This Beautiful African Martial Art Will Make You Grab A Stick

Stick Fight Zulu Dancers Hide Shields /RonPorter/Pixabay/CC0-1.0


Kalinda, now called the National Stick Fighting Competition, is a form of martial arts specific to Trinidad. It has origins in Africa as a warrior tradition. But it has since been infused with music, dance and fashion, making it a cultural experience. And yet, it was almost a lost art.

Kalinda was brought to the Caribbean by enslaved Africans from Congo and Angola. Though more ritualistic in nature, the martial art tradition turned into a pastime amongst enslaved people.

Because of the seemingly “brutal” nature of the event, the British banned Kalinda in the once-French colony of Trinidad. Once the Trinidadians regained freedom, the event resurfaced, yet remained in the background.

Luckily, Kalinda survived and maintained enough interest over the years to make a true comeback.

The art involves stick fighting hence, its new name. Two men with sticks, approximately four feet long, opposite each other, attempting to strike.

Originally, the “last man standing” would be crowned the winner. However, now the sport consists of a panel of judges and there are rules to ensure that injuries are kept at a minimum.

In addition to the match, the drums, chanting, colorful costumes and excited fans make for a vibrant experience. One that Jennifer Cassar, leader of Trinidad’s First Peoples, hopes to integrate into the island’s Carnival celebration.

If you would like to learn more about Kalinda, please check out “Fighting For Honor: The History of African  Martial Art In The Atlantic World.”

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