My Archery Story
[A summarized version of my meaning behind this sport. I could write a book about it, but this is the jist of it. I leave lots of experiences out because there's just so much to cover, but I wanted to write about why archery is crucial to me, and what drives this passion of mine.]
Growing up in a broken family, my life ambition, my dream, was to one day have a healthy happy family of my own. This ambition was my driving force. One day, I achieved just that. I was married, a beautiful daughter, what more could I ask for but to begin the process of purchasing a home. Then, this came crashing down onto me, with the weight of lead, and the heat of a heart split open. I filed for divorce, not because I wanted to, but because I felt I had no choice. The level of uncertainty was too much, and I needed to take control. And I did. Why? Because when someone you love breaks your trust, the relationship is not the same anymore. Even when you attempt making things better. What's worse, is the anger and resentment towards betrayal that lingers around, unable to wash yourself of it.
This ordeal left a hole inside of me. Something was missing. Well, I knew what was missing, but I desperately tried things to fill that gap. I took Aikido for a while, I took up rock climbing, I went skydiving a few times, and even turned to God for help amongst other things. Then one day, Feb 15th, 2015 to be exact, the father of a girl whom I was dating at the time handed me a bow to try when visiting their home.
The moment I held that bow in my hand, I felt something unique. For whatever reason, I saw myself in a forest, snow everywhere, and a deer of sorts looking down myself. If there is such a thing as a past life, I'd say that the bow was part of whom I was. Crazy, I know, but it's what I felt, and my interest in archery was born.
That feeling I felt, when shooting that bow... could not escape me. I would go to work and think about the arrow flight, the string tension, and the thrill I got when hitting a bullseye. I researched and purchased my first bow.
My first bow, Arkiluth. Bear Super Kodiak Recurve
I would post photos of my archery experiences on Facebook, and it did not take long before friends took interest as well. So I purchased another bow, entry level, for them to practice with. I began sharing a new passion of mine with others.
Someone I knew shooting with a entry-level Sage Sammick bow. The second bow I purchase for friends to use.
Then, at some point, I come across an archery club, Everglade Archers, down in Homestead. I decide to visit them, along with my Super Kodiak Bow, and everything I learned from YouTube. I come across a small group of older guys (I'm talking about grey hair older guys) shooting longbow and recurve bows... so I introduced myself and was invited to shoot with them.
A group of older guys shooting the same kind of bow I was shooting.
I shoot with them, and on that day I learned just how terrible of an archer I was!! :) I kept missing, my shots were inconsistent, and it was nothing like shooting at Bass Pro (indoor range). After we were done, a short dark skin weird looking fellow approaches me and says, "Come, join me for a few minutes."
I turn to face the group, and some of them nod their heads, and I proceed. This guy takes me to one of the targets and says, "Ok, show me what you got." And so, I nock my arrow, draw, and I shoot. It must have been about 15 yards, and I thought I did pretty well. This guy then tells me the following, which to this day I won't ever forget. He says:
"So, are you trying to shoot like an archer, or are you trying to shoot like an asshole? Because what you are doing is NOT archery."
This guy teaches me things about form and follow-through that I haven't seen in any YouTube videos.
"But I saw some videos on YouTu..."
"FUCK YOUTUBE. Listen to me."
After 20 mins or so, I started noticing that my arrows began to fly a little more consistent, a little more predictable.
"Alright, I have to go, but keep doing what I told you to do, and maybe you'll start shooting like a real archer."
I walk back to the group, and one of them goes to me, "So how did it go?"
"Well, he taught me some things I didn't know about."
"Did you know Dana is a world champion?"
"The guy who just gave you a lesson."
I look down at my bow, look towards the target where I have just been practicing at, and go "Woah..."
Filling the Gap
That hole that I felt began to go away over time. Out of all the things I have tried in the past, archery is doing something to me that no other idea I tried has worked. Not even other relationships did to me what archery was doing to me.
I remember bringing my archery equipment to my car the morning I was heading to court to finalize my divorce. I went to the archery range after everything was signed and settled. I shot for hours, each arrow carrying a little bit of grief away from me. I went home that night with a sore back, arms, blisters on my fingers, and having lost all my arrows. It's difficult to aim when your eyes are blurred, and your breathing is erratic. A polar opposite of my composure in court. I was fortunate to have the range all to myself that day. I was in a state I did not want others to see me in.
Training under Dana
Soon after, I began to take archery a little more serious than just a sport to take the edge off. I asked Dana for training and mentioned that he would only train me if I were to commit to shooting often. I did and began showing up every weekend. While training I began to understand why Dana kept saying that my bow isn't an adequate bow and that I should consider changing it. I looked at Dana's bow, a long bow, and asked him..."What about that one?"
"Because it's stupidly expensive and hard to shoot. Stick with a recurve."
"What?! I don't care. How much?"
A few weeks pass and I bring it up again.
"I want a longbow, and I want to shoot wood arrows, and I don't care if it's expensive and I don't care if it's harder to shoot!"
He looks at me.
"Alright. It's [x] amount. It's a custom bow made specifically for each archer who orders one. It will take months to get here, and shooting with wood arrows with a longbow is a game changer. There is a reason why most young people don't shoot longbows, and it's because few have the will to stick to this style of shooting that will frustrate them to the point of giving up. Stick with recurve and have fun."
"Why does it takes a few months to get one?"
"Handmade by a guy in Estonia, and he's booked."
"And you know him?"
"Yes, I helped him design this bow." He raises his longbow towards me.
"Ok, I want one. How soon can we place the order?"
"I'll talk to him tomorrow. I'll let you know."
Sirsil. My longbow.
After a few months, my bow arrives. I chose the colors and moose antler bone for its centerpiece at the grip. I specifically asked the bowyer to inscribe a poem I wrote, to represent the journey this sport has put me through.
"A shadow of the self kept at bay by an arrow's flight."
The inscription symbolizes how archery helped me leave an old version of me behind. The me who was in pain. The me who was lied to. The me who's trust was betrayed. Whenever I shoot an arrow from this bow, I am reminded of who I was, and who I don't want to be. I uppped my training.
Competing in 2016 TBOF Tournament
I told Dana that I have a new ambition. A new goal in archery.
"What's that?" he says.
"To beat you in a tournament and as a reward, you give me your archery hat you've worn to win your tournaments!"
"Listen Sevilla, you won't ever beat me."
So to this day, I've joined about three competitions and lost... handily. Who cares about the other archers, my goal is always to win that archery hat at a sponsored tournament.
"You need to shoot more if you plan on beating me, not just on the weekends."
"Fine... I'll figure something out to practice more. I can't keep driving all the way down here to shoot more."
Shooting at home.
I went to Home Depot and picked up 2x4's to build myself a target a home. With this target, I am able to shoot throughout the week and put more hours in training. I'm going to win that stupid hat! Unfortunately... after a few more tournaments and sparring, I am still nowhere near where I need to be... but improving.
Training takes on a new skillset. Arrow making and fletching.
Top arrows for my daughter, lower ones for me.
Being that I am now a Longbow archer shooting wooden arrows, Dana showed me how to make the arrows. Or perhaps he got tired of making them for me as I kept breaking them while learning this style of archery.
After months of making arrows, I can honestly say that it's not a simple task and each one can take about an hour to make. Each arrow is sanded, stained, weighted, fletched, its resistance measured and tested. Some arrows are naturally not good and need to be tossed. The very nature of shooting with wood. No two arrows are the same (as opposed to shooting Carbon arrows where they are factory made with synthetic material). This kind of difference in variables between each wood arrow is what makes shooting wood arrows that much more difficult... but rewarding when executed correctly.
The Latest Sparring Match 6/10/18
As of this writing, I had a sparring match with Dana this past weekend. The shots were field targets, where we would shoot up to 80-yard targets. Dana, on multiple occasions, complimented my shooting and for more than half of the sparring match... I was beating him by 2, and at one point, 3 points! Unfortunately, towards the end, my shooting collapsed, and he was able to beat me by 5 points. No win yet. However, he did tell me that it's the best I've ever shot. It's also the closest I ever beat him in a sparring match. Slowly... getting there. He was right... it was the best I've ever shot thus far.
"You know Ricardo, I am not naturally talented."
"What do you mean?"
"I got to where I am today by practicing harder than most. Train harder. I want you to beat me at a tournament one day."
"I will beat you. You'll see."
What I bring with me when I go train at Everglades Archers.
A Broken Down Song
Parchment lies down flat.
A canvas for me to express through.
E-mailing, text messages, and even phone calls collapse.
Two echo voices of selfish views.
Closed off to other sounds.
A new approach to a broken down song.
An old way of writing.
Insecure choice of words.
By candlelight, dipping into Ink that personifies.
Pen nib caressing parchment, lightly scratching.
A flow of words and Ink.
The heart's way of expression.
Pauses between thoughts to feed pen.
Forced to introspect between sentences.
Brief interludes that feel like an eternity.
Dying each time.
Knowing the attempt is in vain.
But through this, a passion is born.
I was researching this evening the psychology and dynamics of relationships, specifically, the power struggle that usually occurs once it establishes itself after a certain period. While researching, I came across this image.
I stopped what I was doing and just looked at this image. I sat back in my chair and continued looking at it. I took a sip of water from the glass next to me, and my eyes were still focused on this image. What to think of it... what to think of it.
A warm smile came over me as I thought of my past relationships and even recent ones I've had that involved taller women. You see, I am a short man, so in a world where society deems a man be taller than a woman in a relationship, it was very refreshing to see something such as this break that mold. In an age where a man could marry a man, or a woman marry another woman, it seems prudent for me ask, why is this not more acceptable?
I remember my first crush in the 2nd grade. Her name was Gilda. The tallest kid in the class, taller than even all the boys and I was the shortest guy. Still, she spent her time with me, but I always felt weird, and I eventually pushed that friendship away. A few years ago I was curious to find out whatever happened to her. A year before finding out what happened to her, she passed away in a car crash.
In high school, I came across my first real love interest. Who could ever forget their first love? During lunch one day I sat next to my art class door entrance. The hall was empty; I was the only one sitting there. I had my notebook out, and I remember drawing a dragon. A magnificent looking beast! I drew in texture, intricate etching, even wisps of smoke across its nostrils. While drawing a girl stands next to me. I've seen her around school a few times. Again, one of the tallest students in the classroom. Slender, light skinned, blue eyes, and a golden white hair that just... captivated me. She was beautiful, and I felt nervous.
"What are you drawing?"
"Can I take a look?"
I hand over my notebook. Ready to make a great impression.
"Looks like crap. That's no dragon."
My blood turns cold. Who is this girl who hasn't introduced herself tell me my drawing looks like crap! She sits next to me, opens her backpack and takes out a sketchbook.
"Here. let me teach you how to draw a dragon."
I was upset and even insulted, but I stayed quiet, waiting to see what she does. She begins to sketch and within a few minutes I see one of the most REALISTIC looking dragon sketches I have ever seen! I remember being floored.
She turns to me and smiles.
"You have to start with circles and triangles, then slowly put in detail to get the right proportions."
That smile she gave at that moment, made me fall in love with her. Shortly after, she becomes the first girlfriend I ever had. To the envy of many guys in high school. A gifted artist in school, placed in all advanced art classes the school offered, Jayme opened the path to my appreciation of art I have today. She gifted me with the idea of seeing the world in a curious, childlike way at times.
After Jayme, I was involved in one relationship for over ten years. She is relatively my height so that dynamic did not exist.
She too is relatively my height, so again that dynamic did not exist.
After the divorce, I took about a year or so to be alone, focus on myself, and reclaim my identity. I confess, in my previous relationships I have been a bit insecure about my height, but truth be told... I never dated before and never even approached women. The introvert in me kept me a shy man. In fact, Gilda approached me in class, Jayme approached me and suggested that we should see each other exclusively, Helen approached me while practicing guitar in the high school courtyard, and Blu's mom... well... I'd rather not talk about it.
So after taking about a year after the divorce to focus on me, I began dating. A strange world. It's a superficial environment where women value money more than the heart, men only care about casual sex (from the stories I hear from friends), sex has little worth or value, and where expressing your emotions is deemed a weakness. However, dating has taught me precious lessons in life that I feel I needed to learn. Dating has also made me realize one significant fact about myself that I never knew about myself until throwing myself out there. While society shuns the idea of a woman being taller than the man, I've realized that women who are interested in deep, meaningful relationships quite frankly... don't care.
It's just a theory but think about it. Many women have dated enough to know what's out there and know what traits to search for. They have been with the tall Chads who see them as a piece of meat and is a compulsive cheater, the tall, ripped abbe'd Shawns who care more about looking good in social media, the tall Scotts who have no ambition in life, the tall Erics who are boring and do nothing exciting to enrichen their partners other than going out all the time, etc, etc. 25 year old and above women seem to care more about substance than finances, perfect ripped bodies, what car you drive, or height. Or perhaps I have been strangely lucky to not have it ever be an issue.
To my pleasant surprise, while dating, I have never encountered a situation in which height was an issue to whomever I was interested in. In fact, I keep my love life a secret these days, and I don't talk much about it like I used to, but the person I am seeing is 5'9, whom I nicknamed "Jade Merchant's Daughter" on my blog. I'm 5'5. That's a pretty steep difference. Years ago I would feel very uncomfortable, yet today, due to my recent experiences, I see myself caressing her back in public, hugging her from behind, holding hands, and well... being my usual affectionate self without the slightest thought about height at all.
A fascinating understanding of myself really, and one I welcome and find refreshing. Prior to this relationship, I was very much an insecure introvert. I never dated, I never experienced what was out there, and the things I have been complimented on by my previous relationships were solidified as more women complimented me on the very exact things. I began to believe more and more in what I bring forth to the table.
Masculinity and Gender Roles
Do I feel emasculated by seeing someone taller than me? Well, for one I would like to state that I normally do not believe in gender norms. I enjoy cooking, I enjoy a clean home, I don't know how to change the oil of my car (I pay someone for that), heck... I even have an herb garden to use fresh ingredients while cooking. I could care less about muscle cars, and I don't care about football or other mainstream sports. I enjoy photography and the arts, I love archery, I enjoy running marathons, I love a good book and red wine on a rainy evening, astronomy, and more. I used to believe that whoever I am with is my equal in all aspects of life, but today I believe that some gender norms are good for the health of a relationship. So again, do I feel emasculated by seeing someone taller than me? No. Simply because there is absolutely no correlation between the height of a man and the rest of his body parts. Cheeky, I know, but I get most of the masculinity I need in the bedroom. In there I take my male dominant primal role and execute it well.