Always Practice Good Form
This may seem like another no-brainer, but it's actually really important, so I'm making it a Commandment:
COMMANDMENT: ALWAYS EXERCISE GOOD ARCHERY FORM.
You may be asking, why would I *not* practice good form? Well, in my experience, there are main two reasons:
1. You got lazy. And... there's no shame in that! Not much shame, anyway. You had a long day at work, you want to go to the range and blow off some steam. Have some fun. You're not paying attention to your form, and you do that twice a week... for a few years... and you've got some bad habits and some really bad form.
2. You're not realizing that you're using improper form. This is the most common scenario, and it's related to the first reason. You've either gotten into some bad habits that seem to be working for you so you're overlooking them, or your range staff isn't paying enough attention and correcting your form when it's a little off, or you have a lot of land and you shoot on your own (and that's actually a pretty common scenario).
Whatever the reason, you might have some bad form going on, and I'll talk about the fixes to these issues below. But first, I've got to get this out of the way:
Bad Form Will Mess You Up
When I first got started with archery, I heard the term "archery injury," and I thought---"Dear God! That's awful! How often does that happen??" because in mind, when I heard the term "archery injury," I thought it meant that you got shot with an arrow. Luckily, that type of archery injury is rare (although it can happen if you and your company are not safe!).
No---the real archery injuries are waaaaay more common, and can also be really bad. Maybe not "shot with an arrow" bad, but really bad: rotator cuff damage, elbow tendinitis/wrist tendinitis/shoulder tendinitis, and muscle tears (and that's including the welts and contusions you'll get on your forearm if you're not holding the bow correctly). The way you get these injuries is through overuse, or bad form, or a combination of overuse and bad form.
The point is, even though archery is a low-impact sport, you can get injuries if you're not using the correct form, and some of those injuries can sideline you for a while (and even require surgery).
So How Do You Learn Proper Form?
Always, always, always be seeking out the advice of people that know more than you. If Olympians need coaches, so do you! (btw---if you ARE an Olympian and you're reading this site, jump over to my "Contact" page and drop me a line, because I'd love to interview you!).
So how do you seek out the advice of wise, experienced archers? Your best bet is hound the staff at your range, make friends with archers who have been around for a while, and if you're really serious about getting good, find a coach. I've written an entire post on how to find a coach and what to consider, but if you're really in a rush and you need find a coach RIGHT NOW, God bless you, here's the website of the Team USA "Find a Coach" page.
You can also look to your online colleagues. People occasionally ask for form advice in the archery subreddit here, and while you may get some excellent feedback---there are some people on that site who really, really know what they're talking about---there are some people on that sight who don't. So take it with a grain of salt.
Lastly, you do what most obsessed archers do: you read. A lot. Blogs (like this one). Video libraries (like NUSensei's on YouTube come). You visit forums (like Archery Talk). If someone is giving misinformation, there's usually another user who will set that person in the right direction. Also, you go old-fashioned, and read actual books. There are some really, really good ones out there, that cover a lot of material.
Am I Doing More Harm Than Good With These Commandments?
I'll tell you---writing a blog is a lot of fun, but I've been writing these Commandments all day, and they're kind of a bummer! I feel like I'm scaring people away.
That's not totally not my intention---on the contrary! I want to draw people into the sport. But the safety is important, so these Commandments need to be mentioned.
Thanks for stopping by, and as always, Happy Shooting!