Jemparingan is the ancient art of archery from the Mataram-Surakarta and Yogyakarta courtly traditions.
Legend has it that soldiers showed their skills in the palace courtyard to members of the public, and eventually imparted their knowledge to them.
In Surakarta, there have long been groups of Mataram traditional archery lovers, and they are also found in six other towns of Sukoharjo, Karanganyar, Sragen, Boyolali, Klaten and Wonogiri.
The groups gather every sepasar, or 35 days, on Sabtu Legi on the Javanese calendar to compete at Taman Sriwedari recreation park in Surakarta.
They faithfully uphold the Mataram cultural traditions; dressed in traditional attire for the competitions, they do not stand to fire their arrow, for example, but sit cross-legged in rows. Their target, located 30 meters away, is a piece of hanging wood, wrapped in white cloth with its top painted red, not a western-style bull’s eye. “The piece of wood represents the enemy in a war.
The white section is their body, while the red is the enemy’s head. The scores are one point for hitting the white section, and three for landing on the red,” said Eko Riyantoko, the head of Sriwedari Archery Pop Ireng Semut (Jemparingan Archery Lovers Community). Each participant takes part in 20 rounds, with fi ve arrows allocated for each round.
Changes in a round are marked by the sounding of a bell or a gong.
“Jemparingan was once part of National Sports Week, but no longer,” said Eko of its inclusion in the 2012 Games.
“That’s not a problem, we will continue to preserve Jemparingan.