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25070Re: [SCA-Archery] Mongolian Archery Question

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  • John Rossignol
    Jul 17, 2008
      That's a tough one. Speaking as someone who shoots a horsebow himself
      and understands how little most Americans know about the whole subject,
      and also as someone who has taught in Collegia out here in the West
      Kingdom, I have a few suggestions I hope are useful.

      If your class description is clear, then you can be fairly sure that
      whatever class you teach, the students who show up will know what they
      are getting into, and will have an interest in that particular aspect of
      the subject. The real problems are:
      a) what topic do you really want to teach;
      b) what topic will be interesting to the greatest number of people, or
      at least a goodly number of people; and
      c) how do you guess what level of knowledge and experience your students
      will have (e.g. archers vs non-archers)?

      In my experience, when we are laying the groundwork of knowledge in a
      new field, we generally have to concentrate on (b) and save (a) for
      later, when we have built up a clientele, so to speak. Otherwise, we
      lose them. It sounds like you have already come to the same conclusion.

      The ideal answer to question (b), in my mind, is actually to offer more
      than one course: first your #4 history class to set the stage and whet
      the appetite, then a hands-on "Mongolian Archery Technique" course which
      combines the practical applications of your #1 and #3 (which are
      intimately related anyway). (As a first offering, I would not recommend
      the historical and cultural aspects of either thumb rings or the thumb
      draw. I don't think they would fly. These are really fairly arcane
      topics for folks grounded in Western civilization, best saved for when
      they have developed a serious interest in Eastern archery.)

      If teaching two courses isn't feasible, then I would recommend going
      with just the hands-on "Mongolian Archery Technique" course. Strictly
      speaking, at least to my mind, "Traditional Mongolian Archery" per se is
      technique and equipment much more than it is history, and I think most
      people seeing that topic title would expect, or at least want, to learn
      something about how to do it. If you have any historically-sized (i.e.
      very short) horsebows for students to try, the answer to "why use the
      thumb draw" will also become apparent readily enough. (Of course, the
      thumb draw can be discouraging for beginners, so be sure to demonstrate
      how well it can work once one becomes skilled. Also, unless you have an
      indoor range available you will probably want to be ready to shift gears
      to "demo + Tem├╝jin lecture" if the weather is too nasty to actually go
      out and shoot.)

      The answer to question (c), in my experience, is that unless you
      explicitly exclude students who lack a certain level of knowledge or
      experience (which you obviously don't want to do here), you have
      absolutely no way of knowing what sort you are going to get. Very often
      you will get a broad range. My advice is to take a quick poll of your
      students and then try to teach the class at a level that will be
      moderately challenging to most of them. Provide class notes which
      introduce some of the information you won't have time to cover in
      class. Especially, a well-done "further reading" list can not only help
      students at any level deepen their knowledge, but also get them started
      on related topics if that's what they want. In a one-hour class, you
      simply can't tailor things to each student, but with good class notes
      you can help them do this for themselves, later on.

      The bottom line is that it is impossible to be sure of making the right
      choice of class offering. There are too many variables beyond our
      control. We all guess wrong sometimes, but it's not the end of the
      world. Just make the best judgment you can, be sure your class
      descriptions are clear, and then when the day comes try to tailor your
      teaching level to your students. Even if a class flops at a particular
      University, don't get discouraged. You still have the class notes, and
      your own knowledge, available to pull out in the future when a more
      receptive audience appears -- plus you have gained audience insights you
      can apply to the next University. Eventually you will have a whole
      spectrum of classes in your magic bag, ready for any occasion, and in
      the meantime you will have deepened your own knowledge of the subject,
      and probably improved your teaching skills.

      I hope some of that is helpful. Good luck!


      Ceterum censeo, Carthago delenda est.

      Steven Fuller wrote:
      > Hey folks,
      > I have been asked by a few people (separately, even!) if I would teach
      > a class on Traditional Mongolian Archery at Atlantian Fall University.
      > They wanted it to be a part of a whole Mongolian track of classes,
      > including cooking, culture, clothing, furniture, etc.
      > My question, then, is this: seeing as how I only have an hour to teach
      > a subject and I really need to narrow my class down to one topic, what
      > should I teach about?
      > 1) History of the Mongolian Draw, How It's Done and Why
      > 2) History of the Thumb Ring and Its Cultural Significance
      > 3) Learn to Shoot with a Thumb Ring
      > 4) Horse Archery and Its Pivotal Role in the Spread of the Mongolian
      > Empire
      > I'm not really sure who my "students" will be, if they would be mostly
      > archers or mostly non-archers. How should I decide what would be most
      > wanted out of a Mongolian archery class?
      > Thanks for any and all suggestions (and any reference help would be
      > great, too! *grin*),
      > --Rhys.
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