The Way of The Sling - Jesús Vega
I started slinging seven years ago during a boring summer vacation at the seaside. The back of the beach was full of smooth stones of all sizes and I thought I’d make a rudimentary sling and to have fun throwing stones out to sea. A few vacationers became interested after seeing the great range of the projectiles splashing into the water. The weapon has always fascinated me and I have practiced from an early age to shoot accurately with firearms, mainly the pistol. Perhaps the hard training of competition with these weapons, so meticulous and stressing, made me immediately to grow fond of the simple sling and its intuitive shot. I soon developed a strange passion and submerged myself in the sling and its history. Afterwards, I encouraged myself to spread this knowledge and to revive this wonderful weapon for the world of sport. It was a difficult and long task that I have never left, by means of direct initiatives or collaborating with the initiatives of others. The results of this passion were two books (a history of the sling and a handbook of use and construction), and also a Web site I like to think as a virtual school of Sling. All is written in Spanish, my native language. English and French are my second languages, but a little arduous for me to use.
Something that caught my attention when I was examining classic texts related to the sling was the extraordinary accuracy that was attributed to it, as if it was a magical weapon equipped with secret powers. Nevertheless, not having been recognized as a modern sport, like the bow, it seems to have lost that extraordinary mastery and precision that it had in ancient times. Therefore, the data we have at the present time is only from historical literary references, anecdotes and indirect testimonies coming from the last centuries, but not a source of registered and trustworthy data.
In classic times, accuracy of the Balearic and Achaean slingers was praised. Achaean slingers were said to have been able to hit their enemies not only in the head, but in the part of the face that they wanted.
The accuracy of shepherds and cowboys is also notable, often existing in anecdotes from several areas and time periods. The are said to have remarkable skill and the ability to aim for a particular horn of their bulls to separate them when they fought.
In the 18th century, the slingers of the island of Menorca (Balearic Islands) were famous for their extraordinary accuracy. Slingers joined a society or union, and acquired the title of "foner" (slinger) if they passed the following test: fire nine shots hitting each of the crossbars of a traditional gate. (see picture to right)
You might consider the question: how does one gain precision with the sling? What is its limit? And the answer is: it does not have a limit, in spite of its simplicity. The sling has comparable accuracy to the bow, and even close to that of a firearm, especially given the simplicity and degrees of freedom of its mechanics. With a well-made sling and projectiles of good ballistic design, everything is left in the hands of the slinger, whose ability is the only limit.
Nevertheless to develop that skill is not an easy task. After intense training, that can last years, one probably will have developed respectable accuracy and the automatism of the firing. The sling will become one with our body, like an arm, and just like how we do not focus on our arm when we throw a stone by hand, we would not concentrate on the sling either. Instead, our focus shirts to the objective and we "sharpen our aim" and automatically shoot.
The accuracy of a sling cannot be controlled in the same way we can with firearms or modern bows. One visualizes the target and knows that he must aim and immobilize the sights on it, to tighten the trigger very slowly, and so forth. It is a static shot, where the precision and care of movements are fundamental. Casting a rock with a sling is a dynamic exercise that is developed to high speed, and where the slinger doesn't control voluntarily the moment of release and the exact alignment of the trajectory with the target. All these tasks have to be given to the unconscious, with their hidden mechanisms of precision. Consciously, we must only take care in listening to the voice of the unconscious to guide us to a successful release.
The things that influence us are usually very simple, but they reach inside of us with greater impact. I believe that the Biblical story of David and Goliath, transmitted like an archetypal message, has pierced us and has become a way of feeling. David, a shepherd boy touched by divine grace, defeats the gigantic and frightful Goliath with his slinging ability. David’s humility, fortified by the security inspired by his religious spirit, wins over the pride of the giant. What boy will not feel touched in the most intimate way by this story? Perhaps we all have a forgotten slinger boy inside.
The fascination of that inner inspiration that guided the hand of David, removed from its religious context, is what I believe that attracts to me towards the sling. Being the simplest weapon, it is equipped nevertheless with the magic of the accuracy. To take it without hindrance in my pocket and because of the abundance of projectiles makes it an attractive weapon to me. The power of its firing would not be noteworthy if it could not be accompanied by accuracy.
My fascination of the sling is the fascination of the naked aim; naked of artifice, mechanisms of precision, technique. Modern weapons, and the old ones that have survived the passing of time, like the bow, are full of diverse mechanisms, systems of aim, sensitive triggers, counterbalances, etc. Our culture is pushed to constantly improve and push things to the limit; but we have lost sight of the way to use these items, making of the discipline of the shot a set of procedures and techniques that when applied with a meticulous control is guaranteed to hit its target. On the other hand, these weapons are based on the static accumulation of the energy; the gunpowder or tension in a bow carries the energy that will be released in the firing. Sophisticated systems of aim "hunt" the target before shooting; it is only necessary to control our pulse, our body, not to lose the sights and to smoothly operate the delicate trigger mechanism. Everything becomes control, a conscious effort, will. In the sling there is no accumulated energy: it is necessary to generate it in the moment of the firing. There are no aim systems: only the eye that penetrates the objective (see picture to left). Any meticulous control of our body is impossible, because the motion is so dynamic; it requires relaxation, naturalness and fluidity of our movements.
What is the mechanism for using a sling accurately? The answer was given to me as a child, hidden in the story of David. The mechanism of precision in the sling is in the interior of the slinger. It was within David, and his religious inspiration. These "religious" feelings, or perhaps mystical, like the one of perfection, veneration, or delivery to a historical destiny, mobilize a series of internal resources that extend our natural capabilities. These are interior to the slinger, who is equipped with that wonderful capacity of precision, which escapes to his conscience. This capacity is too subtle and quick to be controlled. It is only necessary to know how to communicate with it. That communion between the man’s conscience and the magical background of his unconscious provides a joyful and enriching experience: knowing that we have something extraordinarily perfect and intense inside all of us.
This it is the way of the sling, the one of communication and harmony with our unconscious. It is a longer way, but their profits are very worthwhile; more intense, but less tired; more difficult, but simpler. And mainly, it is a rewarding, joyful and magical way.
- Jesús Vega