Horse Mounted Martial Arts
 By Winniefield Park   •   1st Sep 2018   •   623 views   •   0 comments

Maybe, like me, you’ve had to sit through a movie that featured exploding cars and kung fu. Or, perhaps you’ve taken jiu jitsu, karate or aikido lessons. Movie silliness aside, martial arts are good exercise for both your body and your mind. And it doesn’t hurt to have an inkling of how to defend yourself should you need to. But, taekwondo, or judo don’t appeal to everyone. So why not combine martial art skills with something you already love? Mounted martial arts are growing in popularity, especially mounted archery.

Two separate skills are needed for mounted martial arts; horseback riding and mastery of the weapon that is being used, whether that be a spear, bow, sword or other weapon. For the most part, horses are guided using the leg aids only, and need to get used to the rider moving around in the saddle, positioning and repositioning for combat with whatever weapon they are carrying. For mounted archery, both hands are needed to control the bow and arrow, so the reins aren’t used. In many competitions, a lane is built to keep the horse straight with minimal guidance from the rider.

In archery competitions, one set of rules requires the competitors to gallop down the 90 meter track, (about 300 ft) shooting arrows at targets both to the front and to the rear. Other tracks may be 120m or even longer, winding through lanes, over jumps and through water, all the while, shooting at targets as they appear. Targets may be high in the air, lying on the ground, attached to trees or posts, and one form of the sport uses a wicker ball that is hit with blunt arrows dipped in paint. The bows and arrows themselves also vary, depending on the type of archery. All draw from traditional Hungarian, Korean, and Persian styles of shooting from horseback. Winners are determined by how quickly they complete the course and the accuracy of their shooting. In other mounted martial arts, there is no guiding track to follow and riders must control the horse using only leg aids.

Of course, this is by no means a ‘new’ sport. Mounted soldiers practiced their skills when horses and soldiers were important for warfare. And, hunting from horseback, whether it be with a bow, spear or other weapons has been practiced for centuries. The modern sports attempt to blend the traditional with the safety and fairness we all expect from sports competitions

In learning the sport, you of course learn to walk before you can run. Learning to use and aim a bow and arrow or other weapon is done on the ground shooting targets. The horse must be desensitized to the sound of the bow and arrow and the motion of the rider as they twist back and forth to aim at targets side to side and in front and behind. Although the most dramatic and exciting depictions of the sport show the horse and rider going at a full out gallop, mastering the skills needed start at the walk.

Any breed of horse can be used, and videos and photos show everything from ponies, to Arabians to draft horses. In this, the traditional is put aside. The costumes worn by the riders are often an attempt at the traditional. Arrows may be carried in a quiver, or in some styles of competition, in an Obi—a traditional Japanese sash. The horses too, may be decked out in traditional costumes, representing the style of competition they are in.
So what do you need to get started? Clinics offer the best introduction to the sport and some may provide horses and equipment. There are many clubs and associations across the Americas, Australia, Europe, Mongolia and South East Asia. Through the various associations, you’ll find tracks to practice on, competitions and training opportunities. Local archery clubs could offer training in using the weapons and help direct you to where you can purchase the right equipment.
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