Mongolian archery is one of the ‘three manly sports’ of Mongolia’s Naadam Festival. However, I feel that archery is the least understood of the three and for those of you who would like to know your surchid from your zurkhai then this post is for you.
There are three main archery styles in Mongolia – Buriat, Uriankhai and Khalk. All three are included in Mongolia’s state Naadam competition with Khalkh style being the common national archery style. The national title-winning archery is Khalkh archery as the shooting distance is the furthest and it is standardised by age and gender. The other two styles are considered national heritage styles. Typically over 300 archers compete in the three different styles. In the Uriankhai style archery male only competitors shoot from 30 and 40 meters. In the Buriat style, both men and women compete and shoot from a distance of 30 to 45 meters.
Teams of twelve archers emerge onto the shooting line and in turn launch four arrows each at the targets which are leather cylinders installed in the ground. The shooting distance is 75 metres for men and 60 metres for women. For those under 18, the distance is set at a rate of three to four metres per year of age.
When you are on the archery field, look out for the small brown and red leather cylinders stacked in two or three rows on the ground. They are the targets – called ‘hasaa’.
The red ones in the middle of the brown targets are the central targets for the archers, but hitting the red ones won’t grant the archer an extra score. The score is given only if a hasaa moves at least eight centimetres from its original location – the width of one hasaa. So long as it moves the requisite distance, hitting any hasaa is equally scored ‘1’. There are no special high-score hasaas.
An archer is given 40 shots in total. Twenty of them are given to hitting 60 hasaas lined in three rows. The next twenty chances are given to hitting 30 hasaas lined in two rows.
A group of judges (surchid) stand near the target area (generally named as zurkhai). Archers, after shooting four times, will be obliged to stand at the zurkhai to serve as a judge or co-judge, for the two next shifts.
The archer is constantly calculating and calibrating. A softened bow needs to stretch further to reach the target, while a hardened bow needs to be stretched less. Variables include the changing temperature and weather conditions throughout the day of competition. Another important variable is the strength and direction of the wind. The winning marksmen and women are awarded the title of ‘state marksman’ – also known as ‘mergen’ or sharpshooter.
The images used throughout this post were taken by our EL guests. We get our guests up-close to the action but in a way that provides freedom and flexibility. If you would like to experience Naadam with us then can include it as part of our Mongolia tours style. Why not look at our Mongolia tours website page for inspiration or get in touch for details.
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes