YOGI, bowyer and archer Lars Richter splits his time between yoga poses, crafting traditional longbows, and archery—disciplines he says have a strong meditative link.
“I have childhood memories where I have my longbow,” he recalls of his days growing up in East Germany, “so I have fond memories of bow and arrow time back then.”
Richter started a career as an engineer but eventually decided it wasn’t for the long haul: “I worked in that environment until I realised, hang on, that’s not what I want to do for the next 50 years. I changed. I went to India. I had my own yoga school.”
Back before the Berlin Wall fell, “yoga was almost illegal” in communist Eastern Germany, Richter says, so it was a huge change of pace.
Just a few years ago he met master bowyer Peter Yencken and learned the craft of honing a length of wood into a traditional longbow, and now the Melbourne-based craftsman travels the country, passing on the skills in two-day courses.
“I work with rasp and file, but I always invite people to bring their own tools if they have them. Bespoke tools like a draw knife and a plane, they work as well.”
Richter says there’s a lot of parallels between his disciplines, and yoga is hugely complementary, from the posture and movements you need to carefully carve out the belly of the spotted gum bow to the breathing and concentration techniques involved in loosing an arrow.
“It’s a form of meditation and a way to calm the mind,” he says. “Many people resist taking time for themselves to meditate because they feel a need to accomplish something and have something solid to show for the time spent.
“When you focus on creating a useful item out of a natural object, the quality and uniqueness of you is imbued in it and becomes one of the best forms of meditation.”
The meditative approach carries over to learning how to shoot: He doesn’t teach the rigid method of methodically lining up the sights and the target like you’d aim up a rifle. Instead he teaches “instinctive shooting”. “It’s more coming from a sense of feeling,” Richter says, closer to how people just instinctually know how to throw a ball at a target: the hands and the eyes work together to swiftly put the arrow in the target.
The other takeaway—along with people walking away with the bow they’ve crafted—is he’s hoping people will use the workshop as a starting off point and continue to craft their own bows.
Richter’s in town later this month, running a two-day course in Mandurah May 21 and 22 and in Fremantle May 28 and 29, and details and booking info are at http://www.narrativeyoga.com.au
by DAVID BELL