Asian Archery

Archery in Asia was highly developed and widely used in the past and up to the present; however it is not so much used in international competitions in our modern times. Centuries ago, the tribesmen of Central Asia were very skilled in shooting arrows on horseback. The Mongols made good use of it in conquering the Eurasian Steppe. These archers would ride on running horses while they shoot down their target then they would twist around in their saddles and shoot again after they have passed.

The bows used in Asian archery varied widely. The arrows were also different from western arrows for theirs were less stiff and had smaller fletching. In shooting an arrow, the bow is clasped and held near to the chest with its arrow pointing slightly upward. Both of the archer’s arms are extended with the left arm up and stretched toward the target and the right arm pulled back and away from the target. The bow and arrow are pulled and drawn to a line such that both arms are locked on opposite sides of the body. The archer remembers to loosen his right elbow and allow it to flex.

In some techniques, the bowstring and the fletching of the arrow is drawn so far back that it is held behind the archer’s head. The arrow is held by the thumb. Certain cultures have devised ways to prevent the bowstring from injuring the thumb. For the Mongols or the Manchu, the string sits on a thumb ring. For the Japanese, it is a ‘tsuri’ or a slot at the base of a gauntlet’s thumb. Most archers with this technique wear headbands to prevent the bowstring from snaring and hurting the archer’s ear or head. Archers usually wear thick and loose clothing to prevent their arms and chest from snaring the bowstring. During battles though, warrior archers often wear leather gauntlets, chest armor and helmets with flared ridges to protect their body from the bowstring.

Foot-bows were well-known and used often in battles. They are unique and larger versions of the traditional bow and were used because of their faster firing rate and longer range as compared to the crossbow. The technique in using a foot bow was simple. Archers would lie on their backs and fasten the bow and the tip of the arrow between their feet. Their feet would hold the bow much like a bow arm while the end of the arrow and the bowstring is held by both the archer’s hands. His arms would draw the string and his back and legs would bend the bow. Although aiming correctly was difficult and poor, the weight and velocity of the arrows compensated for this. Also, the arrows were five feet long and were used in mass volleys.

Archery was practiced in many parts of Asia. In Korea, archery was known as Goongdo. In Japan, Archery is Kyudo while Japanese horseback archery was called Yabusame. The use of archery in war as well as in sports was all over India. In fact, Arjuna’s bow, Gandiva, is considered the Indian equivalent of the Excalibur of King Arthur.

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