Saturday, 16 February 2013

Ottoman Turkish archery bow drawing technique

What is the technique to draw an Ottoman Turkish bow?
In fact, the principles are general archery principles, valid for all types of archery, not just Turkish archery.

Ottoman Sultan practicing mounted archery on a hunt

The (common) wrong technique (A)
I will start with a common mistake which one sees a lot among beginners and today's horsearchers.
While pulling the bow, the ellbow is often kept low or horizontal.
This has many implications:
  1. You cannot use your back muscles properly 
  2. You have to use mostly the wrong muscle - the biceps
  3. No anchor point possible. In order to anchor near the face e.g. chin, ear etc you would have to use your biceps, but this will be extremely difficult. 
  4. The arrow is less aligned with your bow arm and eyes
Imagine a vector/line of power like in the drawing below. The two end points are your bow hand and the tip of your elbow. Your draw hand has to be on this vector as only in this position you do not need to use your biceps. This is the reason why a lot of people cannot come to their anchor point as they struggle to position their draw hand near the face, as this is a deviation from the vector.
This is also the main reason why full grown men struggle with 50lbs and higher while in Ottoman times 70+ lbs was the norm (only children, beginners and elderly would use below 70lbs bows). Why use your biceps and struggle with 50lbs if you could use the correct technique and back muscles and go easily beyond 70lbs?

The correct archery technique (B)
  1. Start drawing your bow 
  2. Keep your elbow high at the earliest stage
  3. ''Roll your shoulder'' as the English longbow archers would say
  4. Come to an anchor point, press your draw hand against the tip/edge of your chin for an Ottoman anchor point. The elbow should point upwards
  5. Release- with the released energy, the elbow goes back vertically in a quick move but stops abruptly above shoulder height. Do not activate muscles to throw your arm back but use muscles to stop the backwards move.
  6. Upper and lower arm end in a vertical position in an approximate 90 degree angle. If the draw was correct, the position of the shoulder blades will be correct and with the release the backwards moving arm will be vertical too.
The anchor point depends on the archery culture and occasion e.g. it is mostly the chin for Ottoman battle archery whereas it is the earlobe for Ottoman flight archery. Seljuks, Persian Safevids, Mughals, Mongols and Tatars had a longer draw and their anchor point ranged from under the ear to above the shoulder of the draw arm.

Comparison to modern archery
In modern archery it is exactly the same principle, if you want to learn more about Asian style historic archery, I recommend looking at the technique of top class recurve or compound archers:
 Modern Compound bow technique

Last example: 
Below you see a group of Mongols shooting arrows in battle, two are in full draw and two in the release position.

Historic Mongol archery

Ottoman Turkish hornbow drawing technique 
upon request I am adding a video with a sideview of the drawing technique. Note that the elbow never drops  and the bow is drawn purely with the back muscles. Excuse the outfit, this was on a horsearchery competition in Jordan where I tested a hornbow of a famous bowmaker :)


  1. 1. knocking point is sort of very high on the string.
    2. there is only so far i can go with the elbow up before i start twisting wrist and the thumb.

  2. Maybe you can include a photo or video of the correct draw from side view, not from the top.

    1. Video of sideview of draw is added. Many selams and thank you for your attention.

    2. MashaAllah thank you so much!

  3. Çok teşekkür ederim! This lesson is *extremely* helpful! I know of nobody where I live that shoots traditionally in the Turkish style, so a thousand thanks!