If you are an archery fanatic like we are, then you have undoubtedly seen the Lars Andersen viral videos. Scenes of him running in sneakers, jumping, riding on motorcycles and while shooting his bow with what looks like great speed and accuracy. To the general populace he is a modern day Robin Hood, it as if Legolas has sprung out of the pages and Marvel’s Hawkeye has jumped out of the silver screen into real life. Many in the archery community simply rolled their eyes at the theatrics and seemingly impossible feats. But who is correct? What is actually happening? And are we to believe that one of the world’s best archers is a Danish painter?
Born in Denmark and schooled in the arts of painting and writing, Andersen began toying around with archery as a hobby. For several years he practiced and shot at targets conventionally when he started looking at things from the perspective of the war archers of old. As a student of renowned Dutch painter, Otto Frello, he would have seen classical paintings of epic battles from different eras and cultures. He started to note that war archers were mostly on the move; whether they be on horseback or running as part of a charging army. He tried to mimic this in the shooting range and in the backwoods but saw that his movement was encumbered by the quiver and that his draw speed using modern methods was too slow. Andersen had to find another way.
From Arab and Saracen texts it was noted that a war archer has to be able to shoot three arrows in a 1.5 seconds! There was no way he could have done this using conventional methods. Once again Lars delved into the paintings and depictions of war archers from bygone eras. He started seeing a pattern of archers from different cultures holding multiple arrows on their draw hand and shooting on the thumb side of their bow. This is totally counterintuitive to how archers are taught today. Always shoot on a shelf, biscuit or your index finger on the non-thumb side of the bow. Hold a single arrow. If speed shooting, then hold a couple arrows with your bow hand. The result as seen in the video is a quicker draw and reload speed. It is said that Andersen can shoot three arrows in 0.6 seconds, smashing the requirements for a Saracen war archer.
Skeptics may concede the speed argument, but will quickly say, “Yeah, but is he accurate?” The answer is “Yes…but…” In his video Andersen reveals that is has taken him years (not a couple weeks) of hard training to pull off the stunts and techniques he shows in the video. He also shows that he hits large or human shaped targets (although he has also shown hitting something as small as a soda can tab). He hits the targets but doesn’t really indicate in which specific spot he will be hitting the target. Skeptics, at this point, think that they may have found the Achilles heel of Lars Andersen, but they have to remember that Andersen is practicing war archery. Hitting bullseyes on a paper target is not war. Hitting the sweet spot on a 3D target is not war. War, at least in ancient times, is simply one side trying to kill or damage the other side. Yes, war archers had to be accurate to a certain degree, but they did not have to shoot everyone in the head, eye, heart or knee cap every single time to win. A war archer’s goal was to wound or damage the opponent, and if that damage lead to death then so be it. This is reflected in Andersens “A New Level of Archery” video when he is shown shooting targets, whether mere objects or human bust targets, at speed.
But what of all the theatrics and jumping and rolling and rollerblades? Andersen was trying to demonstrate how the techniques he learned can be applied to various scenarios, terrains, movements and speeds. From the paintings Andersen saw war archers on horseback, riding chariots, kneeling, running, shooting in vegetation, within castle walls and came to the conclusion that their techniques had to be versatile enough to suit any and all conditions. Obviously, the archers of old did not have rollerblades or motorcycles, but Andersen wanted to show that it was still possible to use their techniques to shoot and hit multiple targets at fast speeds on different platforms.
The final feat (some say daring, some say stupid, some say impossible) in the video “A New Level of Archery” shows Andersen facing a backstop with arms spread wide and holding a bow in one hand and an arrow in another. Another archer then shoots an arrow at him which Andersen promptly shoots out of the air and splitting the arrow at the same time. It is especially at this one stunt that many in the archery community cried foul. Impossible! Many proclaimed. But Andersen later explains that the feat was real and it was accomplished albeit with a few caveats. The arrows being fired at him were bamboo and had field points. The points were less lethal but the bamboo made the arrow move slower and its hollow interior made it much easier to split. Then there was the bow that the person shooting at Andersen was using. The bow, according to Andersen had a much lighter pull, something in the range of a 20 pound pull or less. This made the arrow travel all the much slower. Basically, Andersen set the test up for success. But make no mistake it is still extremely difficult to split or even hit an arrow, let alone hit it while coming straight at you.
Lars Andersen may be the bane of some purists within the archery community, but he also poses an interesting wrinkle in conventional thinking. If this one man was able to get to this level of proficiency to the point where aficionados of the art are debating whether his skill is credible or not, what then would be the result if more and more people adopt his style of shooting and become proficient in their own right? At a time when you can buy every sight, gadget and gizmo to help you become a more efficient archer, Lars went old school, maybe even the oldest school and found a different way.