Yabusame is one of the hidden treasures of martial arts, not much of us have heard of it before and for some NON-Japanese like myself, it sounds more like noodles more than martial arts.
Yabusame is actually an armed martial art, or should I say archery, originated from Japan, it is performed while riding a horse. It all begins from the Kamakura Period. Where it begins from the military is alarmed that their army or Samurais is not good for a long distance battle, therefore the Samurai were grouped and Yabusame started from there. Although the use of bow in the Japan started from 300BC, but it is officially made as a type of martial/battle art only during the Kamakura Period.
During the Kamakura Period Yabusame was used as a military training exercise to keep samurai prepared for war. Those archers who did poorly might find themselves commanded to commit seppuku.
Yabusame is not the only type of Horseback Archery, but Yabusame is only 1 out of the 3 type of Horseback Archery and I have outlined some details for your easy reference.
-Yabusame is the most well-known form of Horseback Archery, and it is held at shrines as ceremony which shoots on 3 different targets.
-Kasagake has different sizes of targets each of which is set at different height, and the archer shoots both ways.
-Inuoumono is not in practice anymore. In the practice dogs were used as targets, so it was practical and effective practice to sharpen horseback riding skill as well as shooting skill but I think that most of us will agree that this act is a bit brutal therefore we are happy that it was banned!
A Yabusame performance starts with the archer dressed as a traditional warrior gallops down a 255 meter long track at full speed and controlling the horses with his knees and shooting 3 targets on the way down. The arrow that is used are mainly blunt and round but experience archer are allowed to use a v shaped arrow.
Image taken from komei-juku.com