One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an "artless art" growing out of the Unconsciousness.
—DAISETZ T. SUZUKI
From the introduction to Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel
When Rick McKinney walks down the street there is nothing about him to suggest that a year from today his proudest possession may well be a golden disk bearing the legend of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. At 5'7" and 120 pounds, he won't be slam-dunking basketballs or intimidating East Europeans in water polo. And he certainly doesn't have the taut vitality of a gymnast or a boxer. McKinney seems to be just a small, gentle person with a soft look in his brown eyes, a slighter, darker version of marathoner Bill Rodgers, with a thick, ruddy beard. In fact, he's just about the best archer in the world. "You'd make a great distance runner." McKinney was told recently. "But I've got no endurance," he replied.
His endurance may be a matter for debate, but his skill in his sport is not. Last August in Long Beach, Calif., McKinney won his sixth national archery championship, his fifth in a row, and next month he returns to Long Beach seeking to regain the world championship. Modesty aside, he will be the odds-on favorite there, and quite probably at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as well. Though McKinney dismisses endurance as part of his mastery, he is very specific about the qualities that do set him apart from his competitors.
"Anyone can buy the equipment I use," McKinney says, although it would require $1,500 to do so, "but only the person with the strongest mind can make it really work.
"I've made a target out of cardboard, and sometimes I stare at it for hours," he says. "I think mean, vicious thoughts: 'I'm going to kill that guy....' Or just positive thoughts: 'I'm going to shoot perfect scores....' I feel the muscles tense in my shoulders and back. I actually see the arrow leaving the bow and going to the center of the target. It develops fantastic confidence and concentration.
"But I only shoot real arrows twice a week, 10 to 20 each time. I don't practice for hours. I did that long enough.
"And I run—three miles."
"No, three miles a week, but only when I'm in serious training. I don't want my heartbeat getting too slow. I want a soft pump, a nice, soft pump. My pulse is 68 now. Much lower than that and your heart pumps so hard that it can affect your aim."