Previously we discussed Istanbul’s history and why archery is such a core tenant of the culture. Furthering that, one need only look at the military museums to see the kind of weight that archery has in Turkey. From the common soldier all the way to the Sultan – it was considered one of the highest arts. Along with target archery, “flight” archery was regarded as the beat-all-end-all to the discipline in the latter years of the bow and arrow. A literal “how far can you go” competition with very strict rules regarding equipment, the materials used and who you had to witness both the shot and the impact.
There are a number of famous stories about flight archery in Turkey – one in particular revolves around a nobleman missing his own son’s funeral because the weather conditions were perfect to set a flight record!
A look inside the Military Museum of Istanbul and Topkapi Palace reveals that flight archery was clearly on the minds of the nobility. Large collections of stunningly decorated Turkish bows, adorned cases containing delicate and amazingly constructed flight arrows abound.
For the overall competition the traditional rules were observed; natural material bows for the traditional and any number of modern materials for the modern. However, the key to this competition is no matter the materials – there are no shelves, no pistol grips, no modern aides. Even if the bow was carbon fiber – it couldn’t have a shelf. The siper is the closest thing to shooting off a shelf traditional archery ever did, and it was certainly in the latter half of traditional archery.
Natural bows of the period were typically wood core, with a horn belly and sinew fronting. Along with the bow builder, the painter was considered an equal to the other craftsmen. Beautiful ornamentation on nearly every bow we saw spoke to how appreciated these natural masterpieces truly were.
One amazing thing about traditional Turkish archery is the unique target – the puta. Everyone from South Texas, you can quit giggling. The puta in Turkish archery is typically around 110 CM high, and 90 CM wide and a bit of a pear shape; the shape is supposed to resemble a horse and rider coming towards you – with the large concentric circles representing the center of mass of both, respectively. The originals, and even those we shot for the competition were leather.
For the Turkish shoot at the Texas International Archery Festival – we used printed versions on large bales. (Available from The Flying Hun – as a special order item.) Scoring was any shot that lands on the puta counted as a point – and the distance was 75 meters for men, 65 meters for women.
Next week we get into the actual competition, some of the nuts and bolts of how it all went and some of the big names that came out to represent!
To understand the weight of an archery competition in Turkey, specifically Istanbul – you must first get a glimpse of the history surrounding the “why” of it all.
On May 29, 1453 after eight weeks of siege Sultan Mehmed II took Constantinople from the Byzantines, ending their empire. With the death of Constantine XI, the Byzantines were driven out and thus began the Ottoman control of the city. It continued on as Constantinople until 1923 and after Ankara became the capitol of Turkey – the name was changed to Istanbul. The significance of Istanbul cannot be understated; for all intents and purposes it was the center of the known world for many years – the literal connection between Europe and Asia. A massive city now (nearly 20 million people), it sprawls over three dozen individual districts, on both the European side and Asian side of the Bosporus river, respectively.
The city may have America beaten for the title of the ultimate melting-pot, dozens of cultures call Istanbul home. You can go out and hear nearly every language imaginable as you walk down the street. On top of that, the city is an amazing mash-up of cultures, ideologies and history colliding face first with modernity. Despite the desire to modernize, during a routine cab ride you might see ancient Roman aqueducts, modern hotels, discos and beautiful mosques. The diversity of scenery is a testament to the stratified layers of culture and history that would take a number of lifetimes to completely understand.
One thing, that plays a huge role in the history and going so far as to say, cultural pride – is archery. Archery has a very special place in Turkish culture – all forms, mounted, target and flight are venerated and respected. It is particularly noticeable in the museums, artwork and literature; Turkey is truly a country for archers. It is epitomized in the Okcular Vakfi – The Archer’s Foundation; a massive range and training complex deep in the heart of Istanbul. Founded in what was once a military barracks, archery has been practiced in this location since the Ottoman period. While it looks rather modern today, a walk around the perimeter will reveal the columns of note; famous distance records set by both common soldiers, and even the Sultans themselves. The exterior of the lodge is deceiving, once there you begin to feel the weight of it, particularly as an archer you realize how special this place really is.
Over 300 archers from over 30 countries participated this year in the event; it consisted not only of traditional but modern archery as well. The primary focus however, is the traditional competition and flight archery. Flight being a purely “how far can you go” event – with some staggering distances. Classes included both a modern construction class (carbon and fiberglass allowed) and a true “natural” class (horn, wood, sinew, etc) – and equipment was thoroughly checked. We’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of the competitions next week.
That concludes Part I of our look at The 2019 Conquest Cup – next up will be covering the events, shooting and some amazing archers that were present for this world class event.
The Flying Hun – Archery and Leather is, as you may have noticed – EXPANDING! Along with our base of operations at Sherwood Forest Faire – we have TRF starting this year (booth number 4 – right at the front) and another potentially HUGE piece of news later this year. That said – we are expanding in other ways too.
Consider this a call to all my fellow crafters.
Are you interested in archery, making things and want a venue to showcase your work? We are opening up to the idea of allowing other crafters and makers the chance to showcase and sell their work through our shops and website. That said, you partner with us, you will receive a better rate of return than our standard commission rate and don’t need to bother trying to purchase/manage/want-to-burn-down your own shop.
We are looking to partner with leather makers, bow builders, arrow makers, blacksmiths and horse tack/saddle makers.
We uphold a very high level of workmanship, a particular style and a love of history. If these are things you think you have – send us a PM, we’d love to discuss your work and what we can do for one another.
TXIAF has updated their information regarding the ground and mounted courses, as well as released their final rosters! This event is going to be amazing – for more information, please visit:
We will be vending at the event and doing a few impromptu demonstrations. It should be an great time for all things archery!
From the TXIAF Crew:
Hello to everyone!
We are proud to announce a venue change for our festival – as always we are looking for the best vendors, partners and most passionate folks to make this event a smashing success. That said, we partnered with our good friends at Sherwood Forest Faire to bring you the best damn event possible!
For all of our competitors, vendors and volunteers – it’s only about two minutes down the road from our previous venue. We will be sending out an email shortly with all the details!
So mark your calendars – check your tickets and join us on April 26-28th at the Sherwood Forest Faire grounds for the first annual Texas International Archery Festival!
This is an exciting time in archery – and particularly for traditional eastern archery. This month’s issue of We Ride Sport and Trail magazine features two articles specifically related to archery. One for the background on what we do here at The Flying Hun – and another on how to choose your first bow for mounted or ground archery. We are proud to collaborate with Sport and Trail and bring more information about the sport and the history to a broader audience.
Check out the article here:
And if you like the publication – their subscription rates are extremely reasonable. Give their Facebook page a like or pick up a subscription if you love horses, archery and want to support a great small business.
A rather unique item found almost exclusively in Eastern Archery is the bowcase. Think of it as a holster for your bow – one you can either wear or attach to your saddle. In the old west, the rifle scabbard was an essential piece of kit for the same reason. The ability to sling a rifle on your horse while keeping it secure and at the same time have it readily accessible is invaluable. Typically they were made as a matched pair with a quiver, as seen above.
The bowcase functions the same way.
Often times, you see archers trying to sling the bow across their chests, or over one shoulder. And while this may be a great way to free up your hands – utilizing a bow case is a great alternative. Some wear the case with the bow pointed forward, others wear it pointed back. Our rule is that if you’re spending more time on foot – have it pointed forward for control and as to not run into things or people. If you’re on horse, rear-facing is generally better.
A 17th century example from the Istanbul Museum, showing the matching nature of the quiver, bowcase and belt setup:
Generally they were made from a relatively stiff, thin leather covered in a decorative material like velvet or embroidered fabric. The set above is the latter. The back side of both pieces is bare leather to help with wear and tear associated with war and riding.
The quiver is typically integrated into the belt, whereas the bowcase is tied to the belt by two cords. That way it is easily removed in case of emergency or if it needs to be attached to the saddle.
From a war perspective, having the bow pointed back would indeed make it easier to swing a sword or mace and not hit your bow while it was slung. The same idea is used for our mounted archery quivers.
Historically, we see both uses. Attached to the rider and attached to the saddle. In this image – Sultan Murad II practicing at the qabac, wearing his red bowcase on the left hand side:
And another with Beyazid II; though his seems to be floating (and the quiver set behind the bow case being the same color is confusing) – it would be at minimum attached to the belt with two points:
And finally, the rider in black using a shoulder draw, bowcase on the belt. The rider in blue appears to have lost his bow and is instead using a two handed hammer. But the image shows the bowcase predominantly on the left side, attached to the belt, facing rearward.
All in all, the bowcase is a fantastic accessory and typically overlooked here in the west. Everyone needs a quiver, but few know about its partner – a matching bowcase. The Flying Hun has been producing custom bowcases for a few years, but recently has been producing matched sets to accompany their custom quivers.
One of the greatest things about archery, is that if you dig back far enough you begin to find some really interesting tools that expand past your bow and arrows.
One such device is the “Majra” also known as the navak, or tong-ah. The basic idea was to turn your bow into a semblance of a crossbow. There are a few different ideas as to how it came to be the first, being a way to use ammunition (short darts) that could not be fired back by your enemy.
The second, was that the Turkic cultures and Chinese clashed often and since the Chinese used predominantly crossbows – the enemy came up with a way of shooting their short crossbow bolts back at them.
There are a few others.
I built this one out of poplar, I’ve built s few of them in the past. Most depictions of the majra are seen with rounded backs (like this one) – if you’re wanting to build one, I suggest flat backed for your first experiment.
Because of the small size of the projectile and the high speed – it makes an excellent armor piercer. We did some testing over the summer with various bodkin points on the darts – they perform very well.
We filmed a video about it this weekend – take a look if you want to see how it works.