Addendum October 2005:  At this point, it has been announced that the author of "Total Archery", Kisik Lee, will leave his post as the National Head Archery Coach of Australia's Institute of Sport to fulfill a new position in USA Archery, that of US National Head Coach!

TOTAL ARCHERY is now out of print - if you can find a copy, you will find it invaluable in your quest to become a better archer.

Korean Archery. 

The phrase is powerful! We hear about it as some kind of secret method of superhuman achievement - kids that shoot 300+ out of 360, the first time they are allowed to shoot.  Months of dedicated practice  before they ever get to touch a bow.   Thousands of archers that can shoot better than 1300 (out of a possible 1440) in a country of less than 50 millions.  The US with 295 millions, by contrast, cannot field even a dozen that can reliably achieve 1300 in competition. Korean archery has become a boogie man of sorts.

We know that Australia, with a population of barely 20 millions, chose to dedicate a long term sum of money to hiring a Korean coach, placing him in charge, and adopted the "Korean" method for their training system for young Aussie archers, and it seems like they started taking Olympic Gold and world championships almost immediately, with teenagers no less.  So this method apparently CAN work for occidentals as well.

The recent description from a Korean male archer, 21, of his usual training regimen, is fairly fearsome to behold. I've paraphrased and edited to standard English his comments:

In high school I shoot 1000 arrows a day. Morning 6am to 8am I run then school till 1pm then shooting to 10pm. Koreans shoot blank bale a lot.

When shooting we always have a few teachers around. 1 senior coach, 1 compound coach, 1 recurve coach and 1 discipline master. Yes when we are shooting coaches are always around to watch us. Discipline master frighten us so we shoot good good.  if we do not shoot good he punishes us, like scolding and sometimes make us frog jump from shooting line to the target. He has many many ways to punish!!!

We shoot 2 FITA (144 arrows times two) a day, morning and afternoon. Evenings we start light and shoot blank bale, 12 arrows an end.

My bow is 46 pounds. I shoot this 7 days a week. Many students drop off from the team because they can't handle it. I also almost quit but parents don't allow. Now I am used to it already. 1000 arrows a day is easy.

My bow is adjusted by my coach. We are given the bows, don't need to pay for them. Always is Korean bows.

For fun, when shooting I am trying to see myself shooting unofficial world record. I have shot 350 at 70m before at training but is it not official. I have shot a FITA score of 1387 at training. It is very fun to see this scores.  Hope competition I can also shooting this score.

I do not really have much time outside archery, but if I have time I play baseball, soccer and EATING!! I love eating!!! I have not tried western food yet but my friends saying is it very nice!! What is western food? Sori!! I love doing Japanese archery like Kyudo. Fun!! My goal is to be Olympic champion in China 2008. In Korea, after 5 yrs no winning, you are out of the team.

Koreans do not hold the patent on hard work, though.  One of the foremost archers in the world, Michele Frangilli of Italy, shot approximately 34,000 arrows in 2004.  His younger sister Carla executed only (!) 32,023 shots.  They know because they track their arrows with computer spreadhsheets, and they practice smart, with a personal coach in frequent attendance.  They track not just the days shooting but what days they did not shoot and why.  The Italian Coaching system includes a nationwide computer database that documents every competitions' every archers' scores.  The key, I think, to their excellence is in part due to the way they employ coaches consistently and frequently during practice, and their base of knowledge about their archers.  Their archers, like the Koreans, can get constant feedback on how they are doing - they don't have to guess and they therefore have less opportunity to let flaws slip into their technique.

Archers in Korea usually have their coaches observing and coaching EVERY time they shoot.   Which is more likely to provide positive results: 7000 arrows a week with good feedback and critique every arrow, or 300 arrows a week with feedback and critique once a month or less during a one-hour session with your coach?

Coaching feedback and attention is well and good, but all the coaching in the world will not help if it is inconsistent or not based on soundly uniform philosophy.   We in the US have been blessed with many good coaches, unfortunately most every one of which has his own secret and unpatented methods. This has given us a series of fantastic individual archer champions but no consistent body of potential competitors to draw from.

The Korean coaching system teaches all of their coaches to teach the same principles and the same methods.  A Korean archer can be taught by a different coach every day of the week and never hear anything different from all of them.  Consistent coaching promotes consistent improvement in performance. 

Some point to the tough attitudes the Koreans have about their archers - if you don't win you are out.   They make the point that no American kid would put up with the stringent training policies.  It is true, for example, that Korean kids don't get to hold a bow for months after they start "archery" training.  This is very true - our society doesn't reward such investive behavior, much.

US archer Chris Shull visited Korea and studied their methods. 

There are three articles he wrote afterwards to describe what he saw, and Archery Focus published them.  He has given me permission to post them on this website, and Steve Ruis of Archery Focus gave me permission to use their acrobat files. (Thanks, guys!)

In Korea, Part I
by Chris Shull

In Korea, Part II
by Chris Shull

In Korea, Part III
by Chris Shull

Coach Ronald McCormick has a good perspective on Korean Archery, based on a seminar presented by a prominent Korean coach.  Read all about it on his website.

Korean Traditional archery is a little different, but provides insight to their philosophy.

Perspective on Australian Athletic Institute and their approach to coaches.

Back to Document Index      HOME