I used to be a lot more strict with eye dominance and archery than what I am now.
When I began learning archery, some time during the dark ages, right after my uncle UGGhH discover fire by pure chance, followed immediately by the invention of Fire Insurance by my uncle ArRggG. Then, they would just give you a bow. They would tell you to hold it on your left hand and pull the string with your right. They would tell you to keep all the relevant body parts away from the string, and the stick with the pointy thing aimed towards the stuff you want to make holes on. That was state of the art training.
Right after the Second Black Plague, I went to College. I joined their archery team. They checked my eye dominance (left) and confirmed that I was right-handed. They checked my length of pull (longer than they had arrows for), declared me an abomination resulting from the mix of an orangutan and a spider monkey (Uncle SpoUch was right, it was a mistake coming down from the tree. At least you could see the fires caused by UGGhH from far away and uncle ArRggG could not reach you up there to sell you “insurance”).
The coach told me that they only had one left eye dominant bow left, and that the cute girl that that joined with me would take it, so I should toughen up and shoot a right eye dominant bow. I told him that I was prettier than her and that I would bring a letter from my mom confirming the fact, but he laugh at me, gave me the right eye dominant bow and told me to keep all the relevant body parts, specially his, away from my string and keep the pointy things aimed towards the stuff I wanted to make holes on. Months later, when I tried to buy a left eye dominant bow, I could not find one. Then again, it was the Middle Ages and I lived in Spain…the closest archery shop was in France…and I did not had the money to have one shipped, and apparently my father smell of elderberries. Either way, as the coach said, I had to toughen up and shot cross dominant. I´ve done that ever since.
Most of the people have a dominant eye. That´s the eye that takes the lead when we are looking at something, because our brain prefers the visual input from that eye more than from the other. Eye dominance is not connected to hand dominance and they might not match. This is due to the fact that both brain hemispheres control both eyes, but each hemisphere takes charge of a different half of the field of vision. There are more people who are right eye dominant than left eye dominant, and there are only few individuals who don´t have a dominant eye. Personally, I´ve only met one individual that did not actually had a dominant eye since I began teaching.
The problem with eye dominance is that sometimes it goes against nature and common sense (the most uncommon of all the senses). We all have a dominant hand, and we are faster/better/stronger/handier on our dominant side, so most people prefer to use their leading hand when practicing archery instead of following their dominant eye.
Now, for shooting sports it´s better to shot with your dominant eye than against your dominant eye; and I am going to talk about the reasons to do this and different ways to find which eye is your dominant eye. But before we continue, I want to get this out of the way: Yes you can train your non-dominant eye to be dominant. You only need to use an eye patch on your dominant eye that allows you to keep the eye open under the patch. The brain confronted with the fact that the dominant eye only provides the brain an unchanged visual field, will begin to use the info provided by the non-dominant eye, and eventually it will became dominant. I don´t know anybody who has done this, and for what I can find online, this causes eye irritation, and frustration on the eye patch user, while causing a diminution of visual comprehension. In layman terms: you´ll be frustrated, you´ll be clumsy and your eye will hurt. But hey, it´s your brain. I won´t stop you.
In archery, it´s recommended you shoot with your dominant eye. That allows you to shoot keeping both eyes open. As much as that is important when shooting guns or darts, it is even more important in archery. And even more important when shooting Fita or Olympic-style bows.
The standard stance on the modern archery technique for Fita or Olympic-style archery is bladed to the target. The shooting line is parallel to the target line. The shooter stays over the line, with one foot on each side of it, with the hand holding the bow towards the target. If we where to draw a line through the front of both big toes, that line would reach the center of the target. That means that we looking at the target over the shoulder of the arm holding the bow. If we are right eye dominant, we will be holding the bow with our left hand and our left foot will be forward of the line. If we were left eye dominant, we would hold the bow with the right hand and pull the string with the left, with our right foot over the line.
In that position, if I keep both my eyes open, the whole target will be on my field of view. It will look something like this:
If I were left eye dominant, and I wanted to shoot right eye dominant (because I am right handed), I will be forced to close my left eye. Otherwise, my left eye would take over and I would move my head to lead with my left eye, with the result that all my arrows would go to the left of my aiming point.
Now, because I´m bladed to the target, and aiming over my left shoulder, when I close my left eye I loose half of the vision field. Not only that, but also my nose will be on the way. My field of view will be something like this:
The triangle thingy representing my nose. Yes, I have a dainty nose…I´m not too good at drawing.
When you have to close one eye, you are actually aiming to a part of the target that you can´t completely see.
So, when you come to one of my classes, I´m going to see which eye is your dominant eye, and I will recommend you to shoot with your dominant eye. If after we shoot a few times with your dominant eye, you want to change sides, I will give you another bow and I will let you try. You´ll see that the results you get are worst. If you still decide to shoot like that, I am not going to stop you as long as you are safe and do not endanger yourself or other shooters at the range.
Remember, in the modern archery technique, we do not use our chest muscles or our arm muscles to pull the bow. We actually use the muscles in our upper back. We are bringing our scapulas together. It makes no difference if we are pulling left to right or right to left. We are using the same muscles.
I will explain how to find your dominant eye on my next post.
In the meantime, let´s do the things right…or left, as it comes.
Be safe and have fun. See you at the range.