The fights are held between Suri villages, and the fights begin with 20 to 30 people on each side. Of these 20 to 30 people, all get a chance to fight one on one against someone from the other side. During these fights there are referees.
Nguni stick-fighting (also known as donga, or dlala ‘nduku, which literally translates as ‘playing sticks’) is a martial arttraditionally 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 isiquili or attacking stick, an uboko or defending stick and an izolihauw 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.
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. The old regimental structures of the great uShaka KaSenzangakhona KaJama dominate current modern Zulu stick-fighting.
Film maker SiyaBonga Makhathini has directed the film “We Still are Warriors” which captures the essence of the modern-day Zulu stick-fighter, descendant of the kings of old.