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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Onna-bugeisha

The Onna-bugeisha were a caste of Japanese female warriors. They were said to have such legendary combat prowess in sword, bow, spear, horseback riding, that a single unit of the Onna-bugeisha could match any three male units.

Some credit this to skill, others credit it to the Onna-bugeisha's reputed vicious approach to combat tactics.

The Onna-bugeisha were also trained in the literary arts and statescraft, suggesting they were also leaders and thinkers.

Historically the Onna-bugeisha were overshadowed by the more numerous and corrupt samurai caste.

Their existence in Japanese culture later led to women’s right to inherit and bequeath property. Prominent Onna-bugeisha were the Empress Jingu, Tomoe Gozen, and Hōjō Masako, and Nakano Takeko. Their influence later diminished significantly as Japan's culture switched from war to bureaucracy - and bureaucrats forced women out of roles of power - and the role of women once again became restricted to child-bearing.

However the history and myth of Onna-bugeisha warriors lives in Japanese popular culture - often showing up in popular manga and anime series.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Japanese Archery Exorcism Ritual

Joma Shinji is a Japanese archery ritual performed on Jan 5th of each New Year to drive away evil spirits known as "Oni".

The ritual is largely ceremonial, but the fun part is when they get to do the archery. Six archers select 2 arrows each and a large target is set up with the Kanji character of "oni" (demon) written upside on the backside of the target. Hitting the target is believed to drive evil away and bring good luck in the coming year.

The video below displays the ritual being performed.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Archery Equipment

The majority of archery equipment consists of:

1. Bows
2. Arrows
3. Release aids
4. Protective equipment
5. Stabilizers
6. Sighting Equipment

A bow is a flexible arc that shoots arrows by means of elastic energy. Essentially, the bow is a form of spring powered by a string or cord. As this string is drawn, energy is stored in the flexible limbs of the bow; the energy is transferred to the arrow when the string is released, projecting it much farther than a weapon could be thrown.

There are many types of bows available in archery:

1. Recurve bow
2. Olympic Recurve bow
3. Compound bow
4. Longbow
5. Reflex bow
6. Shortbow
7. Japanese Kyudo bow

Recurve bow

A recurve bow has tips that curve away from the archer when the bow is strung. A recurve bow stores more energy that a straight-limbed bow, because more is stored and delivered more efficiently, giving a greater amount of energy and hence speed, to the arrow. It is the bow mostly used by archers in the Olympics, as well in many competitive events.

The bow is usually made from multiple layers of fibreglass, carbon or wood.

The Olympic recurve bow

Compound bow

A compound bow is a modern bow that uses a levering system, usually of cables and pulleys, to bend the limbs. The limbs of a compound bow are much stiffer than a recurve bow. This stiffness makes the bow more cost effective to build than other bows because it takes less time and materials to make.
The compound bow is little-affected by changes in temperature and humidity and it gives superior accuracy, velocity, and distance in comparison to other bows that cost the same amount of money. You can still get a high quality bow of a different type that will produce the same amount of power and accuracy, but it will be much more expensive.
Compount bows are typically used for hunting and bowfishing.

The hunting compound bow


The most common form of arrow consists of a shaft with an arrowhead attached to the front end with fletching and a nock attached to the other end. Shafts are typically composed of solid wood, fibreglass, aluminum alloy, carbon fiber or composite materials.  
Wooden arrows are prone to warping, while fibreglass arrows are brittle but can perform well. Aluminum and carbon fiber shafts are very popular currently due to their lighter weight creates greater speed and accuracy.

Today, arrows made of composite materials are the most popular tournament arrows at Olympic Events.

Different kinds of arrows

Release Aids

When such a device was first invented, it was known as a clutch. The trigger may be an actual trigger lever which is depressed by a finger or thumb. Archers using compound bows usually use a release aid to hold the string and release it precisely. This attaches to the bowstring just below the nocking point or at the D loop and permits the archer to release the string by the use of some form of trigger. 

An example of a release aid


A general term for various types of weights, usually on rods, mounted on the bow to increase stability. It is the inconsistencies of the archer that stabilizers can help to reduce. The various types of stabilizers are each designed to minimize a particular direction of movement. The successful addition of stabilizers can only be achieved by actual testing and accuracy grouping. 

A stabilizer to minimize a faulty shot

Protective Equipment

Bracer - Also known as a arm-guard, to protect the inside of the bow arm from being hit by the string and prevent clothing from catching the bow string. 

Bracer made out of plastic

Chest guards – Protection for their chests, where mostly female archers wear them.

Chest guard where mostly women wear

Thumb ring – To protect the drawing digits.

Thumb ring made from leather

Monday, May 2, 2011

History of Archery

The invention of the bow and arrow were created by men of the Palaeolithic ages when it was just used for weapons for hunting food and the basic needs of survival.

Bows and arrows of the Stone Age

Archery was once a valued weapon of war used in the military for long-range shots as well as a hunting skill to target fast moving animals for example elk and deer. It was even at one point the chosen weapon of Japanese samurai's, before the rise of the katana and wakizashi.
Later in the years, the weapon lost its popularity with the birth and widespread of efficient firearms such as guns, cannons which had a more damaging effect and long-lasting position in the military.

Men of war of the old times wore no body armour which made the arrow a destructive weapon as the men had no protection against the flying projectiles thus proving the effectiveness of archers, including mounted archers which used horses for the increased of speed and mobility to perform their martial duties with efficiency.

In Greek mythology, several Greek gods prefer the bow and arrow as their weapon of choice, including Apollo and Artemis.

Apollo, a Greek God who chose the bow and arrow

Stone Age

The origins of archery were found in Hungary, Germany once used by the men of the Palaeolithic or Mesolithic era. The arrows were made by pine, while the arrowheads were made of flint or bone.
In Egypt, bows and arrows made their mark with the “Nine Bows” which symbolize several people who were ruled over by the pharaoh since the unity of Egypt.

The hieroglyphics which described "Nine Bows" 

Ancient Asia

Japanese, Persians, Koreans, Chinese are several classical civilization of ancient times who used a large number of archers in their armies.
In Japanese culture the bow was also used to ward off evil spirits, by shooting an arrow into the Kanji symbol for Oni (demon).
Shooting arrows in large quantities caused a destructive effect against mass formations causing many armies to withdraw from battle from such a loss, thus the use of an archer was proved efficient.

Archers in Action

Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, the use for archers as well as the practice decline with the birth of modern weapons such as guns powered by gun powder and cannons which projects round-shaped projectiles with had a much greater damaging effect compared to the wooden bows and arrows.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What is Archery?

Archery by definition is an art, practice or method of propelling arrows with the use of a bow. In the Latin vocabulary, the word archery comes from the word ‘arcus’. 
Archery of the old days has been used for hunting wild animals for the sake survival and as weapons of war and combat to defend themselves from enemies near and far.

An archer of medieval times preparing his shot

Archery of the modern times is now used as a recreational activity, a sport to be played and mastered like soccer and baseball. It is also listed as one of the many favourite hobbies among young men and women of today.

The look of an Olympic archer

In the art of archery, those who practice archery are called archers named after the sport or bowman named after the bow which plays a huge role in archery.
We called those who have made archery their priority in life 
or have mastered the art of archery a ‘toxophilite’ meaning “a lover or devotee of archery".
The word ‘toxophilite’  comes from the book titled ‘Toxophilus’, by Roger Ascham, a book about longbow  archery and on the characters love for the said longbow archery. 
It is also the first book on archery written in English.

King Henry VIII, a fond archer and the inspiration for the book 'Toxophilus'