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An Archer Goes Old-School, And Wows The Internet

It would be perfectly normal to think of archery as a sport defined by accuracy. But a Danish man who says he researched archery's historic methods is arguing for speed and agility, as well: Lars Andersen has released a video in which he fires three arrows in 0.6 seconds.

In fact, Andersen makes a claim to the title of "the fastest archer alive."

The video has attracted more than 23 million views (and the scorn of some critics) since it was posted one week ago. In it, Andersen performs an assortment of amazing shots, hitting moving objects and getting multiple (accurate) shots off as he runs and leaps.

Several shots in the video seem otherworldly. Andersen snatches an arrow out of the air and fires it back at another archer — and in what he calls the "ultimate trick," he shoots an incoming arrow out of the air by splitting it lengthwise.

The website Archery360 calls it "a new video of terrifying trick shots and high speed archery that absolutely blows our arrow-loving minds."

All that is quite a feat for a man who says he first got into archery not as a sport but as a component of live action role-play (or LARP) games inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

But after about six years of intense training, he tells a Danish news site, Andersen "broke ... through the sound barrier."

He adds, "I think actually that I am the first archer for many hundreds of years that have trained enough to reach the point where you no longer have to think about it. You just look at the target, shoot an arrow, and it hits."

This isn't the first video that touts Andersen's abilities, but it has struck a nerve — something we ascribe to both the feats recorded in the new video and the "alternate history" vibe of its narration, which seeks to summarize archery's ancient traditions as it shows how Hollywood has duped us all.

We here at the Two-Way are not experts in archery. But we agree with the debunker website Snopes that the trick shots in the video don't seem to have been enhanced by digital manipulation. For his part, Andersen acknowledges that these shots took years to learn — and multiple takes to document, in some cases.

"Many people talk about how what I do is only possible because I use bows that are less powerful than English longbows," Andersen says, addressing a criticism. "They are correct. I'm 50 years old, and have been doing archery for only ten years. I'll never be able to shoot really fast with 100 lbs+ war bows. I tried, but it just produced injuries."

As for the trick of splitting an arrow lengthwise, Andersen admits it was "just pure luck," adding that the incoming arrow was made from bamboo while his arrow was aluminum.

"I'm not certain I could repeat it without first training for a long time," he says. "I believe it split because it hit just behind the head and made the shafts fluctuate against each other, causing the bamboo shaft to split lengthwise."

If you're curious about the cultural and historical claims made in Andersen's video, you might counterbalance them by reading the intensely skeptical view presented by Geekdad, where Jim McQuarrie titled his post, "Danish 'Archer' Demonstrates Gullibility of Audience."

What's certain is that archery was (and still is) practiced in different styles and by different peoples, and it has changed over thousands of years, particularly as it moved out of the martial realm and into that of sport.

"Many people have accused me of being fake or have theories on how there's cheating involved," Andersen says of his video, in a news release. "I've always found it fascinating how human it is, to want to disbelieve anything that goes against our world view — even when it's about something as relatively neutral as archery."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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