Qualifications and Training of the Turkish Archers

Qualifications and Training of the Turkish Archers

Shooting at ok-meydani was bounded to government approvals. One had to have a license or be taking lessons from a proficient archer. A proficient archer was determined to the archer candidates who had provided pre-conditions, and gained the right for education by a small ceremony. With those written approvals, students could only be allowed to shoot and take education at the ok-meydani, but weren’t allowed to compete or perform flight shooting. Students were informed about the rules to obey, things to beware and their obligations at the beginning of their education. Ones whose backgrounds were ambiguous, ones who behaved improperly, fools and mentally retarded were manifested not to be teached for shooting.

To be a proper archer, one had to complete his long education and finally had to able to shoot at the distance of 900 gez (approximately 594 meters). The successful candidates used to acquire their proficiency license with a mass ceremony and were enregistered.

The Method

A novice archer's initial work was to practice drawing the bow. A special bow called "kepaze" was made for this with a padded string. This practice was done with a Mediterranean release (three fingers) only the bow was pulled to full draw and then let down again. This is done until the archer can pull and let down 500 times without tiring. Practice like this makes the correct draw and technique automatic, much like the practice of moves in some martial arts. The muscles also strengthen and become elastic.

Practice arrowhead for novice archers (Military Museum, Istanbul)

The style of the draw was then slightly changed to the one sued in target shooting, and a heavier practice bow used. Again 500 draws was used as the number to be achieved without tiring. Archers also had to learn the same draw style in the same way whilst seated. Eventually the archer was ready to move on to a strong bow.

Often training with the practice bow would be interspersed with pulling a heavy bow 5 or 10 times to build strength. Another method was to use three bows. The archer would draw the lightest 50 times, then the medium bow 50 times and finally the heavy bow 50 times.

Apparently it was common advise for archers to draw their practice bow 66 times every morning to keep their strength up.

At about this time the lock of the thumb was worked on with an arrow fixed to the string. Finally indoor practice would start using a sack at 44 degrees to the archer. The sack was filled with wood shavings, cotton seeds and similar stuff. Practice had to be every day. The bow used for this simulated flight shooting was a weaker bow. A special arrows was sued for this sack shooting.

After a period of this training and if the weather was suitable the archer is allowed to practice outside. The bow used for this stage of training was 130lbs draw. When he got tired he would finish with a lighter bow. Each morning and each evening 300 arrows would be shot.

Occasionally an arrow with "peculiar fletching" was used. This seems to have been some kind of flu-flu as it rapidly slowed and had short range. It was used to detect errors in technique and to be able to see the course of the arrow.

At last the archer was deemed to be ready to try flight arrows, starting with easy flight arrows and ending eventually with the best and hardest. There were four types. He would shoot 60 to 100 of each every day. Now he would be ready to try to enter the archers guild but would have to be able to prove through eye witnesses that he could hit distant marks and shoot over 900 gez.

Details from an old "training place" Turkish Miniature. Pounding training in the mobile unit.  (Hunername, 16th century)

Indoor flight shooting practice. ("Okspor" archery clube, 1939)

Turkish flu flu arrows. (Military Museum, Istanbul)
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