A visit of Kassai Valley

Home of the Horseback Archery

The Kassai Valley is the place where the Horseback Archery has its (new) origin, a valley close to Kaposvár, south of Balaton.

On every first Saturday of the month all Kassai clans are invited to the valley to join the training there - but there are more reasons making a visit to the valley worthwhile, especially as a horseback archer yourself. Because the career of every horseback archer, too, has its beginning here.

Every beginning is hard

I already spoke about the ranks of the Kassai-archers in my post about the competition. What I didn’t know back then, though, is, that there are a few exams that can only take place in the Kassai Valley.

One of these is the entrance examination to a clan. And this exam takes place only twice a year, in Octobre and April, to give as many clan-leaders as possible the chance to be there - they are needed to conduct the exam.

The entrance exam starts with a 5km run, followed by a kind of steeplechase over barrels, followed by a few minutes of standing as still as a soldier, followed by talking about the rules of the Kassai school, showing off the fighting shout, reciting of a Hungarian poem and singing of a Hungarian song in front of the gathering of the clan leaders and receiving grades or points for their efforts. The maximum of reachable points is 30, 20 are needed to pass the exam.

The first student level exams, needed to raise into the competition ranks, have to be made in the valley.

For this there is a huge ceremony at the end of the day, where every person who successfully passed their exam gets their deserved acknowledgement, including the new coloured belt for the Kaftan, showing everyone their new rank.

A day in the valley

For us this Saturday in the valley starts around half past seven. The participants of the entrance exam are already there to warm themselves up. There are already lots of visitors running around, but also at least a hundred Kassai-archers from nearly a dozen clans, in the shirts and pullovers of their clan, and a television team or film crew.

Shortly after eight, after the participants started their 5km run, the other archers gather themselves on one of the training grounds to train for the honourific ceremony later that day. Fog rises from the small ponds and lakes, the sun hasn’t really managed to climb over the surrounding hills.

While the preparations for the ceremony go on, we - Zsofi and I - stroll through the valley and watch the other tasks, too. With a little luck I might be one of them when the exam takes place again in April, so I want to know what they are doing not only because I’m curious but also for personal reasons.

In the inner yard, the main gathering place in the valley, are a few big pots full of Gulyas cooking over open fire. Sadly, this is not for the visitor but for the clan members, after the programme is over.

While I listen to the participants reciting their poems and songs I “stumble” over the leader of the only non-hungarian-speaking Clan - Johannes Fischnaller of the Kassai Horseback Archery School Austria - and speak with him for a while, about Archery, about Hungary and about the fact that there is no Kassai-school in Germany, but that the technique of instinctive archery slowly gains more momentum in archery circles around the world. Am I observing and taking part in the beginnings of a revolution of archery?

The student exams, too, can be watched: Shooting of three arrows in less than six seconds from different positions, holding a bow still while riding without saddle in full gallop.

At the end of the day the Kassai Masters show their abilities - and shoot more than thirty points, round after round.

What was my personal highlight of this visit? After finishing up in the valley we went to the Kassai-Shop and I could pick a Hungarian bow for my trainings, of the Agár model, which translates to greyhound. It belongs to the Rainbow Tribe, but who knows, maybe I can persuade Sebastian to sell it to me at the end of my EVS.

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