Recently, a youtube video featuring Lars Andersen, an extremely talented archer, demonstrating some unusual techniques and impressive trick shots has gone viral. You can watch the video here.
Unsurprisingly, it made waves among LARPers, both because archery is generally of interest to many LARPers, but also because the archer is a LARPer (as is the narrator). I’m currently working on an archer character for my next boffer campaign, so I found the video to be rather inspiring.
There is a debate that sometimes pops up among boffer LARPer comparing the various forms archery takes in boffer LARPs, specifically, archery with arrows with large, padded heads, and spell packet archery, which generally involves holding a bow prop in one hand and throwing spell packets with the other with a motion that mimics nocking and drawing an arrow. (Some LARPers also accompany this with a sort of “wzzzt!” noise effect.) The LARPs I’ve played all use spell packet archery, and while I would love to try padded-arrow-head archery in a LARP. (So far, I’ve only taken a few practice shots with one in a basement), I do quite enjoy packet archery. (Though I’m not yet much good at it. Practice makes perfect, I hope.)
I think this video actually provides excellent support for spell packet archery. It does make actual archery look like a ton of fun, and firing arrows with padded heads by actually pulling a bowstring is much closer to the real thing, but if one wants to mimic the skill an archer might reach with years of training, a newbie comes much closer by throwing an object than by nocking, drawing, and releasing an padded-head arrow. (In fact, at around 2:05 the video describes his technique in archery as being “simple and more natural, exactly like throwing a ball.”)
The video has inspired a number of responses, some of them arguing against the claims made in the video. GeekDad posted a response which raises a number of excellent points, though I do think the overall assessment comes off a little harsh, particularly with the line, “[h]e is a terrible archer who can shoot fast. He shoots very fast. He shoots very badly very fast.” I don’t think this video was trying to fool anyone into assuming every feat was performed successfully on the first shot. To assume that level of gullibility in people who liked the video is kind of insulting. It’s a video — of course it was edited. But regardless of how many takes it took to film each segment, just being able to do those tricks shown at all is extremely impressive and takes a lot of skill. He’s not shooting very badly very fast, he’s shooting pretty damn well very fast, even if he’s focusing on close targets and editing out missed shots.
Other responses which contained some similar reactions include this video from a youtube channel that focuses on historical combat, and this interesting (and occasionally amusing) facebook post.
I do wish some of the tricks had a bit more explanation. Snopes posted about it and answered some questions the video raised. The post describes some of the factors not clarified in the video itself, such as where special equipment was used.
Many commenters on the video mentioned various episodes of Mythbusters which addressed archery myths, some of which were related to the tricks Lars Andersen demonstrated in his videos. If you’re curious to see them for yourself, episode 36 — “Killer Tissue Box” featured the myth of one arrow splitting another, and the Mythbusters followed up on this myth in Episode 51 — “Myths Re-opened”. (Both times, they concluded it was impossible with a wooden arrow.) The myth of being able to catch an arrow with one’s bare hand was addressed in episode 78 — “Walking on Water” in which it was demonstrated that a normal arrow cannot be caught, but arrows shot well below minimum speed, with blunt padding on the end can be caught (which is probably more relevant to LARPers who want to allow for that sort of trick.) They addressed this myth again in episode 109 — “Ninjas 2”.
Some of these sources disagree on whether or not quivers worn on the back (with arrows visible over one shoulder) are historical. I found some online sources backing them up, but either way, I plan to wear a quiver over my back for LARPs and any other form of costuming. It just looks sexier that way to me.
And by the way, here is an affectionate parody of the original video, done with nerf weapons that made me laugh.
(Addendum: here’s a link to another interesting response video.)