My name is Francis Leruso. I was born into the Samburu tribe, which broadly speaking is in the same group as Maasai. We have a tradition of hunting and gathering, including use of the traditional bow and arrow for our archery. Bush craft skills are learnt in childhood and important to master as a Samburu warrior.
I joined Rift Valley Adventures (RVA) in 2016 and immediately started to receive positive feedback about my input concerning bush craft skills during activities. It wasn’t long before I was encouraged to take over the bush craft sessions, where the the use of the traditional bows featured heavily.
My traditional bow is made of Lauwuo wood as it bends when you pull back the strings. Our arrows are straight olive sticks, with arrow heads made from flattened nails. Our strings are made of dried ligaments attached by cows hide. I made my own bow and arrow at aged ten and used it to practice and protect my father’s goats.
When I picked up a re-curved bow and started to learn about the sport of archery as an activity, it seemed worlds apart. (A recurve bow is a bow with limbs that curve away from the archer when unstrung. A recurve bow stores more energy and delivers energy more efficiently than the equivalent straight-limbed bow, giving a greater amount of energy and speed to the arrow) Firstly our bows were used for safety including as a weapon during clashes with other tribes. It seemed odd that we were now using bows for a fun activity and it is a sport! A traditional bow is light it only has strength when you combine pull, with pushing your arms away in a quick movement whilst moving your body. Heavy arrow heads help to give weight.
Modern archery emphasises safety, the bows are heavier with light arrows, which all took a while to get used to. With modern archery you have to pull right back – you’re much more static. There are a lot of marksmanship points concerning elbow and stance etc … a traditional bow is much faster and you feel you know when you’re on target, rather than going through a check list of points.
I now use some safety aspects from my experience with modern bows on my bush craft sessions and can assist with archery. I love involving people in my traditions, its great fun and I am now getting used to modern archery sessions.