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Pulling a Fast One: Video Critique of a Viral Speed Archery Video

Feb. 07, 2015 by Anna Maltese | Comments (87)
Anna Maltese

Anna Maltese. (Image courtesy of the author.)

In the past two weeks you’ve probably seen a viral archery video circulated on social media which makes a lot of claims about modern and historical archery. Since its posting on January 23, it has been viewed over 25 million times.

Dubbing himself “the fastest archer on the planet,” Lars Andersen, a visual artist and archer who specializes in speed trick shooting, sets about making claims about modern and historical archery and then demonstrating shooting techniques based on those claims. It’s not his techniques which have gotten him in hot water, though, so much as his claims about those techniques.

So first off, let’s be clear about what he’s doing here: Lars is performing what’s called “trick shooting.” Trick shooting isn’t a derogatory term. It’s not meant to imply that something is “faked” (although there are aspects to the video that veer into outright misrepresentations which we’ll get into later in our video response, below). Trick shooting is basically stunt shooting—like everything else, it takes practice, and the methods and stunts vary nearly as widely as the individual practitioners. And with his speed and antics, Lars has the potential to be an entertaining as well as very fast trick shooter.

But Lars isn’t claiming to be yet another speed trick shooter—he’s making a lot of extraordinary claims about history as well as modern archery. Articles titled “Everything You Know About Archery Is A Lie” and “YouTuber Destroys Every Hollywood Archery Myth,” feature Lars’ video, which purports to “revolutionize” archery by “rediscovering” forgotten techniques that were, according to Lars, universal at one point in antiquity—and which work better than any other technique.

With John Rael (producer and lead kicker of the webseries SkepticallyPwnd) I decided to examine the claims he makes one by one. You’ll find our video critique “A Response to Lars Andersen: a New Level of Archery” embedded below. I hope you’ll find it helpful. But be warned—there’s a lot to unpack here.

* Author’s note: In the interests of time, I had to make some cuts to our rebuttal video. I’d have liked to mention two other things: first, that the reason most archers use the opposite side of the riser from the draw hand (resulting in the “Archer’s Paradox”) is that this allows us to actually sight down the arrow in a more direct aim at the target. On the same side, the arrow is hidden from the archer’s vision by the riser, and forces the archer to aim further to the other side in order to compensate for the skewed trajectory. And second, to Lars’ claim of piercing armor: unless chain mail is riveted, it’s easily pierced with an arrow even from a lightweight bow, and we never see whether it’s riveted or how far away Lars is from the chain mail when it’s pierced.

Anna Maltese

Anna Maltese is an archery instructor who builds bows, competes in tournaments, and performs fire archery. She is also an artist who spent most of her adult life animating for the Simpsons before becoming a freelance illustrator and digital painter.

87 responses to “Pulling a Fast One: Video Critique of a Viral Speed Archery Video”

  1. An Archer says:

    As a [archery] historian I laughed, I even wet my pants a little, I’ve been shooting bows for 30 years I have an average command of my steles, I’d like to see Lars hit a taget at 98 yards in a wooded forest and score within a 6inch circle with at least hafl of those shots, I did! TWICE! in two rounds! Very, very lucky.

    Lars, I hope you’re reading this, thanks for the entertainment but go back to the circus where you belong, and leave the real stuff to the real archers.

    As for you young lady, I wish I were 20 years younger, X

  2. sittingbytheriver says:

    Loved the video. your video is SO much better than that Lars nonsense thing. you took the time to do some Real research. thank you.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Loved the video. It was both informative and very entertaining!

  4. Tony says:

    Anna Maltese, is that a Red Stag recurve that you are pictured with on the top of the page? I just bought one a couple months ago and looks just like the one I bought, so was just wondering.

  5. Bill says:

    I loved her video setting the record straight about Lars Andersen’s claims. Very well done. The only point I might disagree with is in regards to the “archer’s paradox” justification for shooting from the left side. I have done Japanese archery for many years – and the standard is to hold the arrow on the right side. And the “archer’s paradox” exists just as much on that side of the bow as well. We just have different methods of dealing with it.

  6. Sean B says:

    Neither work is a full explanation of archery and its history, that would require a series, so some of the critiques here are rubbish. While Lars may not have narrated the video, he certainly does endorse the claims made. He even defends them later. To anyone not familiar with archery and history, the claims can certainly seem valid.

    Overall, his video is entertaining and he is very skilled. Of that there is no doubt. His claims while not entirely false, aren’t entirely accurate. This unfortunately reduces what he appears to be doing (informational video) to a publicity stunt.

    I think it’s funny for Lars to deride Anna for not fact checking, when he himself fails to do so.

    Where Anna fails is deriding his use of ancient depictions to support his claim, then using them to disprove him. She’d have been better off acknowledging them, then (as she goes on to do) pointing out the pitfall of using only pictures that support your argument while ignoring others that don’t. This is known as bias confirmation.

    The use of ancient depictions can be enlightening, but can be a pitfall, and must always be approached with caution. For Example, a famous American Revolution picture depicts British soldiers shooting innocent people near a butcher shop. The event, which happened, didn’t happen anywhere near a butcher shop. The butcher shop was artistic license used to enrage the masses. It worked. So pictures can be useful, but should not be taken as gospel. But yes, some archers did shoot on the right side of the bow and were expected to shoot 10 arrows a minutes. This was for the purpose of combat.

    Looking closer:

    Forgotten: False. The practice of archery was widespread until the advent of the gun (which answer the why? question). Form that point it fell into a niche. Before then , if I’m not mistaken, people in England were required by law to practice every Sunday after church.

    Shoot on the left side: True. Only? False. Both sides were used.

    Hold arrows in hand: True, but usually only when needed. I doubt this was the only way they carried them. And a hand can only hold so many arrows.

    Back quiver a Hollywood myth: False, it was popularized by Hollywood. As Anna points out, there are other, just as ancient, depictions of back quivers. Lars obviously ignored these. And as she states, it about what worked. Different techniques for different situations, not all things work for everything. Lars counter (in Axel’s quote), that they stated it was invented is, plainly, wrong. In his video, he called it “a Hollywood myth and is not common in the past”. And does not say they popularized it, only that it’s done today because “modern archers do not move” and shoot only at stationary targets, “something unknown in the past” (which is also not true).

    Myth does not have the same connotations as invention. If it’s merely a translation issue, then he needs to find a better translator. (Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the video, it’s mistranslated.)

    Speed shooting record – twice as fast as nearest competitor: Not certain where he gets his statistics. (And showing slow shooters amounts to nothing.) An examination of the Guinness Book of World Records would be enlightening.

    Catching arrow and shooting it back: Lars video states this as a myth. I believe he’s right. Arrows can be caught as low speed, something an enemy would not be doing.

    Modern archers do not move, something that was unknown in the past: I doubt this. Beginners would have started off with stationary targets and progressed from there. Just as the modern military doesn’t let soldiers loose with guns before practicing on stationary targets. It’s harder to learn to shoot a moving target if you don’t know how to shoot properly.

    As for the ancient time arguments and their value, I refer you to

    Extract: Minutes and seconds, however, were not used for everyday timekeeping until many centuries after the Almagest. Clock displays divided the hour into halves, thirds, quarters and sometimes even 12 parts, but never by 60. In fact, the hour was not commonly understood to be the duration of 60 minutes. It was not practical for the general public to consider minutes until the first mechanical clocks that displayed minutes appeared near the end of the 16th century. Even today, many clocks and wristwatches have a resolution of only one minute and do not display seconds.

    I have serious doubts that Saracens said archers had 1.5 seconds to shoot three arrows. More likely it would have been something like, “Before this stone I hold in my hand hits the ground, you much shoot three arrows.” Or something like that. There was no way to actually accurately measure time until centuries later.


    From Axel’s response, which is hard to make sense of, it seems like Lars response is to call counter arguments stupid (x3), and “I have been in doubt as to whether I should relate to it or not, but the problem is that it’s so stupid.” It would have been better to acknowledge mistakes, because he did make some.

    But as Axe4l quotes, “There is no doubt that my video is populist and provocative and everything.” Which coupled with a lack of acknowledging mistakes, reduces his video to a publicity stunt. Inaccuracies aside, he is good.

  7. Axel says:

    The Danish archer Lars Andersen has been a true viral super-hit, after his video called ‘a new level of archery’ has been viewed over 25 million times.

    As with many other viral hit, his video, however, been criticized, including from the US archer instructor Anna Maltese.

    In his video responses claiming Maltese among other things, that Lars has not substantiated its historical arguments, and she put on the whole question the premise that Hollywood invented the modern understanding of Archer .

    – I have been in doubt as to whether I should relate to it or not, but the problem is that it’s so stupid. As one of my American friends, then one thing that you do not know much about what you are doing, but this is clearly made ​​with an evil intention, says Lars Andersen Ekstra Bladet.

    – For example, she starts to say that the video I made ​​about the general way to shoot a bow, but it makes it just does not, it’s all about the existence of some expert systems once, he says.

    – There is no doubt that my video is populist and provocative and everything. For example, we say in the video that Hollywood invented the quiver, and they did not, of course, but they popularized it. But she could also just have opened the description of the video, for which it is, says Lars Andersen.

    – If I had made ​​a video about historical archery had lasted two hours and had perhaps been seen by 100,000 people, if I was very lucky, and otherwise by 1000 people.

    One of the criticisms that have fallen Lars Andersen most in the chest, the American critic’s comment that it was not possible for Saracens to measure how long a half second, which is the time Lars in his video says their archers could shoot three arrows of place.

    – It is simply too stupid, because she has not checked it, and it would soon be able to investigate the origins. It’s like she says you could also shoot just as quickly by having the arrow on the other side of the arch. That you just can not. It is not for fun, that I am the world’s fastest. This is because the technique is better, he says.

    One of the things that especially has awakened a stir in Lars Andersen’s video is the point in the video where he grabs an arrow in the air and shoots it back. The detail put Anna Maltese also questioned by saying that it is only possible because the arrow, he claims, are shot off at low speed.

    – I have certainly never said that it is possible to intervene an arrow at high speed. I would never say that she makes you want to be able to defend himself by grabbing an arrow. The story I have been based on, is about someone who has seized an arrow at a relatively large distance and shot it back again. I does not postulate that one can grasp an arrow is shot close, he says.

    He also adds that in his video not trying to produce something totally unrealistic picture of reality.

    – There were some clips we ended up cut out of the video because it was simply luck. For example, I grabbed at a time when I was standing with my back to, and it was simply too stupid, says Lars Andersen.

    But despite the criticism, he now and then being greeted by, stern Lars Andersen, however, to continue to grow his hobby.

    – I’ve got a lot of positive feedback, but I think since it is frightening that it will go so far, and that there is someone who will actually spend so much time making a video answer, he told Ekstra Bladet.

  8. Justin Ma says:

    Nicely done. I agree Lars is going too far with his claims. But at least he’s generating a good discussion.

    This article’s “Author’s Note” on Archer’s paradox doesn’t tell the whole picture, and I’d like to point out an important clarification. Archers who shoot with the thumb draw (aka “Mongolian” release) traditionally place the arrow on the right side of the handle (for a right-handed archer) primarily because the paradox is opposite to what it is for a 3-finger draw (that is, in a thumb draw the string deflects away from the face). With the thumb draw, there’s the added advantage of stability in mobile situations: the position of the draw hand (index finger lightly touching side of the nock) helps prevent the arrow from falling off the bow hand. This is why thumb draw was popular across the vast majority of cultures that adopted mounted archery. The top horseback archers like Lukas Novotny, Cozmei Mihai, and Emil Eriksson, in addition to the very skilled mounted archers from Korea, Japan, Poland, and many others, do a great job demonstrating the effectiveness of the thumb draw with arrow on the right side of handle from horseback (and at full gallop, not a leisurely canter).

    True, the riser does obscure the view somewhat, but you can compensate for this by opening both eyes to see “through” the bow. Yes, a large fraction of modern Mongolian and Tibetan archers have been putting the arrow on the left side with their thumb draw to reduce the distance between arrow and aiming eye (making it easier to aim), but this is a 20th-century development and is reserved for static, standing situations. Unlike with a 3-finger draw with arrow on the left side, a thumb draw + arrow on left side is quite prone to having the arrow slide off the hand unintentionally.

    In any case, thumb draw + arrow on right side of handle was traditional for most Asian cultures, and there was a historical reason for that.

  9. Tim Callahan says:

    One thing that should raise a red flag for skeptics is the claim, made explicitly or implicitly, that, “Everything you though you knew about x is a lie.” This is, in essence, a selling point. It was used in the viral internet film “Zeitgeist,” part 1 of which I debunked for Skeptic Magazine. Recently, I came across a book titled “Grain Brain,” which asserts that, not only consumption of sugars, but consumption of large amounts of grain starches is rotting our brains (That must be why the rice-consuming Asians are such a dumb, backward lot.) As to the selling point potential of such claims, consider how many books advocating a peculiar dietary regimen would sell if they said that we actually get pretty good nutrition via our advanced agriculture, good hygiene and sanitation, and modern deliver system. This is not to say that alternate diets might be better than one is eating at present, but consider Frances Moore Lappe’s book “Diet for a Small Planet.” While it advocated reducing or eliminating meat from one’s diet, it didn’t make the “everything you thought you knew is wrong” pitch.

    Good show with the debunking, Anna. The visuals of ancient and medieval art showing archers with quivers on their backs were particularly effective. As you note, while the artists wouldn’t have observed the battles, they would have been able to observe the soldiers and their equipment. Their representations are valuable, even when they were crudely drawn, as in the Bayoux (sp.?) Tapestry.

  10. Dan says:

    While I suspect Ms Maltese will get her unfair share of trolls attacking her this was a superb piece of explanatory journalism and another reason I love Skeptic. Well done Ms Maltese. Both informative and interesting.

  11. Bill Pennock says:

    I wondered why Anna would take so much time and effort to point out what seemed to me to clearly be exaggerated claims in the interest of marketing Lars. But at the end of the video she let’s it be known. Lars claims make people devoted to Archery and who know a thing or two about it mad because they imply that only he has the answer. By claiming that he is the sole discoverer of the “truth of archery” he completely disrespects everyone who came before and is contemporary to him. That is enough to make someone want to show up the specific exaggerations. Even though I am not an archer, though, it seemed obvious that many of the “tricks” were specifically setup to perform and not relevant to actual archery warfare. It’s kind of like looking at Ken Block drifting videos and thinking he made them all in one sequence without mistakes and that all those obstacles just happened to be there. But while I didn’t know how the tricks were done before it’s great to know now in case some bozo forwards me the link to Lars and starts telling me he’s an archer god.

  12. JZ says:

    She begins her rebuttal by diminishing the value of historical images Mr. Andersen uses to support his historical view. She refers to his reference of historical images as “his first mistake”. Later in the video she references historical images to support her counter-claims. Either you accept historical images to support a claim or you don’t.

    Myth Busters as a source? You have got to be kidding!

  13. Romulus says:

    I think I’m in love with you. Is that wrong?

  14. Eric Hilton says:

    Wow, you did a great job on this. Well done!

  15. Mike Reis says:

    Great video! Thank you for bringing up more historical evidence that disproves his “historical” evidence. We have a lazy society and most are willing to accept it because of the amount of talent and skill he displayed.

    Being an archery instructor and obviously well versed with archery in combat and war makes it great for others to learn from. I’ve seen the female speed shooter using a quiver and it didn’t seem to impede her speed shooting any, that and understanding Native American archery as well as Mongolian and Japanese versions and the difference of types of bows helped me see that he may not be telling the full truth about his “research”. I’m not an archery expert, but I like to look into history of wars and types of fighting from all over. They all have one thing in common and your quote says it best for not just archery but for any type of fighting or combat, “They use what works”. Not “works best” but what works best for them.

    Great video!

  16. Chuck Baldwin says:

    I have been enjoying archery since 1970.
    Having used my collapsible 50#recurve bow in actual combat situations in Laos (not like shown in “Rambo”), the need to be able to put out three flights quickly and hit targets while being shot at, was accentuated by the situation. So I annoy tournament shooters when I stand up and shoot my 3 flights within 30 seconds or less (using conventional “modern” archery techiques & equipment) and sit down waiting for them to finish. Quick shooting is a habit for me now. I do not hunt, anymore.

    I cannot believe Lars would last in actual combat. Conversely, I do not believe NAA archers I know and shoot targets with would not resort to using firearms instead of their bows, to defend their homes or lives. The use what works for the individual situations.

    So, well done, Ms. Maltese. You separated the wheat from the chaff, while recognizing there is use for the chaff as well.

    Member NAA, NRA, & Mensa

  17. Ron Jon says:

    More proof that global warming is real and that deniers should be murdered because we all know that 97% of scientists agree – which is proof positive in all things scientific. Oh wait – this is archery. At least archery science skeptics allow comments even if readers don’t believe in the same religion – whoops – I mean science.

  18. sheridanqporter says:

    Superb, old girl- keep it up.

  19. Don says:

    Talk is cheap, “archery is about what works”. it works for him, hers works for her the rest is theory.

    • FergusM says:

      It works for him when he’s shooting at foam silhouettes or a beer can five feet away. It would fail miserably if he was trying to drive a warhead through armour and inflict a disabling wound. I know rather a lot about medieval European archery and none of Lars’ tricks have any value in that context.

  20. John Hayes says:

    OK, you want to quibble a point, while they may have been mentioned in the not to distant past, virtually nobody is practicing them! Ohm maybe you could find 10 or 20 or even 100, but out of the world of total archery practioners this is virtually nobody.

    So Anna Maltese takes 15 minutes to debunk Lars claims which he took only 5 mnutes to make. I’d say he spoike in gross generalities but much of what he says is reasonably accurate.

    To make my point here is another guy doing essentially what Lars does:

    I stumbled upon this while looking for ANY exhibition archers who shot arrow over thumb instead of arrow over knuckle. Out of 5 or so, he was the only one. AND he made claims quite similar to Lars’.

    While Lar’s isn’t the only one he is in a very small club. the previous assessment that he has repopularized the idea is a correct summary of the situation. Lar’s video had garnerd over 17,000,000 views the last time I bothered to look and that was in the first 24 hours of the post.

    A little reserarch reveals the asian draw anmd shooting style was arrow over thumb. I have a book entitled The Tradtional Bowyer’s Bible Volume 4 with a photo if the Native American Ishi shooing his bow and his style IS arrow over thumb on page 282.

    The Wild West Show ended in 1906.. Lars has done somethine the world had not seen for over 100 years. I’m sure the Lakota indian that show shot 19 arrows was holding them in his draw hand and shooring over the thumb.

    As far as I can tell. no archery school is teaching folks to shoot like that.

    I’d say the European pictures depicing archers shooing over the thumb are corredt, During the period of the long bow in England it was law that EVERY man had to practice with the bow so I am sure they ALL new how to hold them. These are issues Anna Maltese did not bother to mention in her systematice debunking. She systematically debunked and then minimlaized his accomplishments!

    In my view Lars demonstration speaks for itself and he did it in a way that garnered a lot of attention and hopefully interest in this style of archery. As far as I can tell, nobody to speak of is teaching it.

    I built a bow late last week. I am right handed. Just for kicks I put the arrow shelf on the right to try shooting over the thumb. After a couple of shots I had to move the shelf to the left side of the bow. The folks who ran the range were getting annoyed at me hitting the target to the right of my lane. Shooting over the thumb will take some getting used to if you are used to shooting over the kuckle.

    Also, I believe Arabian Archery is a valid resource and it was unjustily discredited,

    Lars mat have made some mistakes BUT his video has received a LOT of attention and may serve as a useful stimulus for some folks to explore other aspects or archery.

    I would be an archer instruction who DOES NOT TEACH WHAT LARS DEMONSTRATES and can not teach it to attempt to discredit him.

    Here is what another archery instructor has to say about it:
    Experts agree that the skills demonstrated in the video are unbelievable, but also completely real. “His skillset is tremendous,” says Byron Ferguson, owner of the Bare Bow Archery School and star archer on the History Channel’s show, Extreme Marksmen. “These shots are legitimate, despite some video editing. His speed is almost unbelievable.”

    The bottom line is, even if it is trick archery, it IS archery and to do this tricks the archer has be excepti0onally good.

    Annie Oakley was a trick shot – that does not mean there was anything bad about her shooting, but that it was good enough for her to make a living impressing others with her prowess! Not a bad thing.

    I see Lars as being something on the order of the Jackie Chan of archery. Not a bad thing.

    • Sean B says:

      The number of views on YouTube has absolutely nothing to do with popularizing the sport. It’s merely the measure of the number of people who have viewed the video, and not how many bought a bow and joined a club. I would say the Hunger Games was probably more successful at popularizing archery.

  21. Ned Reiter says:

    Spot on! And I loved the graphics. We seem to live in the age of shallow, where people start with a pre-determined premise and then cherry-pick and misinterpret vaguely related snippets of information to feed a gullible, uncritical public an “amazing discovery”! For example, I have uncovered the terrifying fact that grapes are deadly poisonous: every single person born before 1900 who ate a grape has died!

  22. shannon says:

    In so many ways how can i say thank you for putting this out there. So cool, so true.

  23. fugenchutenz says:

    Brace yourself. This is the part where a few thousand people that have never fired an arrow tell you how you’re wrong.

  24. John says:

    I know nothing about archery. Never even held a bow. I thought Lars was clowning around to show that archery didn’t have to be just standing in one place looking like a Robin Hood wannabe with an overpriced bow shooting a still target. I appreciate the desire to question the historical accuracy of his statements, however he is just some show-off guy that obviously loves archery, so who really cares what he thinks of history? Did I peruse historical books on archery after seeing his video?, after seeing this video? No and no, because that is something archery nerds would do. A person like myself enjoyed the first video for making archery seem potentially much more active and fun than I had ever seen it be in the movies (short of Legolas cgi shots). Sure it was a little hammy, a little over the top and cartoonishly staged, but still someone having a great time with archery even if they don’t know shit about history. This rebuttal video just seems snarky and boring and a little self contradictory and mean spirited. You had to cut out two points so that we could see all the silly faces made into the camera? I doubt you could get the actor’s moms to watch this rebuttal video twice, but even typing this I kind o want to watch Lars playing and having a blast again. And I love a rebuttal video! I can make a meal out of some spirit science rebuttal videos. But as a non-archer this fact finding video did not work for me. If your objective is to educate the masses on archery, don’t call the funnest times people have seen “tricks”. Most people know nothing about archery history, so debunking his “history” with your “history” makes no gains. It was like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher. I wanted to see how fast people could do things the opposite way from Lars! How all the things he said were slow could be fast, not “how did so and so measure seconds”! Another trick shooter almost as fast as him but with different mechanics would have been more interesting than questioning ancient timekeepers’ accuracy. If the focus is what works, then this video has worked convincing me most archery is as dull as Lars said it was. He may be a crappy historian and a cheezy video maker, but for a few minutes it made me interested in archery. Then I found this video which inspired me to write this and then forget about archery till the next Avengers movie comes out. Kudos to anyone who has plowed through this pippi-long-boring comment of mine.

  25. Steve Hannah says:

    I enjoyed your article, and thank you for rebutting the Lars video. Maybe, though, you should not chastise him for using questionable sources and then use a scene from a movie showing fake beings from a fake planet to support your own claims. (scene from “Avatar” at 11:54)

  26. Bruce says:

    Very well done – Lars’ video has managed to go crazy over the last week or so, but seeing this shows that Lars is in fact a good archer, but it’s just his claims that are all over the place! I find archery a fantastic sport and although I’m a recurve barebow, I still love the art of the longbow family!

  27. Mike says:

    Don’t be a menace to south central whilst drinking your juice in the hood! I totally haven’t seen that movie in ages! Well done on using a clip from it! :D

  28. Kyle says:

    Regarding the video response to Lars:

    Why is what Lars doing trick shooting and what most target archers today do not a form of trick shooting as well? How does the narrator know that what Lars is doing is trick shooting?

    The claim that you can’t go by historical images is a weak one. It depends on what the image shows. Why would multiple images show archers holding multiple arrows in the draw hand if they clearly did not? That would mean flat-out lying on the part of the artists, not a simple mistake. Showing the arrow being drawn on the right side as opposed to the left side could be a simple mistake and may not be historically accurate but showing arrows in the draw hand is much more questionable about being historically inaccurate. As the narrator says later on with regards to quipment (back quiver) pictures versus pictures of technique, certain areas of art are much less prone ot historical inaccuracy. I would think something like holding the arrows in the draw hand fall there.

    Regarding the issue of whether the techniques are forgotten, it would be a stretch to say Lars is the first to discover these techniques. So it is probably more likely that he did rediscover them in some fashion.

    On the book Arab Archery, the video makes some excellent points. On the aspect of horsemanship, I think that is meant with regards to the archery would probably be used by cavalry and not foot archers.

    Agree that catching the arrow in mid-air is a trick, not something with combat application.

    The video makes a mistake in claiming that Lars claimed archers practice on stationary targets. He said that archers today stand still, whereas in the past they more would have moved around. This is precisely what many of the pictures from manuscripts the narrator uses to counter Lars’s claim show (such as riding on horseback while shooting and a man running while shooting).

    Agree on the issue about shooting from the left side of the bow, but while one can still shoot quickly from the left side, they cannot shoot as fast as when shooting from the right side.

    The back quiver for use in medieval combat is mostly a Hollywood myth. That said, Lars is wrong to claim that the back quiver itself is strictly a Hollywood myth.

    Agree on the issue of splitting an arrow and Lars needing to show which source he relied on.

    The narrator criticizes Lars on his bow having an easy pull, but Lars himself has said that a war archer would have used am uch stronger bow. He said that at his age, using such bows was giving him injuries.

  29. Kyle says:

    While Lars makes some erroneous claims in his video, the idea that his archery is strictly a circus act or trick shooting I do not agree with. With a war bow, and done on horseback, using hit-and-run tactics, his archery would likely have great applicability.

    And yes, he did rediscover the technique as apparently nobody else had known about it. No, he can’t loose arrows as quickly if pulling to a full draw as opposed to a half draw,, but he can still loose them faster than other forms of shooting.

    • Graidon says:

      No, lots of people have known about Saracen and Mongol speed shooting for a long time. There’s more, but I can’t remember them. Lars didn’t discover any “lost techniques.”

  30. Max says:

    It’s like Jackie Chan claiming that he’s rediscovered martial arts techniques that today’s boxers have forgotten.

  31. jameslafferty says:

    When I watched Lars’s video, I was SO sure it was really fantastic comedy. So disappointed if it was actually meant to be taken seriously.

  32. 2face says:

    I’m not sure if she realizes this. But she is actually bigging him up. If Lars is wrong about this being a technique that was used earlier and has now been forgotten. Then the conclusion must be that he has invented something new and is a genius. Which actually makes him even more sensational. I’m not sure that was her intention.

    • Max says:

      I think she’s saying that some of the techniques were not forgotten, and others are just trick archery.

    • Kyle says:

      That’s actually one of the major reasons why he very likely has discovered a lost technique. Because it would be pretty unbelievable to think that in the tens of thousands of years that humans have been doing archery, that NO ONE ever came up with this technique until Lars in the 21st century. And he himself got the technique from looking at pictures of old.

    • Graidon says:

      No, his techniques are based (loosely) on the historical techniques of a number of different civilizations. Just off the top of my head, I know that the Mongols and the Saracens made use of very similar techniques. They weren’t lost, and you can find other youtubers who demonstrate some pretty awesome speed shooting skills.

      Lars is good at what he does, but he’s not “revolutionary.”

  33. 2face says:

    I feel this debunking is motivated by jalousy. And the snarky presentation doesn’t help her case.

  34. Rick Miller says:

    Thanks, Anna for a very informative video. Lars is very entertaining and a lot of fun to watch. He has some amazing skills that he’s mastered over the years and his abilities are never questioned in your video. All that being said, Lars has NO credibility as an historian! I wish that people would think of Lars in the same way that that one looks at David Copperfield or Houdini.
    Back in the 70’s a “mentalist” Named Uri Gellar made similar claims about his rediscovered mysticism. Fools went ape-shit and formed a cult trying to obtain his “secrets”. He ended up selling magic trick kits after the Amazing Randy showed for what he was… a decent stage magician with a lot of ridiculous claims.
    I’ve been an archer in tournaments since 1970 and a bow hunter since 1977. I’m cross dominant (i.e. right handed with a dominant left eye) and I was told by many people that I “shoot funny, but hit the damn target!”. As you said: It’s about what works!
    Thanks for a much needed reality check.

  35. Matt says:

    Well, he’s still all over internet and very amusing to watch. I just stumbled over this video “accidentally”. Oh, well. Lars’ video is cool, your’s is boring, but still good try to clarify, yawn.

    • Graidon says:

      Yep, that’s the sad truth: reality is not as entertaining as fiction, sometimes.

      We just wish Lars had been more honest about his claims. Like…He’s good at what he does, no one’s trying to take that away from him. The problem is that he claims to have “revolutionized” archery with his “lost techniques.” We’re over here like, “dude, you didn’t revolutionize anything, and your techniques were never lost.”

      • Robert Courtland says:

        Lost implies that they are unknown to the school of skills that you connected with. That is true. These are lost skills to western archers. Many of the Asian schools of archery use some of these, but definitely not all. There it is often technique over results. What is the point of technique if you can’t hit the target any better. In my quest for how to go back and learn more ancient forms of archery, I studied traditional English archery, Native American, and Japanese. I found about half of what he did. But then I didn’t look into the more ancient sources. Lars is a genius and even if he can’t or won’t, others could easily do the research to verify or debunk his claims, but it isn’t so easy as saying that these skills were not forgotten or lost, you should spend some time researching Native American archery. That is a challenge because so many have had it so wrong for so long and only a few have taken the time to really analyze the artifacts and try to recreate them to find out how they shoot. It was a completely lost art, even though technically every aspect of it still existed in one school of archery or another. Lost/forgotten does not mean no one knows, it means it is not being used.

        • FergusM says:

          “These are lost skills to western archers.”

          No. These are useless skills to western archers. They don’t work with a target recurve. They don’t work with a compound. They don’t work with a traditional longbow. I can’t lay the arrow on the right of the bow because I nock with the bow held horizontally at waist level, raise it (beginning the draw as I do so), anchor my right thumb at my ear then push my left hand out to complete the draw. I couldn’t snatch one of my own arrows out of the air (and neither could Lars) because its energy would strip the skin from my fingers. I can’t shoot as fast as Lars because I’m drawing 60 pounds all the way back. I can’t draw with my legs or shoot while doing parkour because my box is six and a half feet long. His skills are impressive for what they are – trick shooting – but they have entertainment value only.

  36. bert trim says:

    Oh, come on lady. Doesn’t matter how much talking your mouth does. He’s good. Too bad that you didn’t get there first eh! Get his book. Your clip is appreciated but absurd considering the timing. Blah, blah, blah.

    • Rick Miller says:

      She never said he isn’t good. She simply said that he’s full of shit with his “historical research” and she’s right.
      His claims could never stand up to peer review. His book is self promotion with NO real research or documentation.
      His book has all the credibility of “Ghost Busters”.

  37. Robert Courtland says:

    I’ve studied historical archery from various parts of the world and I have to say that this attempt to rebut Lars Anderson’s claims falls flat. His claims match what I have found and incorporates a lot of valid research. These attempts to rebut it are from the position of a closed mind, never a good thing in academic research, and are often mean spirited and even incorrect. I went into detail in a post on my blog.

    • Rick Miller says:

      Robert, you are the con-mans lawful prey. Lars is a fine athlete and a good entertainer. When Lars publishes a book that has been peer reviewed and his “research” can be documented, Ill pay attention to his nonsensical claims.
      He won’t, because he can’t. Enjoy his trick shots and choreographed stunts, but don’t take his claims seriously.

      • Robert Courtland says:

        Sad that you think I am so gullible. Too bad my opinion is based on historical research and archery experience. Trick shooting is one thing, but this is a whole new level and these skills would have been very practical back in the day. If you only have experienced target archery I really don’t expect you to understand, but if you have read and practiced what archers on the field of battle (and Agincourt is a horrible example) experienced then you know that these tactics will separate the living from the dead. These feats of skill from the ancient world are valuable to see and understand. If you don’t care to that is fine, but insulting the skill it takes to do this is not.

      • Oliver H says:

        “A book that has been peer reviewed” – You do know that in academia, books are usually NOT peer reviewed, journal articles are?

  38. Crows Head says:

    It was cool to see our company used as a reference – 5:25 min into video.

    They referenced our site here:

    Very cool!!

    • Toby Fee says:

      Dude these bows are awesome! bookmarking this page for when I’m ready to upgrade to something more serious.

  39. Theano22 says:

    I also don’t understand her criticism of artists’ renditions of “accurate” depictions of archery, and then turns around and uses historical artistic renderings of archery to prove her point. How does she know that ancient artists’ renditions of archery are untrue? Unless one knows the artistic traditions of every single culture at every time period in the world, you can’t possibly dismiss artist renditions of warfare. I’m quite sure that many of them participated in warfare of some sort, or that war was pervasive enough in their society that they could portray weapons accurately. But, yes, of course, you can’t take every picture at face value. Some might be right, and some might be wrong, but it certainly looks like one can find enough disparate examples through time and space to prove a point.
    Also, ancient texts are often couched in fake settings and conversations. Everything we know about Socrates and Plato is from a bunch of (mostly) made up conversations that Plato wrote down in order teach some philosophical points. But, one has to assume that he wasn’t making stuff up out of no where. He probably was still setting a scene of a common Greek dinner party that was recognizable to people at the time. Since so much of medieval culture was based on Greek models, I wouldn’t be surprised that Arab scholars as well made up fake conversations between fake characters just to dramatize a point. It doesn’t necessarily mean the point is completely made up as well.
    And lastly, I agree with another commenter that I think most of the criticism against renditions of archery made in the Lars video was against Hollywood, which is where the vast majority of lay people base their knowledge for ancient warfare. He was simply making the point that Hollywood tends to show archery along very certain tropes – the badass fantasy archers (Legolas and Katniss), or the ancient army (in Hollywood movies, basically Roman or British), and that there is in fact other forms of archery that can and have been utilized in the history and as “badass” (ie, trick archery) techniques.

  40. Antonio says:

    Lars has made it clear numerous times that he has practiced for years and certain shots depicted in the video took many takes – it is clearly noted in the description of his video. You do not need to draw the full weight of the bow as Maltese noted. I use 15lbs (light) often. Bustam is mentioned in the archery manuscript stored at Princeton University as devising a particular shot, but there is no evidence that he was a ‘mythological’ being. Maltese was right when saying archery is about what works. Lars trained for a short while and not surprisingly found what works for what he is trying to achieve. One must remember that is NOT Lars who is narrating the video, but another individual. The narrator is also reading the ‘story’ created by someone else. Everything Larson demonstrated in the video is true. Tiny parts of the story are not fully expounded. When the narrator says that the quiver is a Hollywood myth, he probably meant to say that it is sensationalized by Hollywood film. It is equivalent when Hollywood depicts their vision of Native Americans, when archaeologists/anthropologists know that it is a sensationalized depiction of them. Maltese attempts to make fun and criticize Lars when he shows the ineffective quiver when moving across rugged terrain. Any archer here will vouch on arrows falling out when being flexible across the divers topographical landscape. Crouching, bending over to pick up an object/drinking river water, etc will result in arrows falling out. I personally experienced this and prefer to keep arrows holstered on the side. Maltese achieved nothing with her 15 minute video. Lars > Maltese.

    • Max says:

      I don’t know who’s narrating the video, but Lars is acting out some of the narration, like the exaggerated clumsiness of using a quiver and shooting with one eye closed.

  41. Mark Pentler says:

    This is, overall, a good piece of work. Although I’m little surprised that at first you have a pop at Lars for using historical documents as gospel, and then go on to heavily cite them for your other points.

    • Charles Russell says:

      She isn’t knocking the use of historical documents but the fact that the document he chose is bad in a couple of ways. First, the document he was using doesn’t actually go into any detail on the how of the shooting, just generalities. Second is the fact that this historical document is largely a dialog between two mythological people and not even a real world recording of events or conversation.

  42. Mock26 says:

    Here is a link to a picture I took of my first “Robin Hood” moment while shooting. I was using an English style longbow, 40-45 lbs with an actual draw weight of about 38-43, at a range of 20 feet. The arrows are wood nocked and reinforced with thread. They have field tips.

  43. S.M. Stirling says:

    She’s being more polite that the guy deserves.

    Short form: he’s using a very light bow and not drawing the arrow very far.

    This is more like “plinking” than actually shooting. Hence the I-am-Legolas! stuff.

    Military archery involved bows with -heavy- draw weights — 80lbs and up, sometimes to well over 150 lbs — and long arrows drawn past the jaw. Over time, as armor got better and more common, weights got heavier, reaching a peak just before gunpowder weapons came in.

    Bows that heavy require a solid brace so you can use the torso and hips as well as the arms — historical archery manuals repeatedly stress this. You need your feet solidly planted on the ground, or in stirrups. Plus the energy transfer to the arrow is a function of how long the arrow stays in contact with the string — which is why crossbows needed much heavier draws for the same results in terms of speed. Long arrow, long draw.

    The resulting draw takes well over a second, even with instinctive aiming. 12 arrows a minute was considered good practice for war archery in the late medieval era, and for good reason: you’re doing the equivalent of snatch-lifting the weight of the draw. Try snatch-lifting a 120-lb weight repeatedly and see how it feels.

    And it goes on from there — she points out very accurately that back quivers were in fact very widely used all over the world.

  44. darkfiete says:

    Well done!
    A question: Are there any in-depth discriptive ancient or medieval manuals of archery?
    Manuals that do not just talk about techniques and feats but describe how they are actually done (as best as words can do)

    • BobM says:

      Roger Ascham wrote Toxophilius, but during the decline of longbow in English warfare. Whether it would be useful for a modern archer or not I don’t know.

  45. A. Nerdnick says:

    It’s a circus act. (or would have been a hundred years ago). It’s quite obviously a circus act. If PT Barnum was around today, would you bother debunking the claims he made before each show?

    • John Rael says:

      If millions of people went around sharing and believing his fallacious claims, yeah, I probably would. But I’m just glad that you’re so smart and educated that we don’t have to teach you anything Mr. Nerdnick.

  46. Grey says:

    I’m rather in disagreement of her opinion on the study of old images, they can be quite useful. They do need to be taken with a grain of salt.

    As a student of old swordsmanship, I can tell you that old pictures are a great resource, but aren’t to be trusted 100%. IE, we have pictures from a bible that show a helmet being cut in half. Totally impossible, but the caption reads something like “And then Biblical character X slew character Y.” Massive head trauma is an easy way to communicate that visually.

    Nonetheless, you can take the funeral sculpture of knights and have an excellent rendition of how a sword-belt would be rigged.

    Another interesting bit of trivia is that there is actually a specific instance in which a writer of a book on swordsmanship says, (I believe of Degrassi’s book on swordplay “If you get a chance, be sure to read DeGrassi’s excellent work on swordsmanship, however be sure to disregard the pictures in his book, which are worse the useless.”

    Talhoffer on the other hand, in his books, uses pictures exclusively, and many specific techniques can be determined. He matched these excellent pictures with more fanciful pictures of bizarre ‘war machines’ the world has never seen outside of pictures.

    In conclusion to this long winded gripe…. Pics are fucking awesomely useful, but can’t be taken as gospel either. .

    • Graidon says:

      There’s a big difference between how we HEMA folks use historical images and how Lars does. When we study an image from Talhoffer’s treatise to understand a technique, we are looking at an image that we know for a fact was drawn as a guide to that technique. Lars however is basically just googling “historical archery” and basing his claims off of what he finds. So, MAYBE he won the lottery and found images that were drawn by archers for the purpose of understanding archery, but probably not. Like the video said, just because an artist was able to draw someone shooting a bow, does not mean that they drew them shooting a bow properly.

  47. oz says:

    Thank you. So. Much!

  48. Adrian Morgan says:

    At least one earlier video about Andersen was widely shared online a couple of years ago, but I didn’t see any rebuttals then. I wonder why not.

    I would love to see some type of speed archery become an Olympic sport. Or even horse archery. Yeah.

    Incidentally, I joined a local archery club myself a number of years ago. Still got the equipment but it doesn’t get used anymore.

    • Adrian Morgan says:

      Watching the video for a second time, I notice that at 9:38 it refers (in a curiously offhand manner) to a Snopes article on the subject, and recommends that people visit the link … but the video neither directly displays the URL nor directs viewers to the video notes on Youtube.

      I’m wondering if an earlier mention of the Snopes article was cut in the published version of the video. That would explain both the offhand manner (if it wasn’t originally the first mention) and the lack of explicit pointers.

  49. Sandy Gibson says:

    Fairly and eloquently laid out, thanks Anna!
    I’ve done my share of traditional archery, and even made a couple of lovely and hard-hitting longbows from scratch. I was nevertheless sucked in on Lars’ article and drank the kool-aid that said I was doing it all wrong.
    A reasonably talented trick-shooter for sure, but not much of a scholar by the sound of things.

  50. BobM says:

    Interesting about the chainmail. I saw a so-called mediaeval weapons expert fire Longbow arrows at chainmail in a documentary. The arrows pierced the mail but did not pierce the padding underneath. He seemed to think that English archers shot at short range, and relied on breaking ribs and so on to disable armoured opponents. He ignored the disabling of horses which could have easily taken place at long-range. I can’t see that they wouldn’t shoot at short range, but I also noticed he wasn’t using a bodkin point. And the bow if I remember correctly was not a particularly high draw weight. Still – interesting all the same.

    • joe says:

      His name is mike loades. The arrowhead they used was a Tudor style bodkin. The bows were warbows of significant weight. They used the wrong type of head to pierce the gambeson and that’s all. Once you actually start shooting warbows, you understand that they do notable damage the closer the target. I personally believe (as well as quite a few in the warbow community) that lobbing arrows at 200+ yards is a waste of a limited ammo.

      • BobM says:

        I tried to find the clip on YouTube and couldn’t. But in my memory the point looked very much like #13 on page 55 of Robert Hardy’s book. As far as firing at long-range goes, I’ll try to remember that the next time I’m charged by Norman knights on horseback. :-)

  51. Matthew says:

    I thought all the stuff about archery history in Andersen’s was so wildly over the top, yet presented in such a drily serious manner, that it must have been a joke.

  52. Daniel Loxton says:

    Thanks, Anna, for taking the time to put this critique together, and for sharing it here with the INSIGHT audience. As a fascinated outsider to archery, I’m very happy to have the opportunity to consider a critical perspective on Andersen’s interesting video.

  53. Dennis says:

    Thanks for the info. It was entertaining, and informative.

  54. Scote says:

    What Anderson is doing is called archery. Any archery of sufficient skill I n a demonstration can be called “trick archery.”

  55. Singidumljanin says:

    Well she can make gestures and funny faces but he is still better than her….

    • kraut says:

      And what does this have to do with historical accuracy this video is about? Are you a troll or are you a troll?

    • Jeremy says:

      Excellent piece – thanks for the debunking…

    • Andrew says:

      Based on what evidence is he still better if she’s not making a similar ” look how misleadingly awesome I am”?

    • Harris Thot says:

      You have no idea of her skill.

      It’s not because it’s more flashy it’s better but sadly it’s what most amateurs think.

    • Nathan Pen says:

      She showed a black guy WITH A GUN! A BLACK GUY WITH A FUCKING GUN!! Is this a fucking RACIST VIDEO or what? OH MY FUCKING GOD! Wait till Al Sharpton hears about this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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