An ancient sport is making a comeback among younger generations.
Mounted archery, a tradition with roots in empires like the Ottomans and the Mongols, has become popular again in Indonesia. While ancient warriors used the practice of shooting arrows from horseback for hunting and combat, its resurgence has become friendlier: Archers from different countries go through 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 is riding a horse, it requires even more balance, a high level of coordination, and a connection between the horse and archer.
Mounted archery was used by many ancient cultures around the world, including Native Americans, European nomads, and Asian empires. It appears across cultural images and texts for several millennia and continued to be used until gunpowder and firearms were developed. As guns became popular, using a bow and arrow became less advantageous, and mounted archery was largely abandoned as a battlefield strategy.
As communities in countries like Mongolia began honoring their predecessors and history by exploring ancient traditions, and after the sport appeared in mainstream pop culture through franchises like the Hunger Games, young athletes have become interested again.
Both men and women in Indonesia are participating in the sport’s resurgence. A group of women in Indonesia working to break down religious and gender stereotypes even tried their hand at it while wearing their niqabs, a religious garment that covers their faces.
Bambang Minarno, who took part in the competition featured in the above film, told Newsflare that the sport requires extensive training.
“The entire movement of the archer is done without using the eyes,” he said. “This ranges from taking arrows, placing the arrows in the bow, and controlling the horse without looking … The feeling and technique should be trained.”