Turkish Style

The “Turkish style” was one part of the oriental event (the other being the Jordanian). Turkish style consist of two shots, each using a blunt arrow with flu-flu fletchings.

The second shot is a standard qabaq shot (upwards at a target on an 8m high pole 60m from the start – see photos). More points are awarded for using the twisting qabaq technique rather than just shooting upwards.

The first shot is on the ground, 15m along the track on the left hand side (for a right-hander) and angled so that you have to shoot backwards. More points are awarded for a Jarmaki shot, which involves shooting with the drawing hand behind the head.

I have always loved qabaq. It’s fun, it’s beautiful and, in training at least, I can do it (I’ve yet to hit in competition but hardly ever miss in practice…). Now one of the things about qabaq is that you have bags of time to nock the arrow. Even if you are going at a flat gallop you have a good 4s to nock and shoot. The qabaq is a test of accuracy and, if done traditionally, it should be performed at full pace.

The addition of the Jarmaki style changes that in ways more subtle than just adding the need to shoot backwards. Suddenly you don’t have 60m to nock, you only have about 40m once you’ve shot backwards at the Jarmaki target. Shooting at the Jarmaki itself only gives you about 20m to nock and make what is frankly a pretty easy shot (I didn’t try putting my hand behind my head – 2 lots of surgery on a dislocating shoulder do not allow for that sort of thing).

The net result of this is that nocking speed is of critical importance. I dislike this fact.

Don’t misunderstand me: I believe that a horseback archer should be able to nock and shoot quickly. This skill, however, is amply tested by the Korean style (especially if you do the triple shot rather than single), the Hungarian style and mogu. Qabaq did not require nocking speed, it was, as I said, a test of accuracy alone, albeit upwards. At Al Faris, only the Jordanian style did not require quick nocking, and even that needs you to swing a sword into position fairly swiftly.

If one is to have the Jarmaki shot on the same run as the qabaq, I should like to propose a change: allow more time. This requires only two minor amendments to the Al Faris rules. First, put the qabaq pole 60m from the Jarmaki target. Second, either allow nocking before the line or use a long track and put the Jarmaki target 50-60m along it. This would return the event to its original skill requirements. Might try that next time I organise an event…



The Jordanian Style Competiton

The Jordanian event was, first and foremost, good fun. It involves starting the 90m run with an arrow nocked and shooting a forward shot at a target placed at 60m. It is a 3 ring target, worth 1,2 or 3 points. This is done with a straight-bladed sword (basically a 1908 pattern sabre with the hand guard removed) held in the drawing (right) hand, so that the blade rests on your upper arm.

Having shot, you swing the sword forward and stab a small round target on the floor. 3 points are awarded for picking the target up but dropping it immediately, 5 for carrying it a few strides and the maximum 7 points for carrying it over the finish line. Bonus points are awarded for scoring hits on both targets.

The Jordanian style was run as part of the oriental event: 3 runs of qabaq and 3 of Jordanian.

Not really a test of horseback archery, this event is immense fun and also makes for great photos. Some people did really well. Thierry Descamps, Daniel Griffin and Marton, whose surname I’m afraid I cannot spell without referring to a piece of paper that I don’t have on me in the aeroplane, all picked up the target every time. I would like to thank Michael Smith and Claire for their help, thanks to which I hit two out of three sword targets. I’m also very grateful to the Jordanian police major who gave me the target to take home.

There are fairly obvious dangers to this style. Most notably, there is then risk of dropping the sword, especially by catching it in the ground. This happened to two competitors (out of 145 runs in the competition). One of these passed off without incident but the second time the sword spun and stabbed the horse in the hind leg. This did not, in the event, cause any serious injury. Clearly it could have done. That said, horseback archery is not exactly devoid of danger at the best of times. Some will say that this event is too dangerous, especially for the horse. Others will disagree. Personally I like it.

For future competitors, I have three pieces of advice:

First, you have to commit to this. I liken it to the first time you make a qabaq shot. It’s no use going at it half-heartedly. You need to get the sword down and get it down early. That’s the second thing. Don’t attempt to stab the target. Simply get the blade down to target level and ride through the target. Almost everyone who tried to stab it went over the top, as I had been told would happen (thanks again Michael).

Finally, you need to work out what to do with your bow. Most people held it up out of the way. I wanted have the option of grabbing the reins or the neck strap. Unfortunately this meant that on my first run I hit myself in the chin with my bow, thereby throwing off my aim and narrowly missing the target. Don’t do that, it hurts and looks silly…

In short, this is a fun event that I cannot wait to do again. I would recommend practising beforehand if you can, even for half an hour or so.

I’ve attached 4 photos. I should say that Din and Juan both picked up the target on other runs, so it’s unfair of me to post these pictures, but I like them as photos. The last one shows Lajos’ sense of humour as he failed to hit at all. In the final he simply rode past the target, saluting the judges with the sword. A class act, that man, and I shall never tire of telling people how I beat him in the Jordanian style, for all that he scored nearly 10 times my points in the remainder of the competition…





Some Reflections on the Events – Korean

Even though the competition will be over by the time I get back to the Internet and can post, I’m typing this in the bus on the way to the Meidan, and will cover the final in a later post.

Most of my posts have been more about the atmosphere than the competition. In my defence, the atmosphere and people are for me more important than the competition and are what really makes the event and the sport. I think, however, that it’s time to offer some reflections on the actual competition.

I shall assume a little knowledge of how a Korean event usually goes. This Korean event was different from usual. There was no single shot. The first two runs were a standard double shot. The last two were a standard serial shot on the EOCHA lines, meaning that the first of the 5 targets was only 15m from the start but you could start with an arrow on the string.

The middle two runs were called a triple shot. Perhas unsurprisingly, there were three targets. The first along the track was at about 60m and required a sideways shot. A few metres beyond was one that faced the start line for a forward shot and just beyond that a Mamluk shot (downwards and to the wrong side – photos below). The spacing is such that you have to shoot the second, forward, shot first, then the sideways and the Mamluk. It requires very fast nocking to hit the sideways and the Mamluk.

From a technical point of view, the single shot is by far the easiest part of a Korean event. I personally find it very helpful to settle the nerves with the single before the harder double and serial events. Others find the long run to the single shot a psychological problem.

Suffice it to say that I prefer the traditional Korean event. I know that some will prefer this harder version. Time will tell the outcome, no doubt.

As at EOCHA, bonus points were awarded for hitting all the targets in the serial shot. Tis goes some way towards redressing what I and others feel is an imbalance in favour of speed over shooting accuracy. The debate will run and run, either at a controlled canter or a flat gallop, for some time to come. I personally think that speed is still favoured too much.




Rest Day

Today there was no competition. The majority of the group, including the British Team (me), went on a tour of the ruined Roman city at Jerash and the 12th century castle of Ajloun, with a splendid lunch at the Lebanese House restaurant, former diners including two kings of Jordan, Kofi Annan, the Top Gear team and Richard Gere. A few either stayed in the hotel or went elsewhere on their own.

This morning, as Facebook followers will know, I finally got to swim, after leaving the bar at 0130 and getting up at 0600. As a bonus we had been told we could swim when we got back as well. Here we are back, tired and dusty, and the pool is closed…

Last night was a good night. I had about a half hour drink and chat with Lajos Kassai, picking up some good hints and some insight into his way of thinking. Then the others joined us and the night passed in a blur of a few beers, a huge cigar (thanks to Daniel Griffin, who was celebrating an excellent result in the competition) and the usual mixture of archery talk and banter. We also looked at some of the 16Gb of photos I had taken. And I learned the correct manly way to open a Chinese fan, kindly given to me by the Chinese team, whom I don’t think I’ve mentioned before, but they comprise one who speaks pretty good English and one who speaks only a couple of words (such as “man” and “woman”, with demonstration of how each opens a fan). He is, along with Gourchani Ali of Iran and Lee Pan Gun of Korea, one of those rare men who can make you laugh just by his infectious good humour and a very expressive collection of signs, gestures and grimaces.

The thing I forgot to mention about the bar is that it has a very active salsa dance each night. We’ve not dared join in, but the combination of a salsa club in an African themed bar in Jordan only gets better when many of their songs are salsa versions of pop songs. Until you’ve seen 50 Middle Easterners salsa dancing to “Stand by Your Man”, you haven’t lived.

Not much to say about today other than that it was interesting and hot and that I look damned good in Arab headdress. Contemplating it for the journey home!

Shower now, then dinner. Who knows, I may even go to the bar…

Second day of competition

Just a fairly short post today because, in what is becoming quite a pattern, I’m off to the hotel bar.

Another disappointing day with the bow, mainly because the horse was so tired that I had to put all my energy into riding him forward and so my shooting suffered. Final position overall was something like 38th out of 43, with a combined score for the three events that I would usually achieve in just the Korean.

On the bright side, if you just look at the Jordanian style (bow and sword), I did comparatively well (easily top half, I think, but they haven’t published the results just for that, because it’s part of the Oriental style). Not many got the sword hit, much less twice. I take a perverse pleasure in the fact that if you just look at the Jordanian style, I beat Kassai! (For those who don’t know, Kassai is the man who reintroduced horseback archery into Europe after a break of several centuries, and is the closest the sport has to a living legend. And now I’m off to have a drink with him…)

First day of competition

Who says you can’t do horseback archery in a sandstorm?

First day of competition today. After the opening ceremony (my first time riding with the flag) I had Korean style, which went OK but not great. Then after lunch the other half did the Hungarian style. By this point the cool breeze had started to get quite strong and there was sand everywhere. Even seeing to the far end of the track was challenging. Very atmospheric though, and should make for some great pictures and video.

Finally we had my group doing the Oriental style. This starts with 3 runs at qabaq (one shot low and behind you, then one at the top of a pole 8m high). My dismal run at qabaq continued, failing to hit a single upwards shot, despite getting them all in training.

The second part of the Oriental style is the Jordanian event: a forward shot and then use a sword to stab and pick up a target on the ground. The first time I tried it I hit my chin on the bow and missed. The second and third times I got the sword target (missed all three arrows but didn’t really care!). The officer running it said I could take the target home, so it’s safe in my bag.

Late back to the hotel today so only a quick post before shower and dinner. No pictures from today, sorry to say, but there will be lots in due course.

A quick word about my horse: he took off like a rocket, too fast but good fun. By the end of the day he was so tired he was tripping over his hooves and wanted to go home, but still found a little extra each run to push for the finish. A really honest and hardworking horse.

Great day, even if my nice white shirt is now sand coloured!