Halfway through a jemperingan lesson in the grounds of Central Java’s Amanjiwo, a peculiar thought crosses my mind: is my instructor actually any good?
Every arrow I release veers off course, missing the target – an alarmingly thin slice of faraway wood suspended from a rope – and, curiously enough, my teacher Kris’s arrows follow suit.
Jemparingan, Indonesia’s ancient version of archery, is traditionally performed seated with a horizontal bow rather than standing, adding a layer of complexity to an already challenging discipline.
Doubtful of my instructor’s aim, I request a demonstration of a perfect shot.
Kris’s response is swift and decisive – an arrow flies from his bow in a smooth trajectory across the tennis court, piercing the red tip of the wood, which symbolises the enemy’s head, scoring the coveted three points.
They double as translators, too, bridging the gap when Kris, fluent in English but occasionally switching to local dialect for intricate historical explanations, delves into the deeper aspects of the sport.
In the shadow of Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple, jemparingan at Amanjiwo is a true cultural immersion and a testament to the enduring spirit of its practicioners.
It’s here, among whispers of ancient Java, that guests not only learn to aim with a bow but also to align with a philosophy that has steadied and guided generations – respect, humility, and responsibility.