New hobby quivers into Ho Chi Minh City

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Archery club founded about three months ago has already gained an enthusiastic following


Members of Olympic Archery Club practice their skills during an outdoor session at the Ho Chi Minh City Youth Cultural House in District 1 / PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE

Ten people stood in a row, looking serious and intent, as though they were on the frontlines of an infantry charge.

Their shoulders and arms were covered in protective clothing, and in their hands were bows and arrows.

A whistle blew, and all of them raised their bows, pulled the string and let go off their arrows.

A collective "whoosh" rent the air.

It appeared that two of the arrows had found their mark, a floating balloon about 20 meters away.

There were happy and disappointed looks on the archers' faces, but these were soon replaced with tense excitement as they took new arrows and prepared for the next round.

It was past 10 a.m., and the players were all damp with sweat, but no one seemed to notice or mind. 

Onlookers were also unconcerned, absorbed as they were in the games held by the Olympic Archery Club at the Ho Chi Minh City Youth Cultural House in District 1.

The club was founded about three months ago, but it has already created a buzz in the southern metro.

Starting with an indoor range with two target faces on the third floor of the building, the club has recently begun organizing outdoor sessions with more and more challenging targets like moving balloons.

The change has increased exposure of the sport among the HCMC public.

The club's members now are no longer restricted to young adults like students. The membership now includes children as young as six and seven and men as old as 80. Several foreigners are in the fray, too. 

Andreas said he had never practiced archery in his home country, Sweden. He had discovered the club while looking for some kind of shooting sport here, in Vietnam.

He said the sport was easy to play, and that he and his wife are now considered good although they do not practice frequently.

As he talked, Andreas took out his mobile phone and showed off the picture of his achievement: a target face with some ten arrows sticking to it. 

The Swede said that he and his wife are the only foreigners at the club at present, but if other foreigners know about it, they will surely join and love the sport as much he does.

The number of Vietnamese amateur archers, meanwhile, has been increasing steadily.

Hoang My, 14, frequents the club with her 84-year-old grandfather and her 10-year-old sister. Living in District 11, they take a bus to the house to attend almost every session of the club, and practice for about two hours each time.

Asked about his enthusiasm for archery, My's grandfather said that at first, he had joined his grandchildren just for fun, because he had lots of free time. But, later, thanks to the sport, he realized that he still has strength in his arms instead of being old and weak with failing eyesight and hearing.

Another enthusiast, Nguyen Minh Trung, who works for a beverage company, said the best thing about archery is that it trains one to be patient and calm. Just one second of agitation means missing the target, he said.

Trung said he started with archery nearly one year ago, and has practiced his skills at the club every weekend since it was founded.

"I always feel relaxed afterwards," he said.

The club is further boosting the sport among the public with an archery class that opened last week for people between ten and 70 years old.

For VND300,000 (US$14.08), learners are taught theory and trained in skills over five days. The class ends with a final test and certificates are granted to qualified learners.

Previously, the club had organized a free class for children to mark the Children's Day (June 1). During the class, kids dressed like hunters and were given short bows and arrows to play the sport.

Hoang Than, one of the club's coaches, said that since arrows move very fast, they are always particular about safety, especially when teaching children.

Anyone who does not follow instructions will be asked to quit, he said, adding that this also helps teach children to be disciplined and calm.

In May, the club organized a field trip to the coastal resort town of Vung Tau, during which members were able to practice fishing with bows and arrows.

Doan Thi Le, manager of the club, said they plan to organize more field trips in the future so that members can have more "interesting" experiences.

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