African Martial Arts That We Bet You Have Not Heard Of

When people are asked to think about martial arts, they undoubtedly think of Asia. However, there are many varieties in Africa too.

When people are asked to think about martial arts, they more than likely think back to a Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan film that they watched in the past. When you watch films with a martial arts theme, it does seem that Asia has a hold on this particular market with disciplines such as karate, aikido, taekwondo, and kung fu. Some people might think of Krav Maga or bare-knuckle boxing in Europe, but we bet the majority will not think about African martial arts. Below we will have a look at African martial arts that not many people know about, but should.


This style was developed by the Hausa people of Nigeria, and it has gone on to become the most popular style of fighting in the north of Africa. It is a very brutal fighting style, with each fight taking place in a sandpit. Before the fight begins, each fighter rubs a magic herb into any cuts as they believe that they will increase their strength. They then have rope wrapped around whichever hand is dominant, and then the fighters enter the ring and attack any part of their opponent’s body that they can. Fighters can use their legs, arms, and head to inflict damage.


This is a type of wrestling that was developed in Senegal in the west of Africa. This sport was originally a hobby for farmers and fishermen that were swapping goods. However, it has evolved since then, and it has become an anticipated event with sponsors. Before a fight starts, a powder is sprinkled in the ring as it is believed that it wards of black magic, and then the fighters jump into a bath of liquid to repel negative energy. The fighters then step into the ring and grapple and punch each other until someone wins. The loser needs to offer the winner a gift as a sign of good sportsmanship.

Zulu Stick Fighting

This type of fighting is a style that is exclusive to the Bantu people of South Africa. They use it in ceremonies, battles, for self-defense, and for entertainment. When it is being used for entertainment purposes, the fighters do not aim for their opponent’s head when the sparring starts. However, when used in battle, there are no restrictions and the fighters are allowed to do whatever they like.

Other Types of African Fighting Styles

There are many other kinds of African martial arts that you can find throughout Africa, and we shall take a brief look at some of them now.

Istunka: This type of fighting also makes use of sticks and comes from Somalia. It used to be very popular thanks to its use of armour and lethal weapons.

Tahtib: This fighting style comes from Egypt and also uses sticks. It was traditionally used by Egyptian soldiers that were training in wrestling and archery.

Sudanese Wrestling: You do not need to be a genius to figure out where this fighting style originated from. Some people also call it Nuba wrestling, and it often takes place when farming festivals are happening. The fights are often community events that are passed down by previous winners.

Musangwe: This is a ruthless and brutal fighting style that is popular across the African continent. The aim in this sport is to be the first one to draw blood as this is when the fight will end. The fighters do not wear gloves and they can use whatever means possible to draw some blood or make their opponents surrender.

The Evolution of Martial Arts

Most martial arts have their origins in ancient times, but the majority have evolved in a way to fit the demands of the modern world. Dambe along with the other African martial arts that we just spoke about above might not be as popular as those from Asia, but the styles and techniques that you make use of can still help you to become a better martial artist. Even extremely popular types of martial arts such as karate, and Muay Thai were unknown at some stage. Therefore, maybe in the future you can practice some Laamb or Dambe in a school near you.


Recent posts