Nguni (South Africa)

Nguni (South Africa)

Name of sport (game)


Name in native language

donga or dlala 'nduku

Place of practice (continent, state, nation)

South Africa


This tradition is one which arguably developed in societies, cultures and civilisations that used herding as part of their systems of survival; where there are cows, there are stick-fighters.


Nguni stick-fighting is a martial art traditionally practiced by teenage Nguni herdboys in South Africa. Each combatant is armed with two long sticks, one of which is used for defense and the other for offense. Little armor is used.

Although Nguni/Xhosa styles of fighting may use only two sticks, variations of Bantu/Nguni stick-fighting throughout Southern Africa incorporate shields as part of the stick-fighting weaponry. Zulu stick-fighting uses an isikhwili or attacking stick, an ubhoko or defending stick and an ihawu or defending shield.

The object is for two opposing warriors to fight each other to establish which of them is the strongest or the "Bull" (Inkunzi). In modern times this usually occurs as part of the wedding ceremony where warriors from the bridegroom's household and area welcome warriors from the bride's household and area to meet to "get to know each other", other groups of warriors may also be welcome to join in. Warriors do this by engaging in combat with one another. An "induna" or War Captain / Referee from each group of warriors keeps his crew in check and keeps order between fighters.

Current status



Sources of information


Coetzee, Marié-Heleen. (2002) "Zulu Stick Fighting: A Socio-Historical Overview,"





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