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Left eye dominance and archery

The comment we received on this subject from Ray was so complete I am just going to re-post it here…

“I am an archery coach and when first entering the sport and taking an interest in how archers performed, it was generally accepted that approximately ten percent of the population were left handed. However I would suggest that the ratio is closer to thirty percent if not higher, it’s just that we notice handedness more than we do another possibly more significant indicator of natural handedness.

For generations, instructors of all sports and other activities have simply asked the pupil what their handedness is and taught them accordingly. Over the last three decades however most of the leading coaches of archery have taught their pupils on ‘eye dominance’ and not on what the pupil believes to be their handedness, simply because they have been taught other skills right handed and have come to accept that as their natural handedness. In other words they are now ‘Cross laterals’, they perform certain actions as right handed although their brain wants them to do some things left handed.

Evidence that training on eye dominance is more efficient than on adopted handedness in archery, manifests itself most significantly when a cross lateral taught to perform archery right handily with a patch over their left eye is starting to approach their maximum potential. For it is at this point, when the technique is becoming an autonomous action controlled by the subconscious mind, that things start to fall apart. The body virtually refusing to perform the movements required with any consistency or fluidity. However, by switching the pupil to the opposite hand and allowing the dominant side of the brain and eye to take command, everything drops nicely into place, the archer resumes and often exceeds their previous performance levels and continues more effectively than before.

The reason I suspect there to be more naturally left handed people than previously suspected, is that over the last decade or so of checking eye dominance and teaching accordingly, there have been three to six out of ever twelve pupils per class that have benefitted from being taught left handed. As a result I now wonder if many other problems, such as dyslexia and similar conditions, may be related to natural eye dominance over trained handedness, causing the brain to become confused?”

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18 comments on “Left eye dominance and archery
  1. rusty says:

    50 or so years ago, I graduated from taking an elementary lathe (machine shop) class from an evening course at a trade school. As I sent out resume’s, the only response I got was; Am I right handed? I told him that I was left handed (which I was) and promptly told me all the machines in a machine shop were right handed machines and he was sorry but he couldn’t use me! A big surprise as I didn’t get any right handed feedback from my teacher while in class. So, I became an auto mechanic, then put in 25 years delivering bread then put in 15 years delivering wine and at 63 decided as I was delivering 200 to 275 cases of wine a day, I may seriously hurt myself and quit to do something else. Guess the machine shop owner was the looser!
    Keep up the good work!

    Ps- My 7th grade English teacher tried to change my hand I wrote with to my right-
    but continued with the left anyway!

  2. Ted says:

    In shooting with a shotgun, which does not have a sight a such, there are techniques used whereby if shooting from the right shoulder, you need right eye dominance, although most of the time both eyes are open, because a flying object such as a clay might be otherwise outside of the field of view. If you have left eye dominance, keep both eyes open at all times,. but if you have right eye dominance, you can close your left eye in the final moments before pulling the trigger.

  3. Les says:

    I shoot clay pigeon, mounting the gun into my left shoulder, but am right eye dominant. The technique I adopt is to hold the gun out of my shoulder as long as possible to get a good sight of the target and mount the gun as late as possible. It is a technique taught to me by my left handed coach. And, yes, you can get left handed shotguns!

  4. Sarah Kidd says:

    Interesting article – my son is left handed when he writes, but has just started doing archery and the coach identified him as his right eye being dominant – when he tried the left handed bow he didn’t like it at all, but is very happy using a right handed one – he is also much better kicking a football with his right foot. Guess it just demonstrates how unique we all are!

  5. Bret says:

    Left handed, left eye dominace in shooting sports is greatly enhanced with reverse controls and casing discharge to the left primarily because the fire flash is in the line of sight and casing discharges in your face using right handed fire arms or so called ambideterous fire arms.

  6. Tyler Rush says:

    I have often wondered about this myself. I shoot right handed even though I’m a leftie because that’s how I was taught by my father and grandfather, but I’m right eye dominant, so it worked out to my advantage.

  7. Clark says:

    I am left-handed, sort-of. I write and eat left-handed. It is cleaner to eat soup with a steady hand. The funny thing is that I picked up chopsticks right handed then taught myself to use them left handed.
    I can do most things left or right handed. Some days I shoot shotgun right handed and other times rifle left-handed. I shoot pistol right handed but always felt better with the archery bow in the left hand.
    My vision has varied over the years but I am left eye dominant. When shooting rifle, i don’t close one eye like some people do. It is better to keep both eyes open, even when looking through a scope.
    I agree that handedness and vision don’t necessarily reflect each other. My older brother is right handed but left eye dominant. It took a while but he learned to shoot my left handed rifle with ease and better accuracy.
    I do woodworknig and recently realized that some tools are better suited for te right hand and some for the left hand. Even wood turning on a lathe, the tools don’t care, but, some I use left and some right.
    Enjoy whichever hand/eye you are and be comfortable doing it.

  8. Henri De Roule says:

    I have found the real test for handedness is to point at an object using the forefinger of either hand and then closing first one eye and then the other. The object will always appear in line with the finger of the dominant eye. I am left-handed, left-eyed, and left-footed. I know that there are many people who have one or more handedness traits when it comes to being left-sided, but I don’t know of nearly as many who are right-sided. In reading the literature on handedness, if I remember correctly, about 10% of people are fully left-sided, another 3-5% are partially left-sided (2 out of the 3) and another 3-5% are one of the three. I would assume, therefore, that between 6-10% of right-handed people have a lefty bent in one or more of the three criteria.

  9. Ken says:

    When I first took my wife to a rifle/pistol range, we had trouble figuring out why it seemed awkward to her. When we tried the eye dominance, it fell in to place. She is right handed, and had never thought of trying things left handed, until she met me, her Mr. Left (as opposed to Mr. Right :-p).
    Our son is left handed, but right-eyed. Both wife and son now happily follow the dominant eye side.

    A US Marine friend who was a Junior Olympics archer is the one who helped us with the eye dominance – handedness discussion.

    As noted with the archery classes, I have also noticed that some fields have greater than the assumed 10% population of left handers. I see something like 30% of the engineer/technical population I work with that are left-handed.

  10. Kelly says:

    Interesting stuff. I do historical re-enactment archery with an ash longbow and I’ve always shot “right handed”, holding my bow in my left and drawing with my right hand, despite being left-handed in everything else. My trainers just told me to pick up a bow and shoot on whichever side I felt most natural, they didn’t try to force me into a particular way of doing it.

  11. George Kravis says:

    Same is true in looking through the view finder of an SLR camera, where it’s recommended to use the RIGHT eye, but I feel more comfortable using the LEFT eye. I seem to get better composition and edge to edge coverage in the recorded image that way.

  12. Don Sinclair says:

    Well well.
    I have recently taken up archery, my coach used the two hand triangle between thumb and fore finger to assess eye dominance.

    I am left handed and know my brain is left handed np problem. However, another chap on the course by this method was left eye dominant!!! and the coach assessed him and suggested he shoot left handed i.e right shoulder to the target.

    He struggled to make any improvement, after this weeks session he changed to ‘left handed’, and is now much happier and feels natural. In all other respects he is right handed.

    Don Sinclair

  13. ray phillips says:

    Dear Ray, Fascinating article on archery. It is pertinent to a set of my historical novellas to be published by year’s end. They feature native Americans of the northestern woodlands and waterways during the ‘Contact Period’ in the early to mid-1600’s, each of the four novellas told from a different point of view. What brings your teaching of archery into sharp focus is the struggle of the character in the first novella, “Tail Feather” who is by nature left-handed. This trait – in my story – baffles his ‘mentors’ and himself as he uses bow and arrow and flings the snow snake, yet there it is. It is one of the problems that Tail Feather, as an adolescent, must learn to deal with. As you may imagine, he eventually succeeds, but the inside struggle is cosmic, involving a long canoe journey (the entire Hudson River from mountains to Manhattan), many scary moments along the way with some funny ones, too. Thank you for your most interesting perspective on the challenge presented in archery, now at a time when the science of how the brain works is better understood than it was in the 17th century forests of America.
    Ray Phillips, MD, Kent Lakes, New York

  14. Lynn Robertson says:

    There is not a direct connection between handedness, eye-dominance, and/or “footedness.” Most people are a mix. I am left handed, but slightly right-eye dominant (left/right dominance of ALL kinds is on a scale, just like extrovert/introvert – some are at the extremes, but most are closer to the middle). I learned of my eye dominance while in the Air Force, learning to shoot. I was able to shoot with either hand, though much more easily with the left…and just the opposite with the eyes. It gave me the unique ability to shoot equally well each way, since one part of the equation (hand or eye) was stronger either way. (A wasted talent, as I have not touched a gun since then – over 30 years!) I’m not an extreme lefty, so I can adapt. I do archery and fencing as a lefty for the simple and practical reason that there was much more left handed equipment in relation to the number of lefties in class compared to right handed equipment and righties! So, I got more “play” opportunities in class. Tennis I learned right handed, so I do it right handed. Now I CAN’T do it left handed because I’ve trained my brain and body to do it the other way for so long!
    It might be that, because accuracy in archery is so dependent on the eyes, that people should choose to do it right or left handed depending on the EYE dominance, not the hand. Does not mean that they are any less left or right handed – just that the EYE is the more critical factor. Writing involves the hand much more, so we write with our dominant HAND.
    This is not a scientific observation – just my reasoned opinion, along with the many studies that have shown that most people are of mixed dominance with the eyes, hands, and feet.
    Of course, if you’re one of the “extremes,” so left or right handed that you just cannot use the other, that might overrule the above suggested decision even when it comes to something that depends strongly on the eye!

  15. Meghan says:

    I do not think that eye dominance is as directly correlated to handedness as we think. I am left-handed through and through, but my right eye is dominent. Archery is the one sport where I ‘blend in’ and don’t stick out as a lefty. Both my father and boyfriend are right-handed, but they both shoot ‘lefty’ in archery. They are definitely not repressed lefties and do not have learning disabilities.

  16. Sharon Boore says:

    Just tested my eye dominance for the first time ever and very surprised to find that although very left handed am defnately right eyed! Is that usual?

  17. Scott says:

    I think you may be onto something here with regards to eye dominanace. I am not an archer, but I am a photographer who is left eye dominant. As a result I compose most images backwards from what most people would expect. If I am following the rule-of-thirds in a composition I tend to put the subject in the left corner of the image and my photographer friends and judges in competitions comment on it. I have trained myself to compose how people want to see it in the interest of winning competitions, but it often looks backwards to me when I look at it.

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