more. What are you, a swimmer?
Me: You jest. Haven’t swum in 20 years.
Coach: Right, well. Anyway. Check your sight: elbow. Swivel it out so it’s not blocking your sight.
Me: Right.
Coach: Swivel it some more.
Me: Uhm... I don’t think it swivels any more than that. I’m really trying.
Coach: Let me--
Me: Please.
Coach: [attempts to guide elbow round] Oh. I see. It really doesn’t swivel any more. Cant the bow a little, draw your shoulder out. There. Compensation. Now: clear sight?
Me: Yes.
Coach: Release.

Apart from having weird elbows and long forearms, and not being able to grasp the concept of a side that isn’t my left, I think it went pretty well. Now I have a reason to go to the gym - proper areas to work on. Now the gym is simply a means to an end, and I have a compulsion to go. Everything screams ‘get it right this time, fuckwit!’. If I can sort my new side out by Christmas, I can change back to my real side and all will be balanced out and well.

So I suppose now I have a legitimate hobby. No, a sport.

Well I never.

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