Ancient Egyptian archery, two handed stick fighting and wrestling from Benni Hassan (1900-1700 BCE)

Historical African Martial Arts (shortened to HAMA) is the attempt to reconstruct different Martial Arts/Combat forms on the African Continent and Diaspora (South America, The United States, the Caribbean, Madagascar etc). This encompasses a very wide existence depending on the Historical Period (from Ancient Egypt to 19th Century Capoeria) and, within the name), has a wide variety of different practices including: sword and shield, spear and shield, wrestling, boxing, sabre, archery, throwing knives and javelin work.

Within HAMA, my area of expertise specialised to North Africa within the Medieval and Early Modern Period, stretching from Egypt/Sudan to Morroco (also including Syria and Al-Andalus). This is encompassed by both first-hand accounts by North Africans and Europeans, complemented by treatises specializing in Furusiya; a literary tradition which spans from the 9th to the 16th Century. Though the word literally translates to “horsemanship”, it is used as a verb and developed as a term, encompassing chivalry, to mean a variety, or specific, set of skills that one could excel in, including: These include: mounted work; veterinary work and hippology; polo; lance, sword; shield; spear; mace; javelin work; archery; wrestling; boxing; hunting; falconry; engineering; siege works and military works on strategic and tactical levels. These were written down by Master-of-Arms but would continually be referenced in later treatise works. These were geared towards elite slave guard units (though they would be more like professionally paid indebted servants) called Mamluks and Ghilams, who existed from the 9th Century to the 19th Century, finally dying out in Egypt. In the Medieval Period, this system was used throughout the Islamic world, from Afghanistan, to the Balkans, to North Africa and Islamic Spain.

Excerpt from the 1470 Mamluk Treatise “The Treatise that Combines all things, depicting stick and buckler, and dagger training.