It's no secret that we're big fans of Gotham Archery. They partnered with us to introduce woodsman skills to Brooklynites during our first demo, and they're partnering with us again on October 7, as the hosts of our first-ever hands-on class in Brooklyn. So we wanted everyone to get to know them better—by introducing you to one of their rad archery instructors, Brandon Ramos.
Project Woodchips: Tell us about how you got started with archery.
Brandon Ramos: I got my start just over a year ago. I saw Gotham on NY1, and thought, "That's right up my alley." I’d always had a kinship with ancient-style weaponry, and, since I was getting ready to get married, and figured it was a perfect thing for my bachelor party.
PW: Most people don't quit their day job after a bachelor party—what was that first experience like?
BR: I have a martial arts background, so I expected a gym atmosphere. I anticipated an ego show. You know, guys walking up to you like, “Do you even arch, bro?” But instead I was greeted by a smiling face. It was a different feel, and I liked it right away.
It took me one shot before I was addicted. The first arrow didn’t even go where I wanted it to go. But wanting to learn was what got me started. I came back the next Sunday after that. And every Sunday for the following eight months; four hours at a time. It was a complete addiction. I came onboard as a full-fledged instructor in January.
PW: Let's talk technique—what are the most common mistakes you see when people first pick up a bow and arrow?
BR: Most people show up open minded. We do get people who want to try things they’ve seen on Youtube on the range. There’s no substitution for learning things the right way—you'll find so much conflicting information out there. We have our own way of teaching so that you’re safe from beginning to end—we teach you not to grab arrows too early, or hang out with sharp objects in your hands.
PW: There has been a lot of archery in popular culture over the last ten years. Is there anyone depicted in movies or TV that you think uses good form?
BR: The actor from Arrow actually really has great form. He anchors in the right place; actually, he mostly does everything right. But you can tell the bow isn’t as heavy as he’s claiming it to be. In Hunger Games, Katniss is chin anchoring. She wouldn’t be in the woods doing Olympic style anchoring.
PW: What still surprises you about archery?
BR: Archery is its own lifestyle—especially when you leave NYC. You can’t just pick up a bow and be good at it. You have to dedicate yourself to it. It has its own terms and its own world—I learn something new about it all the time.
PW: Tell us your favorite archery story.
BR: I had one woman come in who was convinced she wouldn’t be able to do it. Then she mopped up the competition, including her boyfriend. There are moments when I see it click, and I see someone's competitive nature get fired up, and they're able to do amazing things. When you bring people something outside of their everyday, that’s beauty.
PW: From beginner to pro, there's no shortage of options when it comes to archery equipment. What should people really look for when kitting up?
If you’re going to get serious, we do a bow fitting. But we don’t advise doing that unless you’ve been shooting for awhile. When I was first learning, I wanted to buy everything, and Ken, the owner, was like, "Wait—shoot, and shoot consistently. Then do a fitting." We have a bow tech who cares about getting people the right thing at the right price. We also want to make sure you won’t outgrow it as you get stronger.
PW: What is it about archery that attracts people and keeps them coming back?
BR: At Gotham, we care about the sport and we care about the diversity of people who come here. This should be your haven. No matter who I am or how people think of me outside of here, I can be myself inside of Gotham. That’s what got me here. Everyone really enjoys this one thing.
PW: How do people react when you tell them you're an archery instructor now?
BR: They usually say, “That makes sense.”