by Burak Akinci
ANKARA, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- The traditional Turkish archery dates back to the period of early Turkic tribes in Central Asia. Today more and more young athletes are fascinated by this ancient martial art.
Last December, traditional Turkish archery was listed as UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage of humanity, giving an extra boost for this age-old sport.
"We have currently around 120 students, the majority of whom are between 18 and 20, and they are very interested in this ancient art, because it allows them to travel back to feel the spirit of their ancestors," said Muhiddin Uyanik, an administrator at the Federation of Turkish Traditional Archery.
Uyanik, is one of a few people who have initiated Turkey's bid to inscribe the art on the UNESCO's list.
He is also the founder of a small museum located in Ankara's old citadel, a famous touristic venue of the Turkish capital. The museum, known as Turkpusat (Turkish arms), is dedicated to ancient Turkish martial arts, especially archery, with the world's largest collection of arrowheads.
"There is definitely an interest among young people who want to learn the craft which is very laborious. In the old days, during the Ottoman Empire, a disciple had to undergo three years of theoretical learning and muscle building before shooting his first arrow," Uyanik explained.
Since its foundation in 2014, Uyanik's school has taught around 800 people, mostly youth, the basics of Turkish traditional archery.
"My friends ask me why I practice this sport. I tell them that there is something that I can't explain. It's the link between my ancestors and myself," said Erkan, a 15-year-old who has a passion for everything related to ancient Turkish martial arts.
He was drawn to archery because of historical action films which introduced a series of nationalistic folk heroes from the early Ottoman period.
He said he is only at the early stage of learning and would like to continue for many years and eventually become a teacher.
Historians depict vivid war scenes of the Ottoman era, where agile Turkish soldiers, some of whom on horseback, were capable of shooting 40 to 50 arrows within a few minutes, surprising the enemy.
In the long past, bow and arrow accompanied their owners in all aspects of life, especially during war and hunting. It was crucial for Turks to learn how to shoot arrows at an early age.
In the museum, there are archery instruments called "zikhir," which one can put on the thumb to pull the bow and was used by children at the age of three.
"This is the heritage of our ancestors, archery is essential in Turkish culture in terms of both national and spiritual values, and we are trying to keep it alive today," said Arif Osman Gurdal, a 33-year-old veterinary physician, showing how difficult it is to stretch an Ottoman recurved bow for a perfect shot.
Gurdal, a teacher in a different school in the suburbs of Ankara, is actively introducing the art to the next generation.
There is no doubt that the newly-emerging interest for Ottoman history also helps revive this ancient sport in the present day.
Turkey hosts an annual traditional archery competition every May to commemorate the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453. The competition is known as the Conquest Cup, an international event that welcomes archers from all over the Eurasian and Western world.
Uyanik said that this year Turkey will host an even bigger event, the Word Nomad Games, which is expected to attract competitors from around 80 countries, including China.