Choijelsurengiin Mendbayar posed for these photographs in June 1998 in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Mendbayar learned archery from his father, renowned archer and bowyer Choijelsuren, when he was 14 years old. He is now 39. He is the brother of Munkhtsetseg, the National Women's Archery Champion of Mongolia and makes the bows she shoots with.
The photographs and commentary are © Stephen Selby, 1998.
First the bow is strung. Mongolian composite bows are strongly recurved and cannot be strung by one person without risk of damage. Mendbayar gets his sister to slip the string loop over one string nock while he pulls the ears of the bow back against his knee. The hands grip the ears opposite the string bridges, with the thumbs keeping the string from slipping off the bridges during stringing.
With the bow strung, Mendbayar grips an arrow near the nock with the bow tucked under his arm, the lower tip resting on his boot.
He cants the bow to the right and prepares to set the arrow against his knuckle, to the left of the canted bow-grip. His sister regards this as un-traditional. (Their father did not shoot this way.) The traditional method is to shoot over the thumb, to the right of the grip.
Mendbayar nocks the arrow at the serving on the string.
He checks visually that the arrow is centred on the serving and firmly nocked.
Now it's time to start concentrating on the target. At this point Mendbayar will check the wind by looking at a small flag placed near the target.
Next comes the first stage of the draw. Mendbayar breathes in. His eyes remain fixed on the target. At the lower tip of the bow you can see a piece of wooden dowel placed between the string loop and the sayah on the archer's side and taped to the limb. This will give the archer a little protection if the bow becomes unstrung when drawn. It is only needed if the limb has developed a twist (a common occurrence.)
The pre-draw stops at this point. Mendbayar pauses for a couple of seconds to settle his breathing and aim at the target.
Now Mendbayar is at full draw. He holds at this point for about three seconds, focussing fully on the target before he releases. His draw-hand fingers are flared upwards and outwards to put a slight twist on the string.
27 September 1998