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Where archery is more than shooting arrows

Photo: Yangphel Archery
One lazy afternoon, a few years ago, I was watching an archery tournament with a foreigner. The game was played on imported, shiny compound bows and arrows. As the archers, men dressed in colorful outfits, celebrated karey hits almost after every minute or two, the foreigner and I had time to talk. We agreed and argued on some shooting matters, but one of his points went unanswered.

“Bhutanese people consider archery your national sport, but how many Olympic medals have your archers won?”

Well, I could give him no satisfactory answer back then because he reasoned that the aim of the archers everywhere is to hit the target and even Olympic archers shoot with the same aim. Very reasonable I thought. He went on to say that India has won 8 Olympic Gold for Field Hockey, her national sport. That he called is proving to the world that it is the truly the national sport. But very interestingly India is ranked only eighth in the world in its national game. And going by the foreigner’s argument the countries should be adjudged the best in their national sports. Is it necessary that we should shoot Olympic arrows and take pride or do we focus on the culture aspect of the sport?

And one thing that I construe from the foreigner’s point is that while we may play other foreign sports such as football, basketball, volleyballs, cricket, etc. in the country, it is not necessary for us to win in every tournament. Of course I am not saying winning is a problem. It is good to win. But even if we do not, I think it is perfectly alright, if we demonstrate good knowledge of the game and play in the right spirit. It is no shame not winning, but we should not make our size as an excuse for not trying and performing our best in every sporting event.

Now coming to archery, the whole world knows it is our national game and maybe it is high time that we prepare to bring home some medals to their supposed and apt roosting grounds. Let’s not keep on postponing for that moment to happen. We can and we must. And it is not impossible because our taekwondo squad has shown us it is possible.

In Bhutan, archery is more than a game, one Bhutanese has rightly pointed out for he reasons our way of life is contained therein. It is a game that we have inherited from our forefathers. Archery is a game that unites people from all walks of life. Whether you are a red scarf dasho or a white scarf peon, you are provided with the same number of arrows to shoot and the possibility of hitting the karey is same for all irrespective of one’s social status quo. And all the players have the equal right to celebrate. In that sense archery, one that’s recognized as our national sport since 1971 is truly a game that promotes the concept of social harmony and vibrant democracy.   

Bhutan Archery Federation (BAF) takes the responsibility to groom Bhutanese archers for international tournaments. Our archers have competed in a number of international tournaments, the recent one being the 16th Asian Games held in Guangzhou, China. In absence of trained national archery coaches, should we continue listening to outsiders’ remarks that we have no medal for our national sport? Isn’t it time that we invest in our national sport? Isn’t it time that we train our promising shooters and tap their talents?    

In Bhutan almost every second someone shoots an arrow and as the stakes go higher, for archers everyday is a competition. And all these happen on imported equipment.   But maybe it is time for us to redefine our national sport and shoot the arrows the way our ancestors did. Maybe it is time to declare popular archery of the day played on compound bows and arrows is in essence not our national game. Maybe it is time for us to declare our national sport is one that’s played on traditional bamboo bows and arrows and that ours is more than shooting arrows.

Maybe it is time for us to detach our form of shooting the target from the game played elsewhere and make ours one that stands for us and for our age old culture and traditions once and for all. Maybe it is time to hire archery experts and coaches to train our archers to shoot their arrows and hit in an Olympic style. Maybe it is time that we take stock of the situation and breed some more Olympic archers to promote a shooting Gold culture in Bhutan.

(P.S:- This piece featured in Bhutan Times, Sunday for sure, but I forget the date now

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