Category: Don Quixote

Don Quixote’s Malaysian Adventure

My team-mate Pak Ajib and me (like him, many competitors were decked out in their traditional finery)

I had planned to just take part in competitions in Singapore and West Malaysia this year. I felt that it would be enough to keep this quixotic old archer sufficiently busy. When Coach Ali, our club’s good friend, recently invited me to join his club, Simply Archery, for a competition in Johor State on the 8th of April, at a venue a mere 15 minutes’ drive across the border, I gladly accepted it.

It was jointly (and very well) organized by the Archery Club of the states of Johore and Pahang at a school field near the Johor Zoo. About 10 archers led by Coach Ali went across and all of us took part on the traditional bow category. It was a quite a big event with about 200 archers taking part, divided approximately equally between the traditional and modern barebow categories. There were many local barebow clubs taking part. From the different club T shirts worn, I think there were maybe as many as 15 clubs.

The number of targets, a mix of 2D and 3D targets was also quite large, 22 in all. Participants had to do one round of 4 arrows at each station/target.  The novelty targets were interesting and we could borrow some of the ideas. For example, there was a station where the targets were hung empty plastic bottles which unless they were hit squarely, the arrow will not pierce and will just glance off. Few archers managed to register a hit. I was one of the lucky ones at that station. There were also swinging plastic foam balls at another station.

Me with the Simply Archery Team having a simple roti canai (prata) breakfast

I thought that I had a chance to get a top 10 to 15 placing as I had done well at local competitions, having received prizes at the very first two attempts at traditional bow competitions in Singapore. However, the Malaysians were very good traditional archers and I ended up number 48 out of about 90 competitors in the category. It turned out that I was only a mere kampong (village) champion.

But I had a lot of fun, with lots of opportunities to chat with the Malaysian archers because many wanted to know who this old Chinese man that Coach Ali had brought along was.

Don Quixote

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My Recent Primitive Bow Archery Experiment

It all began with the club deciding to organise a bare-bow competition recently and we also decided to include this fast growing category, the primitive bow a.k.a. traditional-historical bow category. I agreed to liaise with the clubs that we knew had large numbers of such archers that we planned to invite.

Then I decided……. “why not take part too and enjoy a new experience?” So I got myself a what I suppose, is an Arabian Bow (it had some Arabic words inscribed on it). It is a small, light bow, so it’s probably a horse-bow, too.

This category of bow does/must not have a shelf or a window so the arrow is rested on the bow and the hand acts as an arrow rest. As a result, the arrow goes to the left when released if you are a right handed archer and are placing the arrow to the left side of the bow, like I do.

Canting the bow to the right
Canting the bow to the right

I found that I had to cant the bow to the right, in order to compensate for the tendency for the arrow to go left as well as to ensure that the arrow does not slip off the bow and the bow hand. I also found that the amount of canting needed, differed at different distances from the target. I found that I had to cant more the further the distance to the target. This was made worse for my learning curve as we were having an ‘unknown distance’ shoot.

I found out that the way to shoot the bow was to go instinctive or at least semi-instinctive, rather than to try to draw, hold and aim and to ensure ‘everything is right’ then release, like one would do with a regular recurve bow or a modern bare-bow.

But as I was practising, the one thing that I could not get or feel ‘instinctive’, was the tension on the string when using a glove. Even changing to a more thinly padded glove didn’t give sufficient ‘feel’.

Drawing the bowstring with Bare Fingers
Drawing the bowstring with Bare Fingers

So one day, I decided to shoot with bare fingers and found an immediate improvement. Now everything is instinctive, the gap, the cant and the feel of the string (which helps determine how much to draw).

I read up a bit on shooting with bare fingers and there were comments about how the string could twist less when released with bare fingers. I would add that the extra feel also allowed me to place the string more to the tip of the fingers (I shoot split fingers) so that the release is more instant and smoother. With a glove or a finger tab, I tend to place the string a little inwards (being afraid that it would slip) so that there tended to be a bit of finger hooking.

I had slightly more than three weeks to get familiar with this new form of archery. I seem to be shooting almost as well (or badly) as with a modern traditional bow after a while and was enjoying it. It was almost like back in the kampong (malay term for village) days shooting a catapult. Everything instinctive. That was the fun. And I did pretty OK on the day of the competition too.

I hope this ranting is of some use to my fellow traditional bow archers and those who wish to take it up.

– contributed by Don Quixote

……..by the way, Don Quixote landed 2nd Prize in the Traditional-Historical Bow category at our 24th September 2016 Invitational Competition. A rather good result!!! We are waiting for him to go on a fully primitive bare-skinned shoot sometime 😛 – Editor