Personal Growth

Learning Night recap: Derek Wong shares his passion and wisdom drawn from archery

Written by Joanna Ng Published on 

While not a common sport in Singapore, Derek Wong captured the audience attention with his passion for archery and the lessons learnt.

While not a common sport in Singapore, Derek Wong’s sharing on archery during our first learning night sparked curiosity in the audience.

With animated storytelling and archery puns, Derek shared how he became infatuated with archery after watching ‘Lord Of The Rings’ in sixth-grade. He was in luck as there was a garage sale nearby, and he pulled his savings together with his brother to buy a used bow.

Derek Wong practising archery.
Derek Wong practising archery. Image courtesy of derek.

What Archery really is

When most of us think of archery, we think of Greek mythology and the Olympics, but archery is more than that.

Derek opened up a world of archery to us – a world where humans and archery go a long way back in history. Just like how Dr. Miina spoke about evolution and ‘flight and fight’, humans have learnt to use archery in the past for survival. Interestingly, he proposed that one of the reasons why humans became best friends with dogs was due to hunting as well.

A philosophy

Archery is a way of improving yourself as a person, but also deepening your understanding of your place in the world.

Derek said the ancient Stoics had believed that Archery was a way to improve the mind, body, and soul. It wasn’t so much about hitting the target, but the approach to how you aim at your target that shows your character as a person. Ancient Japan has also seen archery as a form of ritual, where one can spend thousands of hours practising how to draw or breathing.

Fun fact: To the ancient Japanese, if you hit the target, you’re not even supposed to smile or make a sound. This actually results in minus points. I suppose that’s why the discipline really flows through in the Japanese culture we see today. Derek also recommended one of his favourite books Zen in the Art of Archery, where it celebrates not hitting the target, but being one with yourself. It suggests that a bow is just a long piece of wood with a string, and what’s more important is learning how to aim at the target. You still your mind and clear the doubts to overcome challenges.

Wisdom from Archery

While these pieces of wisdom are not new to most of us, it is being amplified in archery.

  1. Focus

Focusing means ignoring what’s going on in the lanes beside you. At the end of the day, we’re still shooting in our own lane.

Archery forces you to practice as it is the only way to hit the target. By focusing, you learn to tune out the voices around you, and ignore what is going on. It doesn’t matter whether others have hit their target, it is more important to focus on your own. Ever since starting archery, Derek has managed to learn to focus. He draws lessons from archery into his career life, where it is more important to focus on what you do rather than looking at the succeess of others.

  1. Stillness

In mind, body and soul.

While many see yoga as a form of meditation for the mind, body, and soul, Derek sees archery as his form of relaxation. It gives him a chance to go deep into nature. It could be high up in the mountains or between the trees; archery has helped Derek to appreciate the quietness that is rare in the city.

  1. Letting Go

Archery is about everything that leads up to the shots. I’ve done what I could, and all that I can control is how I react to it.

Derek uses the analogy of paper lanterns to illustrate his point on letting go
Derek uses the analogy of paper lanterns to illustrate his point. Image courtesy of Derek

Using an analogy of the paper lanterns that he’s always been fascinated with, he explains that the paper lantern is very beautiful, but it will burn up in your hands unless you let it fly. In order to appreciate the beauty, you have to let it go. This is similar to archery, where you can practice to perfect your stance, technique, and breathing, but there will be a moment where you have to let go. You can prepare everything to perfection, but once you let go, there is nothing else you can do. This mindset of “letting go” has also allowed him to understand that: “I’ve done what I can, and now all I can control is how I react to it.”

Questions from the Crowd

What is the hardest part of archery?

Learning how to aim. It is super unintuitive how to aim because there is an archer’s paradox. This is when you pull the string back and the arrow is close to your face, which causes your right and left eye to see different things. This leads to your brain not exactly knowing where the arrow is pointing towards, and most of the times, the arrow wobbles too. When you shoot for the first time, you would have no idea where it goes. When you’re aiming at a long range, you have to aim higher because all arrows have an arch when it’s released. This makes archery cool, because, at the end of the day, you have to make a mistake in order to figure out what to do.

What are the drawbacks to archery? There can be a lot of drawbacks – it is not a very accessible sport, and there comes a barrier in entry not only in accessibility, but also in basic safety and handling. A tip is that before investing in a bow, it is more important to try it out first since some bows can weigh as heavy as 40kg. It is also important to have a coach.

Archery is also a very individualistic sport, so it can get quite lonely sometimes, especially since I haven’t found many archery friends. However, if I look it in another way, it is also a way for me to develop personally.

Lastly, there can also be a physical imbalance because you’re putting so much strength and weight on the right muscle of your body.

Learning Nights is a new initiative by Oasis, by KrASIA, where we hold casual short-talks in pod groups that is similar to an adult version of Show and Tell. In our vision, Learning Nights would be a place where everyone can meet, interact and share anything in their lives.

If you are interested in speaking at an Oasis learning night or want to partner for an event, please email [email protected]


Joanna Ng

Joanna Ng is the Community Coordinator at KrASIA.


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