Write: Annette Hanicsh - Photo: Ömer Doğan
In Turkey, whose people descend from arcestors that practiced archery masterfully, traditional archery has again become a hot topic over the past twenty years.
Shooting an arrow that flew 678 meters at Okmeydanı, Istanbul, in 1726, the great archer, Osman Bey, Sanjak Bey of Biga, attaining the honor of erecting a Range Stone. Fatih Genel, District Administator of Biga, who was interested in archery and was himself a good mounted archer, oversaw the International Archery Competition on October 1–2, 2011, held in honor of this famous local statesman in Biga, Çanakkale.
The competition covered the disciplines in traditional Turkish archery of both on-foot and mounted archery. The contest were first held October 1 in the recreational area of the village of Dikmen in Biga. The next day, shows were held before the protocol and people in Biga Stadium. Athletes who the grade were given awards. A total of sixty athletes entered the competition, domestically from the Kayseri Mounted Archery Sports Club, Istanbul Talimhane, Kemankeş Archery Group, Tokat Danişment Mounted Archery Sports Club, and Biga Archery Sports Club, and from abroad Japan, Iran, the U.K., Hungary, South Africa, Germany, the US, Poland, and Slovakia.
The History Of Mounted Archery
The close relationship humankind established with the horse emerged approximately three thousand years ago in central Asia, although human use of the bow and arrow for hunting or battle dates back to far before that. The Huns, Mongolians, and Turks would establish such a strong tie with their small, agile horses that they would even eat atop their horses. Because of this, Turkish cavalry had a significant advantage against the slow armored warriors of the Christians. As the Turks could use the horse with their legs and knees, mounted soldiers were free to use their hands. Thanks to this, they were available to draw the bow comfortably to shoot arrows once every two or three seconds. Traditional archery was the primary field in which Turkish and Ottoman warriors were trained. From the Ottoman period onward, it started to transform from a war technique into a widespread sport. The archery squares established in large cities prove the popularity of this sport. Unfortunately, the emergence of firearms and mechanized engines caused archery to become forgotten almost worldwide. In Turkey, whose people descend from arcestors that practiced archery masterfully, traditional archery has again become a hot topic over the past twenty years. Countries including Hungary, South Korea, Poland, and the U.K. are dedicating considerable effort and time to keep this enjoyable sport alive. In some countries, like South Korea, over traditional archery federations have been even established. Efforts to established a Traditional Turkish Archery Federation have begun too.
Contest In Dikmen Village
In the early hours of the morning, accompanied by a wonderful autumn sun, we arrive at the recreational area of Dikmen Village, Biga. One observes hard work together with ebullient excitement everywhere. Trained horses from all over Turkey are being unloaded from numerous trucks. The Sivas and Uşak javelin clubs invited to add color to the archery contests arrive with their trucks. In cauldrons atop wood fires, they cook barley stew and lamb meat. Then they prepare the stands of producers of arrows, bows, and other archery accessories. Folkloric crews from various regions appear assembled in a corner. The most exciting view, however, is presented by the traditional archers themselves—we find ourselves practically on the set of a medieval film! Two Japanese female athletes draw all the attention to themselves with their elegance and wonderfully colored outfits.
Why Don’t Archers Take Aim?
During the competition, the athletes exhibit their abilities in various areas: mounted archers must finish their courses in eleven seconds while also shooting their arrows at the target hanging before or behind them. In the event called “squash throw,” the throw is made exactly once as the arrows go beneath a target mounted on a long pole.
Although on-foot archery competitions did not give observes the same excitement, they were much easier to follow. In the target-shooting, the arrow would first be shot at the target from twenty meters away, and tthen by of elimination, the target board would be placed ten meters further away. As I watch the archers I see that everyone shoots differently; while some arrows go straight to the target, others take a long curve toward it; Some archers cry out piercingly as they concentrate and release the string, while another seems to be fring randomly, without looking at the target.
When I later share my observations with club representatives, I receive surprising answers: there is no one true technique in traditional archery. In fact, another name for this sport is “instinctual archery.” In contrast with Olympic archery, with traditional bows, it is not possible to aim at the target—the archer must feel the target!
Meanwhile, we learn of a key truth concerning the sport—because there is noabsolute technique in instinctual archery, one cannot speak of rapid development; success is based entirely on experience and training. Ottoman archers shot arrows for eight to ten hours daily. Those shooting under than 550 meters in long-distance shooting were not even recorded in the Book of Archers, yet today, the world record is just 509 meters! The longest shot in the Biga competitions, on the other hand, was 270 meters. It is not so surprising that the level is so far below what it was 150-200 years ago, actually—who today has the luxury to shoot arrows for eight hours a day?
Though he was not an archer, there was a figure who passessed international fame in the world of traditional Turkish archery: the Hungarian Grozer Csaba, one of the world’s few traditional bowmakers. It takes around one or two years for Grozer, who crafts his bows with both modern and completely traditional methods and materials, to make his high-quality bows. As we were conversing, he told me about a dream of his—to create such a bow that the arrow emerging from it would cross the Bosphorus! Considering that the Bosphorus is 698 meters at its narrowest, he has plenty more work to do…