HAMAA’s focus in researching Historical African Martial Arts is on the combat traditions of the continent and its global diaspora. In order to facilitate the clarity of our research, we have divided our research into 6 key regions:

  • Northern Africa (e.g. Moors, Ancient Egypt, Carthaginians)
  • Southern Africa (e.g. Zulu, Xhosa, etc.)
  • Eastern Africa (e.g. Abyssinia, Nubia, Somaliland)
  • Western Africa (e.g. Mali, Tuareg, Songhai, Asante)
  • Central Africa (e.g. Azande, Bakongo N’golo)
  • The Diaspora (e.g. Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, USA)

While there is considerable overlap between certain regions and time periods, they each contain a variety of distinct fighting arts that are unique to their terrain, cultural groups, and martial traditions.

Vetting the material and theories that we use to practice and reconstruct the various martial arts of the continent and diaspora requires a mixture of historiography and experimental archaeology.

Being the assessment of changes through time, history is not a hard science and cannot be replicated, however, science can be used as a tool to gain a better understanding on what has happened in the past. Historical context is important and learning it is paramount to understanding the subject matter. This involves looking at the approaches to, and beliefs regarding combat arts used by the warriors in our areas of study.

Our research uses a mixture of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources to gather the information and context required for the various martial disciplines.

For more information on our methodology and the specific martial arts that we study, please feel free to contact us.


Recommended Reading

Martial Arts:
-Fighting for Honour: The History of African Martial Art Traditions in the Atlantic World- T.J. Desch Obi
– African Stick Fighting-
– Persian Archery and Swordsmanship: Historical Martial Arts of Iran; Dr Khorasani
– Furusiyya: The horse in art of the Near East (volumes 1 and 2), David Alexander.
– Warriors of the Steppe: A Military History of Central Asia, 500 B.C. to 1700 A.D. (For Furusiyya).
– Saracen Faris Ad 1050-1250, David Nicole, Christina Hook, pp. 13-14.
– Learning Capoeira: Lessons in Cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Art; Professor Greg Downey.
– The Cutting Edge : Studies in Ancient and Medieval Combat,
Barry Molloy
– An Arabic manuscript of about A.D. 1500 “Book on the Excellence of the Bow and Arrow” and the Description thereof. Translated by N.A. Faris and R.P. Elmer, 1945:…/faris-elmer/arab-archery/ – Abu Muhammad Ibn Maymun Morrocan Treatise on Archery.
– Description et Eloge du TIR À L‟ARC.
– Afrij al-Kurub fi Tadbir al-Hurub by Ahmed Ibn Umar al-Misri and translated by George T. Scanlon as A Muslim Manual of War
– Nihayat al-Su’l wa’l Umniyaya fi Ta’lim A’mal al-Furusiyya by Muhammad ibn ‘Isa al-Hanafi al-Aqsara’, translated by Gerald Rex Smith as Medieval Muslim Horsemanship: A Fourteenth-Century Arabic Cavalry Manual.
– Munyatu’l-Ghuzat, translated by Kurtulus Öztopçu as A 14th Century Mamluk-Kipchak Military Treatise: Munyatu’l-Ghuzat.
– Kitab ghunyat at-tullab fi marifat ramy an-mushshab by Taybugha l-Ashrafi l-Maklamishi i-Yunani, translated by the Canadian Association for Ancient and Medieval Archery as Kitab.
– “An Introduction to Mamluk Historiography: An Analysis of Arabic Annalistic and Biographical Sources for the Reign of al-Malik an-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala’un for an account of Mamluk oil-based weapons (121-123), Donald Little.
– Pages of Perfection: Islamic Paintings and Calligraphy from Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg for the same, but illustrated (198-205), Yuri Petrosian et. al.
– Modern Tahtib, by Dr. Adel Boulad

African Weapons:
– Traditional Weapons of Africa (billhooks, Sickles and Scythes): A Regional Approach and Technical, Morphological, and Aesthetic Classification; Tristan Arbousse Bastide.
– African Arms and Armour; Christopher Spring
– Gold and Coral: Presentation Arms from Algiers and Tunis; Niels Arthur Andersen
– Islamic and Native Weapons of Colonial Africa 1800-1960; Anthony C. Tirri
– The Arts of the Muslim Knight: The Furusiyya Art Foundation Collection; Bashir Mohamed.
– Islamic Swords and Swordsmiths, Unsal Yucel
– Islamic Weapons: Maghrib to Moghul, Anthony C. Tirri
– THE ARTS OF WAR. Arms and Armour of the 7th to 19th centuries, David Alexander.

Military History:
– Warfare in Atlantic Africa- John K. Norton
– Warfare & Diplomacy in Pre-Colonial West Africa- Robert S. Smith
– Yoruba Warfare in the Nineteenth Century- J. F. Ade Ajayi and
Robert Smith
– West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba- Manuel Barcia
– Warfare in the Sokoto Caliphate- Joseph P. Smaldone
– Honour in African History- John Lliffe
– The Art of War in Angola (JSTOR)- John K. Thornton
– A Military History of Africa, Volume 3- Timothy Stapleton.
– War in Pre-Colonial Eastern Africa: The Patterns and Meanings of State-Level Conflict in the 19th Century
– The Military System of the Benin Kingdom- Osarhieme Benson Osadolor (…/…/544/pdf/Disse.pdf)
– Futuh Al Habasa “Conquest of Abyssinia”.

General History:
– Kingdoms of the Yoruba- Robert S. Smith
– Black Byzantium: Kingdom of Nupe in Nigeria- S.F. Nadel
– A History of Sub-Saharan Africa- James M. Burns and Robert O
– Encyclopedia of African History- Ed. Kevin Shillington
– Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History, J.F.P. Hopkins and N. Levtzion.

Historical Epics:
-The Futa Habesa
-Utendi wa Tambouka
-The Al-Hilali Epic
-The Sundiata

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