Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Visit to Turkish hornbow bowyer Cem Donmez Sept. 2010

In September 2010 I visited Turkey's famous bowyer Cem Donmez, who lives in Izmir. We planned this shoot all year so I was really excited to shoot his bows and try my flight arrows. When you enter his workshop you see loads of buffalo horn, wood cut or uncut, sinew and hornbows finished or unfinished in various stages, hung to dry for example.

We talked, brainstormed and shot the whole day. It is such a pleasure to be under enthusiasts with the same/similar interest. The day is not enough and at the end you think ''but there was so much more we wanted to talk about..''
Below you will see some pictures from the shoot, also a picture from 2 flight arrows, one tarzı has, one şem endam. The şem endam's flight was very good, very straight and fast. Cem also made a copy of his own historical flight arrow, this one had a perfect flight as well. This time I didnt use a typical mushamma but used the cloth I use to wax my arrows. I could 'sculpt' it better around the grip and in my palm. Cem has prepared a new puta bow, he measured it a week before and it was more than 100 lbs at 28''. He also had another bow at around 75lbs. Note that these arent flight bows.

We made similar experiences as last year. Correct arrows are very important. We have seen that 3 arrows out of 8 go straight without the slightest visible fishtailing, other arrows' flight were not stable. Also sometimes I didnt raise the arrow/bow high enough it seems. Also on some shots I didnt pull the arrow far enough in the siper. What I did though was this 'English longbow style' pushing the bow forward while shooting. I am not sure if it helps that much or if it is historically correct in the Ottoman style of flight shooting. I couldnt find any sources for this in the literature. (more information on the Turkish overdraw ''siper'')

Cem strung the strong bow a week beforehand and when I arrived it lost already power. I guess the hot weather contributed to that as well. In the end the strong bow was only about 75 pounds. Regarding the distance we could not exceed 310m even with the siper. Still it was very valuable for both of us, as I could shoot hornbows with siper and flight arrows and Cem could see the performance and characteristics of his bows when used.

Gokmen Altinkulp

 Cem Donmez's workshop
Hornbow with 'tepelik' getting ready to be strung
Turkish flight arrows replica
 Checking the position of the overdraw with the Turkish bow

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Tribute to Necmeddin Okyay

Necmeddin Okyay, (1883-1976) was was born in Uskudar/Istanbul died at the age of 93, may he rest in peace. He is a  role model for me and many others not only for his deeds in Turkish archery but also with his character. He earns big respect as a true Ottoman.

He was one of the last famous Turkish bowyers/archers. He took the name 'Okyay'. Ok means arrow, yay means bow in Turkish.  Imagine his devotion to archery. He learned archery from Seyfeddin Efendi, the archery teacher of Sultan Abdul Aziz (reigned 1861-1876). Later he was even allowed to use and repair the archery equipment in the Military Museum Istanbul.
Necmettin Okyay inspecting a Turkish bow

Necmeddin Okyay with a Turkish bow

Famous picture where he demonstrates the full draw with a siper and according grip

He spent much time and effort to teach and promote this wonderful style of archery and our heritage. So today our group is not even the first group to revive Turkish archery. The first was founded in the 1930ies and fostered and encouraged by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and was called 'Okspor'. Necmeddin Okyay had students and taught them a lot of things about Ottoman archery and Turkish bows. Today no student lives anymore and it seems nobody of these passed their knowledge on. So sadly the line was broken and today we can only research books.

Okspor picture (Name of archer: Betul Or)

Necmeddin Okyay with fellow archers

What distinguishes Necmeddin particularly is that he researched, practiced and taught the old Turkish arts like calligraphy, rose cultivating, ebru (Turkish paper marbling), archery and some more. That is why he earned the title 'Hezarfen= person of 1000 sciences. For every art or science he had the best teachers of the Ottomans and he never stopped learning.

Not only was he of utmost importance for the archers but also many other groups e.g. The Ebru makers. He has been an ''ebru'' master (Turkish paper marbling- http://www.muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?ArticleID=530). He developed a new style and technique which gained huge popularity.

Floral Ebru by Necmettin Okyay

Necmeddin Okyay showing Ottoman Calligraphy

He grew roses as well. He had about 400 species of roses in his garden of which he knew all the latin names.
Last year archer friends in Turkey tried to find his house in Istanbul/Uskudar in Toygar Street, which is said to contain many many bows and archery treasures. Unfortunately our friends discovered that the original Ottoman house was demolished and a new apartment was build at its place.

You might think what has ebru, calligraphy, rose cultivation, poetry and archery in common. Looking closely at Ottoman museum bows gives us an idea. Such a deadly weapon, but on it you can see floral designs in lively colours with gold applications. Beauty and power goes hand in hand, and both aspects are perfect and complement each other..