The end of the 2010 competition circuit saw the BHAA represented at two major international competitions. Claire (pictured above) and Dan Sawyer took part in EOCHA (the European Championship, held in Brussels this year) in September. Only their second ever competition saw them test their skills against some of the world’s best horseback archers. The experience will be invaluable for their future progress so watch this space!
Jehad Shamis and Neil Payne attended the Mounted Archery Championships in Oregon, USA which was run by Dr Holm Neumann and MA3. Attended by competitors from Poland, Malaysia, Japan, Germany, South Korea and of course our American cousins the event was the first of its kind for many years in the US. The event drew a huge crowd on day one and a decent crowd on day two and without doubt has ignited an interest in the local people for horseback archery.No medals for the British team however it has certainly galvinised a determination to train hard and start bringing home some trophies!
Jehad and Neil in Oregon
A full write up on boths event will be published in the next edition of the BHAA’s newsletter, The Parthian Shot.
Turkey recently hosted its first international horseback archery (and Cirit competition) in the Anatolian city of Sivas.
Two members of the BHAA were invited and attended; they were joined by colleagues from Iran, Poland, Germany, Korea, Hungary and of course Turkey.
There will be a full write up of the event in the November issue of our newsletter The Parthian Shot. To subscribe please email us and add “Newsletter” to the subject line.
In short, the Turkish hosts used the opportunity to show case two new (yet old) styles of competition – 1) Qabaq and 2) a new style of course named the “Mamluk style”.
Qabaq is a very old horseback archery game with roots in Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Persia and India. Termed “gourd-shooting” in English is essentially involves galloping past a mast (around 6-8 metres high) and hitting a target. The picture of two Mamluk Faris below should give you an idea of what its about.
The Mamluk style competition was an new invention but based on old Mamluk furusiyya scripts which described the basic shots any Faris had to master in order to be classed as decent. Similar to the “Korean style” course however there was one target on the “wrong” side of the track (meaning the rider had to shoot over the horse’s head) plus the targets moved position after each run to properly test each riders’ archery skills.
August saw the arrival of the 5th International Horse Archery Competition in Sokcho, Korea. Competitors travelled from the UK, the USA, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Malaysia, Japan, Mongolia and Iran all looking for medals!
The BHAA was represented by Neil Payne and Jehad Shamis although the UK also had independent competitor in Mike Ashington.
After a few days of rain, the weather turned hot, humid, sweaty and very uncomfortable for the competition. Not only were the archers hot and bothered rapidly but also the horses. The competition followed the usual format of the Korean style track (single, double and multiple shots) and Mogu. Although it was thought that the Hungarian/European style of competition would be adopted this did not materialise.
Day two was meant to see the implementation of a new “competition” termed the Grand-Prix which was to combine two gallops at a double target (Korean style) with two gallops at a Hungarian/European target. The combination of the points to be added to decide who the best archer of the compeition was. However, with horses dropping like flies this was soon cancelled. To replace it, the organisers decided to add all the points from previous competitions to decide who this would be. Mike Ashington achieved second place which is no mean feat!
The UK team, other than Mike’s success, faired poorly on the medals front with Poland and Korea seemingly getting all the glory. We did however gain bronze medal in the team event which was essentially a double target gallop from all teams.
The event was yet another success and is testament to the great work the Koreans are doing to develop the sport. This competiton above all is probably the best one can find in terms of quality of competitors, facilities and above all friendships.
However, one point the author has deducted from now attending a few competitions is that the format of competitions is stale. We need new types or styles of competitions to test people’s horse archery skills, both the archery and the horsemanship. At present, horse archers are concentrating on the two styles of competition and becoming too accustomed to the format and make-up of the track or course.
In Poland they tried a new style of course earlier this year which combined obstacles, shooting and timing. Neil Payne of the Tuba Archery Club is already working on some new styles including the Qabaq game, a more testing version of the Korean style and a cross-country track (which it is believed has been tried already in Canada by Barb Leeson). Let’s hope other countries start to adopt their own type of competition(s) to add some colour to the horse archery competitions and also end the monopoly of the Hungarian style introduced by Kassai Lajos.
In the meantime, let’s all get practising again in preperation for Korea 2010!
I recently travelled to both Poland and Turkey to meet with our partners in horseback archery. A write up of the weekend in Poland at the “Żurawiejki”meeting will follow but as Istanbul is fresh in my mind, I will start there.
A few of us particularly interested in Turkish/Ottoman archery have long been aware of the group out in Turkey trying to revive traditional archery based upon Ottoman sources and guidance. The ‘Kemankeṣ’ group in Istanbul have been working tirelessly over the past few years to translate old texts from Ottoman into modern day Turkish and to try and rediscover the lost art of archery that was once so part of Ottoman society and culture. As part of the research into old texts they have also been able to bring back to life the techniques, styles, practices, etc that were used by the archers of old.
After many years of us watching them and them watching us it was high time we got together so I made my way over to Istanbul for 4 days. My host, Metin Ates, and his colleagues took me on a wonderful adventure back into the past and left me with a lot more notes on my to-do list for the future.
After some rest and food on the Friday, Saturday was all about history. We visited the area known in Turkish as Okmeydanı (literally “arrow arena”) which is still known by the same name but unfortunately covered in roads and houses!
This huge area of land was given as a trust by Fatih Sultan Mehmed to archers just after the conquest of Istanbul in A.D. 1453. The purpose of the land were set clearly by the Sultan’s ‘firman’ (royal decree) in order to preserve it solely for archery; for example burial of the dead, construction of houses, agricultural activities, etc were all banned. (An interesting article about this period is available > here.) We started the tour of the area with a quick visit to what was the prayer area of the Okmeydanı. This was set up for archers as well as their fans. Check out the photo below of what it used to look like and then compare it to today’s ruins in the You Tube video. Metin also gives a small commentary.
50 years ago (est.)
We then proceeded to the area where the centre of operations was for the archers. You can view the short introduction to the area by Metin in the You Tube video below.
This was essentially the space where the archers congregated, where the Sheikh of the archers was based, where archers received formal initiation into the guild, where equipment was kept and were prayers were said. It now seems someone in government has finally clocked onto what they have laying in ruins and plans are afoot for the site to be redeveloped into a 90m archery range (however this will be for composite and compound archers!).I thoroughly recommend anyone interested in archery who happens to be visiting Istanbul to invest half a day in looking around the area. It may make you feel like an archery nerd but it is certainly worth it.
Our next port of call was to visit the Nişan Taşı. These are essentially monuments marking the points at which arrows landed when flight shooting took place (you can see them in the first pic of this article dotted about). There were once said to be well over 300 of these monuments but today little of 30 survive (some in very bizarre places tucked behind fruit and vegetable stands or in front of mechanics! An example of one is just above this paragraph). We visited some of the most prominent ones and I marvelled at some of the distances these monuments recorded, i.e. 700 metres and more. Below are some URLs to some of monuments I came across on the day. Although for some it may be a bit of stone in the ground for me it really brought home the importance of archery in the days of old in the Ottoman state. The money that must have been spent to design, carve and erect these stones was considerable and would only have been spent if it was worth it. Demonstrating your archery prowess clearly was worth it! Let’s hope the remaining stones get some sort of heritage status and remain as they should be.
The evening was spent going through some presentations on traditional archery. One on the different techniques of drawing, release, etc and one on pre-Islamic Turkish archery. Not only were both fascinating information-wise but both clearly demonstrated the amount of time, energy, money and passion these people are putting into their (and our) history. The research that has gone into pre-Islamic Turks and archery has required the principle researcher to trawl books in Russian and spend many a long night writing away. We hope this will continue and that we will be able to ready their findings in English one day too.
Sunday was about horseback archery. The group are also keen to revive this part of archery and have some “cirit” players in Sivas practising hard. We took a small drive out of Istanbul to At Koyü (horse village) where we had arranged to try out a couple of their horses. I was joined by Gökmen Altinkalp who is currently training on horseback. One horse was no good – he took to the arrows fine but then just wanted to fight if you tried to break him out of a walk. So we finally managed to get two mares working well in a circle shooting at a Turkish target known as a “puta”. The day went well hopefully inspiring some of the onlookers to take riding lessons and move forward with the sport.
On the whole things look bright in Turkey. With a small yet passionate team of people all specialising in certain skill or knowledge sets I see the group really developing. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that they succeed and that we soon see the School of Turkish horseback archery take its place next to the widely known “Hungarian” and Korean schools.I would again like to extend a huge thanks to Metin, Adnan, Ali, Gökmen and everyone else who helped me over the weekend. I am sure this is the start of a really close working relationship between the BHAA and Turkey. We hope to see you all next year in the UK for our competition.