WTAF II September 2008 Event Report

II. World Traditional Archery Festival (WTAF) and IV. World Sport Games (TAFITAS)

By: Dr. Murat Özveri for the Etas Archery website

One of the world’s largest traditional archery events, World Traditional Archery Fesitval (WTAF) was held in Korea in 26 September-2 October. This year was the second of the festival organised by the National Association of Archery for All with the considerable support of the Korean government. Last year’s festival had revealed some minor problems in the organisation but this year everything was settled perfectly due to the sensible and gentle approach of the Organisation Committee. After the I. WTAF they had asked kindly for all the opinions and the comments of the participants and undoubtly they had taken action according to these feed-backs. Not only the festival program was very precisely scheduled but also some other details like some “para-toxophilic” activities, i.e. touristic sightseeing tours and time for shopping, were added to the 6-day lasting festival. The awesome Korean hospitality was the same as the last year and everyone involved showed noticable effort to make the participant have a good time and comfort.

This year 29 countries participated the festival. That’s supposed to be another improvement since last year 22 countries had taken part. Tanzania and Peru were two of these newcomers that enriched the festival with their less-known archery traditions. It was exciting to watch archers from different countries in action. The first day was scheduled for nation’s demonstrations. All demonstrated their shooting technique, mostly in historical costumes. Some of the representative such as Mongolians, Japanese, Bhutanese and Turks had brought their traditional targets and used them in their demonstrations. Turkish team shot at a puta I had brought to Korea, but the shooting distance was limited to 20 m. contrary to the traditional 165 m. I also demonstrated the use of “siper”, the over-draw used in flight shooting. Of course, due to the limited space in the stadium, the very short flight arrow was not shot and only the bow was drawn for demo purposes. Mongolian team shot at small baskets put at 80 m. as usual, but Korean and Bhutanese archers had to modify their shooting distance and shot at 120 m. instead of 145m.! Hungarian team’s demonstration was a 20-minute show with awesome costumes, drums and a choreography; probably based on a Hungarian folk tale.

It is worth (and a must) to mention that it was about the representation of archery traditions rather than the nations. Some archery schools represented there did not match the nation of the representative. While my good friend Peter Dekker from the Netherlands represented Manchu archery, Bede Dwyer from Australia participated with his Turkish and Persian tackle and amazing know-how. Peter is one of the most important expert in Manchu archery and Bede has been working on Middle Eastern archery for the last 25 years. The Organisation provided a booth for each nation and we all were able to exhibit our bows, arrows, arrow points, other tackle as well as the related documents like articles, books, etc. These booths have immediately become a place for socialisation too and people begun to meet each other and get into hot conversations about archery. I am so lucky to have known my Czech friend Michal Sodja who had made some Turkish war head replicas for me. He is a blacksmith and a talented artist and these arrowheads had been one of the most impressive part of our exhibition. Another impressive piece on our exhibition was the Turkish bow made by Cem Donmez, the first and the only Turkish traditional bowyer of the Republic era. The exceptional characteristics of Turkish bow were appreciated in this festival too and at the end of the festival, Turkish team was honored with the “Traditional Bow of Excellence” award.

The second and third days of the festival consisted of a competition at which the participants shot at 5 different targets. Four of them was familiar to the ones who had participated in the I. WTAFthere last year: Korean target at 120 m, Mongolian target at 80 m, Japanese target at 60 m. and a 3-D deer target at 18 m. What unusual was the moving target introduced by the Hungarian team. It was a 120 cm target face attached to a mechanical device that was moving the target sideways. The shooting distance was 40 m. and the competitiors were allowed to shoot two arrows during each pass of the target, a total of 4 arrows. Despite its unorthodox and non-traditional character this target was quite challenging and enjoyable to shoot.

The fourth day was scheduled for academic seminars. The Organisation Committee had been very well prepared for the seminars. The full texts of the papers had already been published in a congress book that every participant got a copy of prior to the presentation. This full-day marathon took mental effort to anyone involved but the outcome was more than satisfactory. What I personally found interesting is something my good friend Dr. Michal Goetz from Czech Republic said in his lecture: “If traditional archery becomes a sport it will be its end”. With these words he highlighted the cultural and intellectual aspects of traditional archery. Yes, we all enjoy the competitions but there is no pathetic ambitions and competitive spirit like that in sport archery. He also mentioned three concepts the Czech traditional archery community follows: “education, stimulation and friendship”, which I really found impressive.

The last day fullfilled an important requirement: touristic sightseeing and cultural tours. Last year we had got neither time nor occassion to see anything from Korea and it had been one of my main concerns. This time, all the participants found the chance to learn more about this exceptional country and culture via a  well-organised tour covering visits to a historical city 1 hour away from Busan, to the National Museum and to a Buddhist Temple

We came back to our countries with unforgettable memories. II. WTAF seemed to have reached its goals:by bringing traditional archery enthusiasts from different countries together in terms of sharing and saving the knowledge of this exceptional cultural heritage. Personally I am happy to have seen some of my friends, again, spend some time together and made new ones. We all are in love with our traditional archery culture and adore the past attached to it but we mustn’t underestimate the “friendship” concept which will undoubltly make the bow and arrow “a weapon of peace” as called once by Stephen Selby.