For the love of archery: Iwakuni archer finds niche in notched arrows
Name: Michael Whiteside
Location: Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
Hometown: Nevis, Minnesota
Q: What is your background?
A: I am retired U.S. Air Force Aircraft mechanic, retired in 2000. I served over 20 years, 9 of which I spent in Okinawa. Six of the 9 years in Okinawa I was president of the Okinawa Archers Club where we held weekly tournaments. I participated in over 400 3-D and field competitions and taught archery to new members. I shoot compound bows and bare bow re-curves.
Q: How did find archery in Iwakuni?
A: I was told when I got to Iwakuni that there was no archery allowed in Japan. After a year of shooting in my friend's back yard at a small target I brought from the states, I found there was archery in Japan. I decided to ask around. I asked a Japanese friend to check on Japanese Google for an archery range, and low and behold, there was a range about 30 kilometers from the base. My friend drew me a map and I was off the next day to find it.
It was like finding a gold mine to me. When I met the owner, Shinji Tono of Saiki Archery Land, we hit it off right away and have been great friends ever since. Shinji-san is a world-class archery instructor and has competed all over Japan during High School and College. He grew up on this range, since his father opened the range in 1972. Shinji also has two boys that have grown up shooting and competing in the sport of archery.
Q: What is competing in Japan like?
A: I won my first two field tournaments in the spring at which point I was invited to shoot on the Saiki team in the World Cup in Las Vegas in February of 2015. I took second in the next two tournaments and (in November) took first in the All Japan 3-D tournament. A field tournament consists of paper ring targets set at known yardage, meaning the shooter knows the distance from (his or her) intended target. A 3-D tournament consists of artificial foam animal targets in several places throughout the forest and the shooter has to guess the yardage distance. These targets can be placed anywhere from five to 50 meters away.
Q: What was the All Japan 3-D tournament like?
A: It consisted of compound bow and re-curve bow competitors and was broken down into different skill levels, ours being the highest. … The finals were held on the main target range where the shooters had to shoot targets set up on the hill side so the other competitors and spectators could watch. All shooters were paired in one shot eliminations. I had to win 5 rounds to get to the final spot with a shooter from Osaka. … The Last round was three targets one shot each, 30 seconds to shoot, total score wins. … The last target was a turkey with very small eight and 10 rings about 35 meters. We released our arrows simultaneously and we each scored 5's on either side of the eight ring. My opponent and I both stood with our brains scrambling for a moment when they announced that I was the winner. What an awesome feeling it was. My now friend and competitor from Osaka shook hands, hugged and; it was all smiles.
Q: How do you practice?
I usually practice five or six days a week, three to four hours a day. … My practice consists of shooting ring targets for a few hours and then I switch to shooting candy lifesavers. I have been shooting candy lifesavers for over 15 years from 20 to 50 meters. … One day last winter I just started shooting them again and as Shinji was walking by he heard the lifesaver break when pieces of the candy hit the tin roof over the target. He asked me what was that and I told him "I broke my target," as I held up a new lifesaver. He couldn't believe I was shooting these tiny candies. I explained to him that if you aim at a small target you miss smaller. … Next thing you know, he has me bringing several 3 pound bags of candy for all the Japanese to practice on. … They call it candy crush.
Q: Are you starting an archery program?
A: I have taken and continue to take several single Marines up to the archery range to shoot. Last June I helped organize a trip through the base Outdoor Recreation and brought a large group to the range. In September, I helped organize a trip to the range for the Single Marine Program that took place last week. I am trying to get a program started to have a continual trip to the range for Iwakuni Marines, community members and their families. My goal is and always has been to infect as many people as I can with this disease I call the "love of archery."