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!