An ancestral sport is making a comeback among the younger generations.
Archery on horseback, a tradition rooted in empires such as the Ottomans and the Mongols, has become popular again in Indonesia. As ancient warriors used the practice of shooting arrows on horseback for hunting and combat, its resurgence became more user-friendly: Archers from different countries follow an intense training regimen to compete locally and internationally.
The sport involves shooting arrows at a target while riding a horse. Successfully hitting a target with arrows is tricky when an athlete is standing or sitting on stable ground; when an archer rides a horse, it requires even more balance, a high level of coordination and a connection between the horse and the archer.
Archery on horseback was used by many ancient cultures across the world, including Native Americans, European nomads, and Asian empires. It appears through cultural images and texts for several millennia and continued to be used until gunpowder and firearms were developed. As firearms became popular, the use of bow and arrows became less beneficial, and archery on horseback was largely abandoned as a battlefield strategy.
As communities in countries like Mongolia began to honor their predecessors and their history by exploring ancient traditions, and after sport appeared in mainstream pop culture through franchises like the Hunger games, the young sportsmen are again interested.
Men and women in Indonesia are part of the resurgence of sport. Women’s group in Indonesia that works to break religious and gender stereotypes have even tried it wearing their niqab, a religious garment that covers their faces.
Bambang Minarno, who entered the competition featured in the film above, told Newsflare that sport requires extensive training.
“All of the archer’s movement is done without using the eyes,” he said. “It ranges from taking arrows, placing arrows in the bow and controlling the horse without looking… Feeling and technique have to be trained.”