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Thread: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

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    Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    I didn't know where to post this so I'm posting it here.

    For years, I've been always wondering, does my country have a martial art? I looked for it in sporting competitions, nothing the only martial arts practiced in sport events are Asian and Western martial arts. Just recently thanks to the net I've discovered that the answer was right under my nose. Yes, an Egyptian martial art does exist and it's called Egyptian stick fencing more commonly known as "Tahtib".

    Tahtib is the Ancient Egyptian art of stick fencing which is also a famous egyptian folk dance that's considered an African martial art, it is the oldest and possibly the one of the last surviving form of Ancient Egyptian Martial Arts alongside Wrestling and Fencing.

    The ancient Egyptians performed stick fencing or stick fighting as a tribute to the pharaoh. This type of fencing was probably based on actual fighting systems used in combat with a shield and a sword - as with the wooden bukko in Kendo (see link below) - which then evolved into a system with its own rules and methods. The fighting stick does not appear to have been used as a battlefield weapon (In Egyptian Warfare and Weapons, Ch. 5), and so it seemed to be primarily a training tool and/or sport. There were advantages of teaching stick fighting, along with other combat sports such as a wrestling, the main advantage being that the Egyptian army could be kept trained and ready for war. In many respects it resembles the sport of single stick.

    Like other martial arts of the world which are tied cultural to dance and music traditions, such as Brazilian Capoiera and Indonesian Silat, Tahtib is a special art form in that it combines both real combat aspects, and aesthetic aspect, and the concept of The Game or Play. There are five distinct areas of study in Tahtib, and a recognized expert in one may not necessarily know much about another. The modern style of highly choreographed Tahtib dance seen in stage performances in the Middle East is far removed from the wild nature of play seen at festivals and other social gatherings, where real blows get mixed in with the game of fakes and counters.

    Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics indicate that Tahtib along with Sebekkah were the primary fighting styles taught to the Egyptian military. Royal families were trained in an advanced style of these arts at a very young age to deter assasination attempts. Much of what was known of Sebekkah and Tahtib have been lost, but there are still a few authentic practitioners believed to inhabit Egypt.

    There is NO historical evidence to prove how Tahtib was created. However, there is historical evidence referencing the Pharaoh Menes (c305-285BCE), who unified Egypt and his desire to have the world's greatest army. Supposively, he invited the greatest warriors throughout all of Africa, India, and several other locations in the Middle-East to train his armies. This was probably the catalyst for the first Olympic Games. Elements of Tahtib can found in the more well known martial arts of the world; namely Eskrima (Filipino Stick Fighting), White Eyebrow Kung Fu (Bak Mei), Pencak Silat, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Hwa Rang Do, Ninjitsu, and various Capoiera styles.

    Some assumptions have to be made in order to understand the stick fighting technique of the ancient Egyptians. Their rules were probably simple and few, and there are two schools of thought on the main objective: the contest was one of either endurance or skill. There is stronger evidence, however, that the game was one of skill and that striking the head was a primary goal.

    Several types were practised during religious ceremonies, processions and as sport or game and sometimes in fights in ancient Egypt. It is still practised in ceremonies especially during "Ramadan" (Islamic fasting month) where dancers using long (4') rattan sticks in a dancing solo or in a mock fight.

    The basics of Tahtib are very similar to those demonstrated by African Martial Arts Experts, this is no surprise, because of the link through Egypt. The term "Naboot" refers to the staff in both arts. The hanging guard and the overhead exhanges predominate these matches, with much faking and other stylisticic elements that involve energy sensitivity and a counter-for-counter flow. It can be practiced in different ways:

    1) It is practiced as a true martial art from horseback known as “Horse Stepping”
    2) It is practiced as a true martial art on foot
    3) It is practiced as a combative dance between men
    4) It is practiced as a solo, more social dance by men
    5) It is mimicked in a flirty or cute version of the real movements by women
    6) It is also used in Streetfights or Gang wars in Egypt.

    The regular stick, called Asa or Asaya, Shoum or Nabboot, used for Tahtib is about 4 feet long, but when playing from horseback the stick is closer to 12 feet long. The importance of horses, and the realities of fighting from them, are mimicked in the dance. The men charge one another, and then circle in a dynamic spiral, exchanging blows and trying to find the open line on which to attack while covering their own open lines, which is the same way they would fight from horseback. One type of footwork used in dancing the Tahtib is even referred to as “Horse Stepping”.

    Stick fencing is still popular among modern-day Egyptians, particularly during the month of Ramadan. Stick fighting (usually a mock fight, but sometimes someone will force it to become real) and stick dancing is performed during marriage ceremonies. It is called tahteeb or tahtib and still practiced in northern Egypt. The basics of Tahtib are very similar to those demonstrated by African Martial Arts experts, although this comes as no surprise because of the link through Egypt. The hanging guard and the overhead exhanges predominate these matches, with much faking and other stylistic elements that involve energy sensitivity and a counter-for-counter flow. The fight is accompanied by drummers, and is an event with its own ceremony and rules of conduct like a Capoiera.

    The stick itself is about four feet in length and is called an Asa, Asaya or Assaya, or Nabboot. It is often flailed in large figure-8 patterns across the body with such speed and violence that the displacement of air is loudly discernible. There is another form practiced from horseback known as “Horse Stepping” which uses a stick that is nearly 12 feet long.

    The stick is regarded as a symbol of masculinity, i.e. a phallus. Although the dance form originally started as male-only, there are women who perform dressed as men and dance with other women. Another female version of stick dancing has been developed with a flirtatious and generally less aggressive style, and incorporated into cabaret or "belly dance." The stick used for this type of dancing is generally thinner, more lightweight and hooked at one end like a cane, and generally embellished with metallic-coloured foil or sequins. The costume worn is usually folkloric: a simple Beledi dress, although Raqs al Assaya (Dance of the Stick) is often performed as part of the popularized cabaret dance set. Performance styles include balancing the cane on head, hip or shoulder.

    The music used in Tahtib features the tahvol (bass drum) and oud (shrill pipe). The tahvol is a double-sided drum worn with a shoulder strap so it hangs sideways in front of the drummer and is played with two sticks. The right hand uses a heavier stick with a hooked head to beat out the "dooms" which drive the heartbeat of the rhythm, while the left hand uses a light twig as a switch to produce rapid-fire staccato "kahs". (Doom = the deep sound from striking the center of the drum with the right hand or with a knobbed stick; Kah = the higher sound from striking the edge of the drum with the left hand or with a light switch). There's a table for this at http://www.alliancemartialarts.com/tahtib.html

    Stick fighting has also been used to settle disputes between members of rival families, mostly in the Egyptian countryside.

    This takes me back to the sport event issue, Tahtib isn't considered an official sporting event in Egypt, which is just wrong although there are contests in the countryside and in Upper Egypt. If they're worried about injuries then they don't have to use a real staff and they can use safety gear.

    I hope you guys found this information useful, I might do more research on Ancient Egyptian Fencing and Wrestling someday. Here are some Tahtib pictures:

    http://www.azzamounib.com/amrwf.jpg

    http://www.geocities.com/cazuzaz_z/Am1ff98.jpg

    http://www.wichitabellydance.com/perform/r13_22a.jpg

    http://www.dancevillage.com/images/d...le_bastone.jpg

    http://www.sahrasaeeda.com/gallery/F...%20contest.jpg

    http://org.ntnu.no/magedans/ill/tahtib.gif

    Here are some Tahtib videos I've found on Youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2Tl-RTkyx0

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkBMKezA62s

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNx-4Drko0g

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDUBtNMFAdA

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cjVt0sj5U0

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRAxp4RB3fc

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NJdTlTe9EQ

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBSwanTk5qE

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_1uWZIC_tM

    NOTE: This is an updated article i've written in martial art forums and I've taken parts from the article on Wikipedia which i also helped contribute to.

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    Excellent post. I enjoyed that.
    There is also an Egyptian martial art named Sebekkha. I have an issue of Black Belt magazine from July of 1988 that has a feature on it. Sebekkha means "crocodile spirit" and has its roots in ancient Egypt.
    The article features a man named Gamal Selim showing techniques from that style.

    There is a brief mention of Sebekkha here at this Egyptian forum: http://forum.egyptiandreams.co.uk/vi...light=sebekkha

    Also, I found brief mentions of Sebekkha all over the internet just by searching for that name.

    AoG

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    It is highly possible that Egypt is the origin of all martial arts in Europe and Asia. After they created it, it was exported to India and Greece. The only real arguments against say one of three things:
    1 India created martial arts and exported it to Egpyt, not the other way around;
    2. Sparta created martial arts and exported them to Egpyt;
    3. They devloped completly seperate of one anouther.
    All are highly likely. I believe the oldest documentation of martial practice is from Egpyt. But the Americas also had martial arts, and it's hard to beleive some asia-america connetion. Who knows. But for more info I would recommend google and wikipedia. 2 of gods greatest inventions. I'd list the top 5, but no one will get 2 of them.

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    Bah, I say it is impossible to trace the origins of the martial arts.
    The fighting arts started the day Grogg picked up a club and hit Org on his head. From there, Grogg and his friends figured out the best way to hit people with sticks, clubs, and fists, and it went from there.
    Now, if you want to refine things, you could say that the "oriental martial arts" came from wherever, but to say that all martial arts originated in one place would be very hard to nail down.

    AoG

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    Quote Originally Posted by CuongNhuka View Post
    It is highly possible that Egypt is the origin of all martial arts in Europe and Asia. After they created it, it was exported to India and Greece. The only real arguments against say one of three things:
    1 India created martial arts and exported it to Egpyt, not the other way around;
    2. Sparta created martial arts and exported them to Egpyt;
    3. They devloped completly seperate of one anouther.
    All are highly likely. I believe the oldest documentation of martial practice is from Egpyt. But the Americas also had martial arts, and it's hard to beleive some asia-america connetion. Who knows. But for more info I would recommend google and wikipedia. 2 of gods greatest inventions. I'd list the top 5, but no one will get 2 of them.
    The cultures of Mesoamerica (Olmecs, Toltecs, Aztecs, and Maya) all appear to have had complex military traditions and at least two had what could be described as martial art traditions (very complex among the Aztecs). There is no way that these traditions could have developed from influences from Egypt. The cultures were in isolation until the early sixteenth century. They are a good example of isolated parallel development.
    "But how does one stop an octo-sac?" - King Cala of the Shark Men (Flash Gordon - Space Soldiers 1936)

    "Let a hundred flowers bloom. Let a hundred schools of thought contend." - Mao Zedong (how ironic)

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    Quote Originally Posted by Steel Tiger View Post
    The cultures of Mesoamerica (Olmecs, Toltecs, Aztecs, and Maya) all appear to have had complex military traditions and at least two had what could be described as martial art traditions (very complex among the Aztecs). There is no way that these traditions could have developed from influences from Egypt. The cultures were in isolation until the early sixteenth century. They are a good example of isolated parallel development.
    I did say that. But my point was many groups beleive that the modern incarnation of martial arts from Europe and Asia were based on Egyptian styles. I even mentioned that their is anouther group who belive that the three main areas of martial devlopment (Eurpore, Asia, and North Africa) all developed independent of each other. Like I said, who knows. It may be impossible to ever tell.

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    Quote Originally Posted by CuongNhuka View Post
    I did say that. But my point was many groups beleive that the modern incarnation of martial arts from Europe and Asia were based on Egyptian styles. I even mentioned that their is anouther group who belive that the three main areas of martial devlopment (Eurpore, Asia, and North Africa) all developed independent of each other. Like I said, who knows. It may be impossible to ever tell.
    Yes, I guess we will not know until someone digs up the "Hall of Warrior Training" from like the third dynasty.

    It is often commented that there are similarities that can be seen across martial arts from different regions, and is similarly commented that they must thus be related. I think however, a common denominator is often forgotten in all this and that is humans. The body can only do so much so, of course, some things are going to look the same.

    That being said, I think it would be really cool if modern martial arts could be traced to such ancient roots as Egypt. I think many Chinese might have a problem with that. So in the end I think I will have to fall into the group that favours multiple places of origin.
    "But how does one stop an octo-sac?" - King Cala of the Shark Men (Flash Gordon - Space Soldiers 1936)

    "Let a hundred flowers bloom. Let a hundred schools of thought contend." - Mao Zedong (how ironic)

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    Great stuff! Thanks for the post.
    Those who can't do, dummy.

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing with us. I love that people are finding new things like you did. It is a great wonder what all is right under our noses and we don't pay any attention.
    RexKwonDo Instructor

    I help out my TaeKwon Dodo's.

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    Hello, I believe in any ancient civilizations we will find a type of fighting skills. (today we can say a type of martial arts).

    As long as there was man.....they fougth each other and learn from experiences'. (quote: from Grog to Org .....Big stick..good weapon... hit heads...win woman.)

    Org kick Grog in the groin....the first front kick discover, can cause pain. UGGGGG! ............Aloha

    ==========================
    Before Captain Cook discover HAWAII...the Hawaiian fought each other using weapons and clubs that had shark tooths on them....after Captain Cook...they wanted GUNS!

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    Quote Originally Posted by Steel Tiger View Post
    The body can only do so much so, of course, some things are going to look the same.
    bingo

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    What a great post - it was so informative.
    Thank you so much for sharing that with us.
    Peace Be The Journey,
    Catalyst

    Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.
    - Confucius

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    Quote Originally Posted by Steel Tiger View Post
    The cultures of Mesoamerica (Olmecs, Toltecs, Aztecs, and Maya) all appear to have had complex military traditions and at least two had what could be described as martial art traditions (very complex among the Aztecs). There is no way that these traditions could have developed from influences from Egypt. The cultures were in isolation until the early sixteenth century. They are a good example of isolated parallel development.
    The thing is, given the prevailing theories of humans coming from Africa originally, it stands to reason that the first martial arts would be African martial arts.

    So if native Americans crossed the land bridge to the Americas from Asia, then it is highly likely they would have brought some sort of tradition with them.

    Of course, you're right, it is highly doubtful that such traditions would survive without change, so much parallel development obviously took place.

    And, we don't really know for sure that humans originated in Africa. (It is a prevailing theory, but they've found old human remains other places as well).

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    I'm pretty confident that the theory that humans originated in Africa is correct.

    The native Americans crossed into the Americas somewhere between 50 and 20 thousand years ago so I think it is unlikely that any traditions for fighting, or anything else for that matter, would have held true to the original even a little bit. A new land with different weather and new strange animals, things are going to change.
    "But how does one stop an octo-sac?" - King Cala of the Shark Men (Flash Gordon - Space Soldiers 1936)

    "Let a hundred flowers bloom. Let a hundred schools of thought contend." - Mao Zedong (how ironic)

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    Re: Tahtib: The oldest Egyptian Martial Art

    Tahtib Art development as Martial Art

    The 9 key initiatives

    2011-2012



    You might be interested in our initiative of revitalizing Tahtib as a complete art, as a martial art and educational/developmental discipline in Egypt and abroad.
    A new egyptian-french team is born sharing the same martial art spirit with proven execution in the Tahtib land Egypt and in France. The team is of SEIZA Association (1) and Medhat Fawzi Stick Art &Tahtib Center (2)
    [PHOTO1]



    The team delivered in 2010:
    • in Paris on March 27th a Tahtib show with an Egyptian-French Team (30p), for the 1st time ever in the history of Martial Arts International Festivals, in front of 15 000 spectators and TV channels,

    • in Minya – Beni Hassan – Mallawi, on October 22-29 the 1st International Tahtib workshop with a final show in the roman theatre of Minya in front of a crowd, local authorities, TV and press.[PHOTO2]
    With this egyptian-french team, I feel now a deeper and stronger commitment with proven performance and track record to develop further initiatives valuable for Egypt & International cultural partners particularly in the martial arts and related domains.

    For your further interest, please review the 9 Tahtib initiatives that we aim at in 2011-2012, ref here-after, as core deliverables for the International Federation of Stick Arts & Tahtib (in creation).
    Thank you
    Adel Boulad
    www.tahtib.com
    ap.boulad@tahtib.com
    TAHTIB, a new world in action


    P1. ART of TAHTIB, International PROMOTION & TRAINING as a martial art delivered to the martial art and related arts audiences
    This is our agreement with the Ministry of Culture - Egypt established in 2010 which allowed, with the support of Tarek Malash (ADCOM Egypt), the execution of the 1st Tahtib show ever in an International Martial Art Festival (Paris, March 2010) and the 1st International Tahtib Workshop in Egypt in October 2010. The next step could be one of the projects listed here-below in blue and the creation of the TahtibAcademy. This Academy exists virtually with the partnership between 2 martial arts centres SEIZA & MEDHAT FAWZI TAHTIB GROUP (Mallawi team) and the above mentioned deliverables. Shall we move from virtual to an actual Centre? What is the preferred timing and site?



    Within the current virtual stage, we have several projects for 2011. We need to select those meaningful:
    • In France, Demonstration at the Institute of Judo - France in May 2011, Demonstration at the “Nuits des Arts Martiaux” event - France in February 2011,
    • In Egypt, Mallawi Advanced Course - Level II in Egypt in October 2011, Mallawi Experts course - Level I November 2011, ...
    P2. TAHTIB EDUCATIONAL ARCHITECTURE and TECHNICAL HANDBOOKS.
    Our martial arts association called “SEIZA” has already defined the main architecture and curriculum steps and levels, also started preliminary writing. The material will be developed and used by the TahtibAcademy and the Tahtib certified instructors.
    Co development Seiza and Mallawi’s team experts.

    P3. "INTERNATIONAL STICK ARTS FESTIVAL" in Cairo.
    This is another request expressed after our demonstration in Minya on Oct 26th, 2010. Within the Ministry of Culture, the Sector of Foreign Affairs is responsible for publicizing “elsewhere arts” in Egypt. The eventual program of the "International Stick Arts Festival" concerns the main stick arts in the world, such as Japanese Bo-Do Jo-do, stick Chinese, French Stick and Cane, Portuguese-Azores Stick, Indian Stick, etc. ... Mallawi team and 2 other Tahtib groups with different styles, Tahtib Dance by Mallawi team... We could help in this initiative.
    To be validated.

    P4.SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION "The TAHTIB and Martial Arts of the Pharaohs"
    Publish a robust article in international Egyptology magazines on the subject with our Egyptologists friends led by Prof. Dominique Farout and any Egyptian Egyptologist recommended by you and motivated by the topic. We already assessed the current knowledge level and motivation with the Egyptian Egyptologists Mrs Fayza Haykal and Mr Abdelghaffar Shedid who support our initiative. They could review the final work. Who else could do the research with us?
    Adel Boulad and Dominique Farout to establish the project plan and begin production in January 2011. Check about funding and sponsoring.




    P5. TAHTIBTRAINING in Egypt for the Egyptian audience.
    • P5.1Training of 100 students from 10 classes in 6-7 2 selected private schools for a TAHTIB show on March 24, 2011 in Cairo as part of an International School Convention. See attached photo taken in 2009.
    Supervision by myself, the training will be delivered by the Mallawi experts. Funding to be identified in Egypt thru private companies: potentially with BNP - Egypt, with ADCOM Egypt and partners, with the local Chamber of Commerce (Egypt - France and EgyptUSA), etc..).
    • P5.2 TRAIN the TRAINERS for those schools interested in Tahtib as an educational mean.
    Check the Egyptian Ministry of Education readiness.
    Involve Mallawi experts, or Academy Tahtib when it exists, for delivery.




    P6. ART of TAHTIB, PROMOTION & TRAINING in Egypt for the Egyptian audience
    • P6.1 TAHTIB INTERVIEW on TV Cultural Channel, the program" Sallem Masr "(سلم مصر) owned by Gamal El Shaer. Possible topics: "an Egyptian treasure at hand" or "Tahtib renaissance, a Franco-Egyptian initiative!”. Gamal El Shaer shares the same passion about Tahtib particularly as an educational mean for young Egyptians.
      Date, subjects, issues involved, budget, etc.: To validate with Gamal El Shaer.

    • P6.2 TAHTIB show and celebration at Beit El Shaer, Cultural Institute Gamal El Shaer property, in « شارع المعز ».
    A Boulad with G El Shaer: Define the objective of the show, its duration, possible dates, participants (Egypt, France, ..?), needs for sponsoring and budget.

    P7. "From Egypt ... TRADITIONAL and TAHTIB arts”.
    It concerns Tahtib and the related arts training and shows in France. ( التحميلة، طبلة، رقص العصا،... )
    Our benchmark with Mallawi’s team and the 70’ - demonstration in Minya on Oct 26th will be used as a reference for which the "dance of sticks" and "Tahtib" accounted for 50% of the total time.
    Seiza is a martial art association not a production company: is Seiza’s french network capable to identify show targets for 2011 in France, and identify the French production companies and funding sources?

    [PHOTO3]
    (1) Seiza is a Martial Arts French association based in Paris, with the here-under references:
    Association loi 1901 créée le 26-5-1978 - Affiliée FFKAMA sous le N° 75-0030 - SIRET 512 979 402 00017
    Professeurs Diplômés d’Etat (1976, 1988)
    22 rue Deparcieux – 75014 Paris - France
    www.tahtib.com


    (2) The Medhat Fawzi Stick Art and Tahtib Center is based in Mallawi 330km south of Cairo in Minya region. Mallawi is on the Nile west bank, the necropol of Beni Hassan with martial arts description in tombs XV and XVII are just on the other side, on the east bank.

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