The Great Wall of China was built to keep out nomadic tribes of horseback archers. Or was it? In his latest action film, “The Great Wall,” Matt Damon deploys his archery skills in an epic battle to save China from mythical creatures hell-bent on destruction.
Damon’s character, William, and Pero Tovar, played by Pedro Pascal, are European mercenaries who visit China seeking black powder, which wasn’t available in Europe at the time. During their search, the mercenaries are captured by elite Chinese soldiers who are preparing for an attack by mythical beasts called Taotie. These people-eating reptilian monsters vaguely resemble dragons, and leave the Jade Mountain every 60 years to wreak havoc on humans and anything in their way.
After winning the trust of their captors, William and Pero find themselves in the middle of a desperate battle to save China. The country’s fate rests with a handful of brave soldiers and the two foreign mercenaries.
William’s weapon of choice is the bow and arrow, and he’s exceptionally skilled. He uses an Asiatic composite horse bow, and arrows tipped with large broadheads. Horse bows are short, powerful recurve bows designed for shooting from horseback. To prepare for the film, Damon visited Hungary to train in horseback archery with Lajos Kassai, a champion and world-record holder.
In horseback archery competitions, archers shoot at targets while riding a horse, much like the Mongolian archers who the Great Wall was built to keep out. The Mongolians’ archery prowess made them formidable in battle. They were known for hitting targets at long distances while riding galloping horses. Horseback archery remains a popular sport worldwide, and several manufacturers make modern horse bows.
Can William’s archery skills prevent the Taotie from destroying China? To find out, watch “The Great Wall,” which debuted Feb. 17. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to try horseback archery or regular archery.
Visit your local archery shop to check out bows and get started in archery. Find your shop here.