The Jakarta Post
Each afternoon, a middle aged man, L. Eddy Roostopo, also known as Mbah Popop, busies himself making bows from bamboo. The bows are part of traditional archery art from, known as jemparingan, which also utilizes materials like sawo wood and rosewood.
Every day, Mbah Popop, crafts these bows and arrows at his home and humble workshop, behind the Wayang Orang Sriwedari building in Surakarta, Central Java.
Since 1977, Mbah Popop has been accustomed to the traditional archery world, after first being introduced by his father and grandfather. His father, an expert archer, won gold at the first National Games (PON) in Surakarta. Until today, he keeps his father's bow and arrows from that memorable day back in 1948.
Following in his father's footsteps, Mbah Popo also achieved success as a Central Java athlete. At PON X, he brought home both silver and bronze medals in traditional archery. The peak of his athletic accomplishments, however, came at PON XI in Jakarta, where he won gold and broke the PON record by collecting 265 points in 50-meter traditional archery competition.
Unfortunately, traditional archery is no longer included in the National Games. Since 2008, it can only be found at regional level competitions. However, Mbah Popop's passion for traditional archery survives and he continues to practice jemparingan and craft the bows and arrows of the ancient art form. With the help of his two employees, he longs to make sure jemparingan survives.
The bows and arrows he manufactures have reportedly attracted the interest of athletes, hobbyists and collectors, including from overseas in Germany, Poland, the United States and Netherlands. In 2015, Mbah Popop founded a community of jemparingan enthusiasts named Semut Ireng Pop Archery Sriwedary (SIPAS). The group currently has around 50 members from various backgrounds and frequently gathers at Sriwedari Park to practice archery and hold Gladen Alit, a small competition, every Sabtu Legi (Saturday) on the Javanese calendar.
Jemparingan or Mataraman-style archery involves targeting a 2.5 by 20 centimeter pendulum from a shooting distance of at least 35 meters. The archers take aim from a sitting position and wear traditional Javanese attire during competitions.
For Mbah Popop, jemparingan is not only a sport, but also a discipline, as it teaches archers to control their feelings and train their concentration, focus, peacefulness and patience. He is hopeful the government will pay greater attention to this ancient art form by developing it as a sporting activity, preserving it as an expression of traditional culture and showcasing it as a tourist attraction. He also expects jemparingan to become an extracurricular activity for elementary students since it can provide positive benefits both academically and socially within the community. (kes)
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