Author Corner: Ray Axford on Archery Anatomy

Read more posts in our Author Corner.

Ray Axford is the author of Archery Anatomyan introduction to techniques for improved archery performance. This unique book explains the science behind the sport, looking at how the muscles, tendons, bones and joints work together during archery. It combines clear, accurate drawings and diagrams with explanatory text to make an invaluable contribution to the overall improvement of performance standards in archery.

Ray Axford shares the story of how this book came to be. From contributing to archery’s National Coaching Manual, and lectures on the subject, he developed the manuscript for one of the most informative and enduring books on the subject, constantly reprinted (and with yet another reprint coming 2014) and sold all across the globe.

Found and Read in the Most Unlikely Places
Archery Anatomy by Ray Axford

At its launch Archery Anatomy was sent to as many archery specialist shops as possible and, on the whole, accepted by the majority for what it was; an illustrated explanation of how the structures of both the human body and the modern high performance bow work most effectively together.  However one dealer phoned me to say;

“It won’t sell you know? It’s all about bones muscles and mechanics, and no one wants to read about bones muscles and mechanics?”

In some ways he was correct of course, some people could be put off if the book was advertised as being about the use and positioning of the muscles and bones of the body in archery practice. Fortunately many others worldwide see things somewhat differently and continue to benefit considerably from it to this day.  Based upon the muscular-skeletal construction of the human body and mechanically on the laws of physics, the information contained is unlikely to ever change unless something really catastrophic occurs to the world to alter either or both?  Although one of very few criticisms did suggest that the book was:-

“Out of date and no longer applicable…”

I suppose the foundations for Archery Anatomy was laid during the early 1980s, when someone at the governing body for archery thought it a good idea if some instruction on how the muscles and bones of the shoulder girdle should be used when drawing the bow, was introduced.  As a result, what was then called Unit 5 came into being and yours truly one of the first to lecture on the subject in Southern England.  My knowledge on the subject grew; I started keeping more detailed notes, did a quantity of analytical drawings to help clarify certain points and eventually had a large bundle of technical papers that I jokingly referred to as my manuscript for a textbook.

At first slightly intimidated by knowing that some of my workshops contained doctors and nurses in the audience, I later realised from their comments, that far from making a fool of myself I was in fact helping them with their own knowledge of anatomy etc.  Egged-on by friends and colleagues I was eventually persuaded to have my notes published in the form of a book. I selected Souvenir Press from a copy of ‘The Writers Yearbook’, because the name appealed to me, then sent the whole unedited bundle of original text and illustrations to them.  That was it I thought!  I’d done my bit, I’d sent the whole thing to a publisher, either it would be published or it wouldn’t.

Neither knowing nor caring, at that time, about double line spacing, one inch margins or the fact that one submits a synopsis first and never sends original drawings, it was a bit of a shock to be asked if I’d submitted it elsewhere and offered a contract by Souvenir Press.

Bit embarrassing if the truth be told, I’d never expected that! Never thought for one moment that anyone would actually read the original, have it vetted by some of my peers and want to put it into print; let alone several years later have it published in Spanish!  A lovely friendly and exceptional lady at Souvenir suggested a different order of illustrations and text, corrected numerous grammatical errors, learnt a few bits of archery jargon herself and between us and another close lady friend, who did a total re-type in double line spacing etc, whilst also learning much about this Core Olympic Sport.

Archery Anatomy hit the archery world in 1995, since when it has sold steadily mainly abroad, has been reprinted numerous times and can occasionally be found in some unlikely places for unusual reasons. In many doctors surgeries, primary school libraries, technical colleges, physiotherapists and would you believe it, I’ve even seen it in a Solicitors office. Why?  I don’t really know, but it may be that both anatomically and mechanically I managed to pitch it at just the right level for anyone to understand; neither too advanced nor too basic.

Archery, although being the oldest sporting activity employing a machine in the world, is not the most popular of pastimes despite the London 2012 Olympics and films such as ‘Brave’. As such, Archery Anatomy will never make me a millionaire or the world’s most popular author, but it’s a nice honest little earner.

Now! Had I taken-up Golf on the other hand, then…………oh well, never mind.

Archery Anatomy


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