Stick-fighter | Photograph Courtesy Noel Norton
Stick-fighting, it is said, was practiced in Trinidad as early as the late 1700’s. This was a ritual dating back to the times of slavery where men would duel with sticks or “bois” in gayelles or rings. To the accompaniment of drumming and singing, often in patois, the stick-fighters would use their skills in dance-like motions to defend themselves from their adversaries. The prize was the accolades resulting from the wounding and sometimes death of opponents.
Stick-fighting was banned in 1880 in response to the Canboulay Riots. In 1937 stick-fighting was re-introduced in controlled competitions. Today, stick-fighting gayelles all over Trinidad and Tobago form an important attraction as part of the annual Carnival celebrations.