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Calinda Martial Arts: Fighting and Folk Dancing

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Calinda: stick-fighting dance tradition

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Also known as “kalenda,” calinda is a form of stick fighting that is practiced on islands such as Haiti, Martinique, and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. Calinda probably evolved among African slaves and can be seen in various dance forms at festivals and carnivals, particularly at the annual carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. Calinda is also the name of a popular dance performed by former Afro-Caribbean slaves throughout New Orleans during the early part of the 20th century.

Mani Stick Fighting

This little-known stick-fighting martial art evolved during the 19th century among the sugar plantations of Cuba and it is still practiced on the island. It is said that the Spanish slave owners encouraged their male slaves to fight to the death as a form of entertainment. A pair of men follow choreographed patterns as they dance and fight in a circle. The stick they use is about as thick as a sugar cane and about 16 in (40 cm) long. There are also techniques for knife fighting as well as head-butting, punching, foot-sweeping, and elbow strikes.


Tinku is both a ritualized form of combat and a festival celebrated in Bolivia. Tinku battles take place at holiday times when different tribes wearing brightly colored cloaks and woven hats get together to eat, drink, play music, and fight.

Raw and primal

Tinku is one of the world’s most bizarre and violent forms of ritual combat, and it is very raw and very primal. Groups of men may engage in bloody close-quarter fighting in the streets. Single combatants chosen from different tribes fight until one or the other is either knocked down, knocked out, or killed. Even women battle with each other. Combatants do not wear mouth shields, body pads, or head guards.

Often, they fight simply with their fists, elbows, and feet, but it is not unusual for them to use whips, clubs, slingshots, and rocks as weapons. Death, serious maiming, and injury are common.

Tinku probably predates the arrival of Europeans in South America. For centuries neighboring tribes have fought to right old wrongs or gain prestige. They believe the winners will have a bumper harvest and a prosperous year. Anthropologists have pointed out that such fights may prevent all-out war between tribes and establish a pattern of tribal dominance that ensures the successful survival of every tribe.

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Category | Africa Martial Arts

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