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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.

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An Archer
February 16, 2015 1:24 am

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

sittingbytheriver
February 14, 2015 2:32 pm

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.

Stephanie
February 14, 2015 10:39 am

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

Tony
February 14, 2015 7:47 am

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.

Bill
February 13, 2015 6:17 pm

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.

Sean B
February 13, 2015 12:31 pm

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 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/experts-time-division-days-hours-minutes/

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.

Axel
February 12, 2015 7:06 pm

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.

http://ekstrabladet.dk/nyheder/samfund/spaendte-lars-buen-for-haardt-nu-skyder-han-tilbage/5435601

Justin Ma
February 11, 2015 2:24 pm

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.

Tim Callahan
February 11, 2015 11:23 am

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.

Dan
February 11, 2015 8:36 am

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.

Bill Pennock
February 11, 2015 8:22 am

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.

JZ
February 11, 2015 6:20 am

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!

Romulus
February 11, 2015 6:00 am

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

Eric Hilton
February 10, 2015 1:09 pm

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

Mike Reis
February 10, 2015 1:01 pm

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!

Chuck Baldwin
February 10, 2015 1:01 pm

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

Ron Jon
February 10, 2015 11:14 am

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.

sheridanqporter
February 10, 2015 9:15 am

Superb, old girl- keep it up.

Don
February 10, 2015 5:03 am

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

FergusM
February 11, 2015 7:08 am
Reply to  Don

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.

John Hayes
February 10, 2015 4:10 am

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:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLFqZSWjbZg

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.”
http://www.mensjournal.com/adventure/outdoor/the-story-behind-lars-andersens-new-level-of-archery-video-20150126

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
February 13, 2015 12:40 pm
Reply to  John Hayes

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.

Ned Reiter
February 10, 2015 3:26 am

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!

shannon
February 9, 2015 11:30 pm

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

fugenchutenz
February 9, 2015 12:30 pm

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

John
February 9, 2015 6:46 am

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.

Steve Hannah
February 9, 2015 6:29 am

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)

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