The Mamluk Style

For the GB v Sweden match we introduced a style that we referred to as the Mamluk style.  I say we introduced it but in truth it is very heavily based on a style used at Biga a couple of years ago.  This was our take on it, literally set up by taking a short walk along the 5 shot Korean course and moving the targets around.

The track was 150m long and we ran the event as though it were a Korean: one arrow per target, drawing from the quiver (although pre-nocking was allowed since target one was only 15m from the start) and a 23s time limit with point gained and lost for going over or under time.

Target one was a jarmaki shot: the target was lying on the ground for a straight downwards shot.  2 extra points were awarded for a hit in the Jarmaki style (dawing arm behind the head).  Personally I didn’t even try this – after twice having my shoulder surgically rebuilt I am not about to dislocate it again trying that!

Targets two and three were a forward and backward shot, essentially the Korean double shot.  Target four was an off-side shot, involving lifting the bow across the horse’s neck and shooting to the other side (unless you’re Emil, in which case you just change hands and take a regular shot!).  Target 5 was a 15m sideways shot.  The targets were more or less evenly spaced at 30m intervals but we did it fairly casually!

The Mamluk is generally agreed to have been the most fun course we did, even by those who didn’t have much luck.  I suspect that we’ll be seeing it again.  Chatting about it later, Emil, Anders and I came up with a new concept: tactical course setup.

The theory is this: the course consists of 5 targets as set out above.  You take five pieces of paper and label them “forwards”, “backwards”, “long sideways”, “wrong side” and “jarmaki”.  Split the papers between the competitors, who then take it in turns to allocate their shots to a position along the track.  So the first person/team might have “jarmaki” and decide to put it at target three.  The next person has “backwards” and decide to make that the last target and so on.  

The layout of our venue means that the offside shot needs to be target 4 for safety reasons.  That leaves four shots to be allocated.  For future internationals I think each team will be given two shots to place.  It might go horribly wrong but it should be fun!

Since I started writing this post we have watched the Disney/Pixar film “Brave”.  If anyone hasn’t seen it then I recommend the first 10 minutes or so, in which Merida, the heroine, rides through the woods shooting at targets in front, behind, to the side and even a wrong side shot.  The Mamluk is in danger of being renamed the Merida…

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GB v Sweden – International Horseback Archery in Britain!

Well, it’s been quite a while since my last post, when I finished my series on bow mechanics.  I’ve had feedback from quite a few people saying how helpful they found it, so thank you for the feedback.

The original purpose of this blog was to chart our travels in the world of horseback archery but this weekend we had a genuinely new experience: another country travelling here to compete.  A team from Sweden, led by my friend Emil Eriksson whom I met in Jordan last year, travelled to the Centre of Horseback Combat in sunny Hertfordshire for the first international horseback archery match ever on British soil.  After day 1, consisting of qabaq and Hungarian styles, Sweden led GB by 0.1pts (the equivalent of one horse running 0.1s faster over 90m in just one of the 36 runs each team had completed that day!).  On day 2 they blew us away on the Korean and  Mamluk courses to win by just over 100 points.

It goes without saying that a great time was had by all.  The Swedish team were a pleasure to shoot with and I was delighted to see good performances from several GB team members.  I shall be writing a few posts about various aspects of the match.  In this first one I shall say a few words about the concept of the International Series.

We have wanted to host an international competition for some time.  There was talk of trying to host EOCHA in 2012 to coincide with the London Olympics but ultimately we in Britain suffer from a severe lack of trained horses and this makes the Open format impossible.  It was Claire’s genius to hit on the idea of a simple match: GB v another country.  This way we need fewer matches and we can try to combat another problem that we have had in the past: the fact that we are so spread out around the country that we rarely meet.  This event has given us the opportunity to build some real team spirit.

In the event, GB fielded two teams.  This allowed us to expose more of our people to international competition and the overwhelming feedback that we got was along the lines of “everybody is so friendly that you hardly notice that we are on different teams”.  As those who compete internationally will know, that is how things always are.  I well remember Jordan last year when impromptu coaching sessions would just pop up as competitors helped each other with everything from archery techniques to fitting of tack and helping to repair broken equipment.  The attitude of most people in this sport has always been to ensure that everybody scores as highly as they can, whether they beat you or not.

This event was funded by the GB team.  I should like to thank all of them for competing and the Centre for providing the venue, horses and staff at a greatly reduced rate to make it affordable.  The next step is to secure sponsorship to enable this to turn into a regular series, with different nations bringing their experience to these shores.  Something new has started.  Now we just have to keep it going…