Archery may continue to take place across the world but only in Mongolia can Mongolian Archery be held in such high regard.
Not only do Mongolians associate Mongolian Archery as a national sport across all the country's nationalities, but it helped Mongolia to become the largest land empire in history.
Archery in Mongolia has existed within the region since 200 BC; it's thought that as a sport archery contests started sometime during the 11th century. Such competitions would have been held during Naadam festival as a way to test the skills of any would-be soldiers.
Mongolian bows have evolved into compound bows made of bone, horn, wood and sinew when unstrung Mongolian bows retain a curve and do not sit straight, unlike many others.
For the Mongolian horsemen conquering the known world of the 13th century the bow of the time was to be the weapon of choice small, robust and manoeuvrable.
Mongol soldiers were not only able to fire it from standing but also from horseback. It had a range of over 500 meters as well as a devastating effect on the armour of the period.
Mongolians have long given up their plans for world domination although they do still enjoy a spot of Archery. Archery in Mongolia remains more traditional in its form than other sports in Naadam.
Targets consist of small leather weaved balls theses are then laid out in a row sometimes the targets are shielded by a raised earth bank in front making the game even more difficult. The aim of the game is not to hit a bullseye but to test one's marksmanship through gauging trajectory.
The rules may not have changed too much, although the competition entrants have! In the past, it was such that women could not partake in this sport. Nowadays, women are keen competitors, along with members of all ages. Below is an idea of the scoring that will take place and the variation between competitions.
Metres to target 75 60
Number of arrows 40 20
Points needed to proceed 15 13
In both competitions, the same bow is to be used; the winner will be the one with the most points at the end of the contest.
As each arrow hits home, the judges at the far end of the field will typically confirm a strike with shouts of "Uukhai," raising their hands.
As with many sports if during Naadam there will be prizes and that all-important title for the archer's the title is Mergen (supper archer).
Contrary to many peoples assumptions that Archery no longer features during Naadam festival, one needs to know where to find it. It's true that in tiny rural games there may not be Archery although in towns and cities it's still there and on the rise.
Many archers will practise almost daily at a target range; it is at these ranges across the country where Naadam competitions are held. Ulaanbaatar is a little different as it has its particular archery arena. Naadam is, of course, the best time to view archers at their peak although if you know where the practise ranges are then visiting any time of year is possible.
Within Mongolia, there are also further plans afoot to have more traditional archery celebrations and competitions. These competitions are to incorporating the use of bows on horseback, and target orientated events.
Koryo tours hold a tour visiting a local Naadam festival each year as in our opinion the local events are a lot more entertaining and traditional than those within the capital Ulaanbaatar. You can join us as we attend and cheer on some of our friends in the competition. Alternatively, on many of our other tours, we will pay a visit to some of the archery areas.