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DBMA Martial Arts Forum => Martial Arts Topics => Topic started by: oldboy on February 10, 2008, 10:54:42 PM

Title: Donga ( Nguni Stickfighting )
Post by: oldboy on February 10, 2008, 10:54:42 PM
For anyone who is interested in some info.

Zulu Stickfighting or Nguni Stickfighting or Donga, is the traditional MA of Nguni herdsboys in the Kwazulu/Natal region of South Africa ( a lush green area filled with rolling hills and beautiful beaches ). The Nguni boy will typically start his training at the age of 3. At the age of 15 the boy will choose his own pair of sticks.

Typically the weapons will be either double sticks ( normally one for offensive and one for defensive ) or double sticks with shield. The longer defensive stick is held in the same hand as the shield while the shorter offensive stick is in the other hand. Full contact shots to any part of the body is allowed and no protection is used. Most shots are aimed at the head. Because of this, serious injury and death have been known to happen. Since the abolishment of Apartheid in SA, there has been an effort to make Nguni stickfighting into a regulated sport with rules and regulations, so that it will be more acceptable in today's society, as well as to preserve African traditions.

Using sand on that guy's wound is typical, since as a man in a traditional Zulu tribe, you are expected to be tough as nails. For example, under Shaka Zulu, his soldiers would have to trample what we call "devil thorns" barefoot, and were beaten to death with a Knobkerrie ( a strong, short wooden club with a heavy rounded knob or head on one end ) if they showed any sign of pain. They would trample the thorns into dust so that their feet were tough enough to run through African Veld.   

Someone mentioned the shields, and I just thought I should point out that, like in FMA, the way a stick can also represent a bladed weapon, in Nguni stickfighting, their attacking stick would be replaced, in a real war situation, by the Assegai ( ). on top of that they liked to throw spears to soften a target and to close the distance needed to use their Assegai, so a shield was very important.

Nelson Mandela actually practised Nguni stickfighting as a child.

As far as my understanding goes, there is no specific "system" or standard of techniques. The more experienced older fighter will usually be the one to train the young, therefore they will take on his characteristics and strategies.

Hope this is of interest to anyone who wanted to know more about South African Stickfighting.
Title: Re: Donga ( Nguni Stickfighting )
Post by: maija on February 11, 2008, 08:36:31 AM
Hi oldboy,
Fascinating info. According to Wikipedia, the Assegai has a shortened form called the Iklwa (Ixwa) for closer quarters. I'm curious if this is more like a spear head with a short handle, a double edged dagger for thrusting only, or more like a "barong", the leaf shaped blade from the Phillipines, so also used for cutting?
Title: Re: Donga ( Nguni Stickfighting )
Post by: oldboy on February 11, 2008, 10:07:15 AM
Hi Maija,

The Iklwa was developed by Shaka Zulu. It is a short handle with a long spear head and it was used primarily for stabbing. Many of the battles of that day were standoffs where the two armies would get in range and then hurl spears at each other. What Shaka did was to introduce the shorter stabbing spear ( Iklwa or Short Assegai ), as well as taller, wider shields. Their long spears ( Assegai ) were still used but were used as diversion attacks to let them get into close range fighting. They would then use their shields to trap their opponent's shield and expose their ribs for the Iklwa to stab. Also Shaka stopped his soldiers from wearing sandals which he thought hinered mobility/toughness in the Veld. Those who refused to go barefoot ( barefoot training also consisted of running up to 50 miles a day ) were killed.

The other tactic Shaka is known for developing is the "Buffalo Horns" formation.

from wiki:

The famous "buffalo horns" formation

Most historians (Morris, Knight et al.) credit Shaka with initial development of the famous "buffalo horns" formation. It was composed of three elements:
the "horns" or flanking right and left wing elements to encircle and pin the enemy. Generally the "horns" were made up of younger, less experienced, but quicker moving troops.
the "chest" or central main force which charged into the enemy center and delivered the coup de grace. The prime fighters made up the composition of the main force.
the "loins" or reserves used to exploit success or reinforce elsewhere. Often these were older veterans.

Coordination was supplied by regimental izinduna (chiefs or leaders) who used hand signals and messengers. The scheme was elegant in its simplicity, and well understood by the warriors assigned to each echelon.

This combined with their short range fighting capabilities, and their extreme attributes and aggression, made them the most feared tribe around.

In case you still are not sure here is a pic of the Iklwa.

Title: Re: Donga ( Nguni Stickfighting )
Post by: maija on February 12, 2008, 05:33:56 PM
I was curious how shortening the handle changed the way the weapon came to be used.