Kisha (騎射)

Kisha means to shoot an arrow or other weapon while riding a horse. As this technique was necessary to hunt and live, many horse-based societies were good at doing kisha on the continent.

Kisha was started by the Scythians in around 8 B.C. Since they were nomadic tribes, they moved around to live to look for good vegetation and also fought against other tribes on horseback, and it is presumed that Kisha was developed and improved through the manner of their lifestyle, as it was naturally necessary for them. Kisha skills soon spread through the nomadic tribes of Central Asia, and spread into other nomadic tribes such as the Hun, the Avar, the Magyar, one after another, later on reaching Mongolia and spreading into society in ancient times. In ancient times, equestrian peoples heavily influenced the techniques of settled people regarding kisha, however there is no detailed record of those equestrian peoples since they kept on moving from place to place to live and it was hard to keep a record of them.


Kisha has existed since the beginning of Scythian culture (8 B.C. to 3 B.C.) and it is presumed that ancient Greek people imagined the Centaur when they first saw someone shooting an arrow while riding a horse.

The Scythians were able to win a battle against the Huns by putting a solid "nock" on the two ends of the short bow of which the top and bottom were asymmetric, and they changed arrowhead from iron to small bronze arrowheads.

The Turks used lighter and smaller bows completed to a higher quality, and the bow has thin top and bottom ends with a fat body in the centre so that the bow would fly better. The Mongolians even added a "string bridge" to make a faster and stronger bow, in order to have a stronger weapon to fight heavily armed troops.

On the battlefield, the main role of the archery cavalry soldier is to disturb enemies at an outpost or as a scouting party, basically the same role as light cavalry. Archery cavalry soldiers quickly give sudden attack from the side and back of the enemy while they try to avoid being too close to the enemy. Therefore, the soldiers were lightly outfitted and it make it easy for them to move, and they were able to constantly move forward, backward, to the right and left without stopping the horse to attack the enemy with the bows. They remained at a distance from the enemy and attacked them where the enemy could not fight back, they made sure to let the enemy go backwards, while it reduced the morale of the enemies to fight back since they had no shooting weapon and could not do anything to fight against the archery cavalry soldiers.

The archery cavalry usually became a threat to heavily armed soldiers, especially in flat areas without trees with high temperatures, where archery cavalry soldiers were much more sufficient in terms of agility than heavily armed soldiers who moved heavily and slowly. In fact, it was only bows and arrows or archery cavalry soldiers who could possibly resist archery cavalry soldiers. Especially, the Parthian shot was a well known technique of shooting bows in Europe, and was where bows continued to be shot at enemies when leaving, without facing them to give them hard time.

The archery cavalry played an important role in the Battle of Karurae of 53 B.C. and the Battle of Warushutatto (the 13th century), since as the enemies in both battles tried to fight directly with the archery cavalry, they were able to win.

The heavily armed foot soldiers in Western Europe had a hard time fighting against archery cavalry soldiers, and archery cavalry soldiers in Eastern countries made big achievements in the Crusades. In the book of the Bible "The Epistle to the Romans," there are paintings of the archery cavalry soldiers of Sarmatae or cavalry soldiers of janissary.

Few European countries won against the archery cavalry soldiers of the nomadic tribes, and there is one rare example in history where the famous Alexander the Great beat and won a battle against archery cavalry soldiers in "the Battle of the Yaxartes River" in 329 B.C. Alexander the Great expanded the territory of Macedonia into Asia, but even so he was not able to capture the central part of the nomadic nation.

"The Battle of Hattin" in the Medieval period is a classic example of archery cavalry soldiers attacking heavily armed foot soldiers persistently so that they would not want to fight any more and they won the battle. Genghis Khan commanded archery cavalry using Mongolian bows, and he established the huge Mongolian Empire by using the same tactics as other nomadic nations, also they extended their land from the Chinese continent to Europe in their golden age.

Kisha in Japan
It is presumed that kisha was practiced from ancient times, however details are unclear. In "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan), there are descriptions of 'munamato,' 'umayumi,' and 'haseyumi' (all kinds of shooting on horseback), and in "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued), there is a reference to kisha being popular during the Nara period. Kisha was called 'umayumi' at that time. After the Heian period, the form of kisha was settled and yabusame (the art of shooting arrows on horseback), inuoumono (dog-hunting event, needing archery skills), and kasagake (a horseback archery competition) were established, and they started to be used in Shinto rituals and festival events. During the Kamakura period, yabusame, inuoumono, and kasagake were called 'Kisha-Mitsumono' (the three archeries of riding a horse) and were very popular in various places. Kisha was considered to be of the highest rank among archery, and it was still considered as the same as a Samurai's profession during the time of quiet in Edo period even though archery was no longer the main weapon in battle.

[Original Japanese]