Pre-Step: Determine Your Dominant Eye
By the end of this post, you'll know which eye is your dominant eye, why it's important to the sport of archery, and how to make your eye dominance work for you.
What is Eye Dominance?
Eye dominance---sometimes referred to as "eye preference"---is the inclination to use visual input from one eye instead of the other eye.
The concept is like "handedness." Some people are right-handed and use their right hand for most tasks; others are left-handed and use their left hand for most tasks.
The same is true for the eyes: those of who are right-eye dominant will focus on an object using our right eye, and those of us who are left-eye dominant will focus on objects using the left eye.
You many not realize it, but you, for your entire life, have preferred one eye over the other. Who knew? As an archer, you'll need which eye is your dominant eye in order to aim correctly.
Why Is Eye Dominance Important to Archery?
There's a complicated explanation that would take a while to explain, and there's also an easy explanation that'll only take a minute. So, here's the easy explanation:
The view from each of your eyes is different. The view from your right eye is different than the view from your right eye.
For proof, take you right hand, make a fist, and put it out in front of you. Close your right eye, and look at it from your left eye; then close your left eye, and look at it from your right eye. If you'll notice, it looks like your fist is in two different places!
Now, if you'll open both of your eyes and look at your fist, it'll look like it's only in one place.
Here's the crazy thing: when you're using both of your eyes to look at something, you're actually using your dominant eye to actually focus on it.
So when you've got a bow and arrow drawn and you're aiming at your target, which eye will you use to actually use to do the actual aiming?
That's right---you'll use your dominant eye. So let's figure out your dominant eye.
How to Determine Your Dominant Eye
There a couple of different ways to do this, but the easiest way is through what's called The Wink Test.
To do the Wink Test, you'll need to do the following steps and make a triangle shape with your hands:
1. Put your hands in front of you with palms facing forward, in the international "Stop!" gesture;
2. Bring your thumbs together so that they're touching;
3. Turn the angle of your hands so that your pointer fingers are touching (you should see the triangle shape in your hands at this point);
4. Bring your hands closer together so that the triangle is small, but big enough for you to see through.
When you're done, it should look something like this.
Bring that triangle that you've made and look through it, and focus on something about 15 yards/meters away from you. It can be anything, but it should be small enough so that you can see it clearly through the triangle in your hands. It could be a picture frame hanging on a wall on the other side of the room, or maybe a doorknob, or whatever.
Now, close your left eye and close your right eye. You'll notice that when you do so, you'll be able to see the item through one eye and not the other. If you can see the object with your right eye, that means you're right-eye dominant; if you can see the object through your left eye, that means you're left-eye dominant.
There are a lot of videos on YouTube about how to determine your dominant eye, but this is the best (and shortest):
So How Does Eye Dominance Relate to Archery?
In the practice of archery, you ideally want your dominant eye to be in line with your bow string and the arrow shaft. Here's how that plays out:
- If you're right-handed, you're in good shape if you're right-eye dominant, because when you pull the bow string back, your right eye (which is your dominant one) will line up with the string and the arrow shaft.
- If you're left-handed, you're in good shape if you're left-eye dominant, because when you pull the bow string back, your left eye (which is your dominant one) will line up with the string and the arrow shaft.
Your dominant eye---the one that your brain uses to focus---is the one that's lined up with the bow string and arrow shaft.
But what if that's not the way it works out? What if you're right-handed but left-eye dominant, or left-handed but right-eye dominant (like I am)?
That's called CROSS DOMINANCE, and here's how it plays out.
- If you're right-handed but you're left-eye dominant, when you draw, your non-dominant eye will line up with the bow string and arrow shaft, and your dominant eye---the one your brain is using to focus on the target---will not be lined up with the bow string and the arrow shaft.
- If you're left-handed but you're right-eye dominant, when you draw, your non-dominant eye will line up with the bow string and arrow shaft, and your dominant eye---the eye that your brain is focusing on the target with---won't be lined up with the bow string and the arrow shaft.
So what do you do if you're cross dominant, and your aim is slightly askew?
You've got two options:
- You can close your dominant eye and aim with your non-dominant eye. This is what I do, and I've had great success with it. (By the way---if you see a guy at the range and he's wearing an eye patch, it's not because he's a pirate or because he's half-blind. Chances are he's/she's cross-dominant, and uses an eye patch because squinting one closed moves the muscles on your face, and can therefore mess up your anchor point. More on that later)
- Learn archery with your non-dominant hand. Yes---if you're right-handed, you'd learn to draw as a lefty, and if you're left-handed, you'd learn to draw as a righty.
This is something that surprises a lot of new archers: when choosing between a right-handed bow and a left-handed bow, many coaches and experts would advise you not to select a bow based on your handedness, but instead, on your dominant eye.
You may be saying, "Wait... no. I'm a righty, and there's no way I could shoot a left-handed bow." If that's you, then...
Welcome to the Great Debate!
There are a lot of spirited debates in archery, and what to do about cross-dominance is one of them. It seems like the majority says that you should always select a bow based on your eye dominance (in other words, if you're a righty but you're left-eye dominant, you'd get a left-handed bow, and vice-versa), BUT there are plenty of archers who are happily cross-dominant and shooting with the best of them.
I, personally, am cross dominant (left-handed/right-eye dominant) and I use a lefty a bow and aim with my non-dominant left eye. I've developed great accuracy, and I'm pleased with my development. And, as I've mentioned, I'm pretty passionate about archery, and I actually look forward to mastering left-handed archery, and then starting all over, from scratch, as a novice, and learning right-handed archery. I think it'll be a fun adventure to start over, and one that not everyone can make. In a way, I feel kind of lucky.
(By the way, if you're worried that you're cross-dominant and there's nobody else in the world like you and you're all alone with this weird archery issue, fear not: cross-dominance isn't a rare thing, and it's actually estimated that 30% of people are cross-dominant. So if that's you, chillllll, baby, because you're good company.)
You're Ready to Get Started
If you've figured out your eye dominant and what kind of bow you're going to use (left-handed vs. right-handed), you're ready to go through the steps of the draw! You can find those HERE.