“Globalisation actually brings waves of new colonialism to drown the traditions
of a country, wiping out original identity. People must be aware that not all that
is traditional hinders progress as tradition that is interpreted wisely and
intelligently can function to bring progress”

– His Highness Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, the Raja Muda of Perak
Kuala Kangsar, April 2009, as reported in The Sun newspaper 

 

There are at least two reasons why we need to look at archery from our local historical perspective. Firstly, it is being competed internationally as a traditional sport where only traditional equipment is allowed. Contestants are also expected to come in their traditional outfits. Secondly, a study of this lost legacy will enrich, uplift our spirits and perhaps inspire us to emulate the refined character of our forefathers. The rich tradition in archery can have far-reaching benefits.

The history of archery on these lands (Nusantara) was either lost or destroyed. However, the earliest evidence of archery can be found in the travel accounts of Ibn Battuta (1304 - possibly 1368 or 1377 C.E.), a Muslim traveler from Morocco. He spoke of Urduja, a warrior princess known to us as the first Che Siti Wan Kembang, whose army was composed of men and women archers riding horses.

About a hundred years later, Melaka grew into an international trading port and Islam was the driving force behind its growth and success. In Islam, archery is fard kifayah (ie. a religious obligation incumbent, not upon each individual, but upon the community by representation) and the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of the Almighty be upon him, greatly stressed the necessity and importance of learning archery.

Bearing that in mind, it would be logical to imagine that such a great Islamic nation it once was, the use of horses and archery should be common practise, despite its lack of evidence. Even before Melaka grew into an international trading port, the influence of the Ottoman Empire was on the rise and the Ottomans were well known in their horseback archery skills. It was recorded that Urduja bought bows and arrows from the Arabs and the Turks. She also bought horses from them and she learned their language too. It would also be safe to conclude that our warrior archers must have practiced the techniques used by Muslim archers (as opposed to other methods).

We are still uncovering evidence of the type of bows, arrows, related accessories and attire that were used. Our findings so far lead us to conclude that the type of bow was similar to the Ottoman bow with some characteristics peculiar to our geographical region.