Interview with the Vice Chairman on HAMAA

I am researching some African Martial arts for potential workshops next year and felt it was about time we spoke to HAMAA. I asked the organisation to take part in our interview series. Here is what I asked Damon, the Vice Chairman…

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Damon ‘Osa nKante’ Cunningham and I am the Vice President of HAMAA.

How did you get started in martial arts?

Like many, I became interested in martial arts as a child watching Kung Fu Theater every Saturday on UHF (I’m dating myself). I practice traditional Eastern arts all throughout my school years.

Africa has a huge number of Martial arts.  Where did you start?

I had always wanted to learn traditional African fighting arts ever since I saw the Shaka Zulu epic, but it wasn’t until the internet began to explode that I was able to find videos and resources for African arts. The first was Nguni stick fighting in South Africa. In this art, fighters face each other with a small center grip shield and a stick. The second art I found was Donga from Ethiopia. This is a brutal art with 2 handed sticks measuring more than 6 feet. At this time I had recently joined the living history group called the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and I was able to apply what I had garnered from the videos to actual fighting scenarios.

Has there been anything you have found really surprising during your research? 

I have been surprised by how many fighting arts there actually are. People are training, competing and using indigeonous African fighting arts on a daily basis.

Tahtib and Matreg stick arts in North Africa. Dambe boxing and laamb wrestling in West Africa. Moraingy kick boxing in Madagascar. But I have been most amazed how these arts have evolved after being brought to the Americas during the trans Atlantic slave trade. Capoeira, Kalinda, Tire Machete, Jab Jab, Maculelê and 52 Blocks all have roots in Africa.

What is HAMAA and what is it’s goal?

The Historical African Martial Arts Association is a group of like minded folks who are interested in reconstructing, reviving and recognizing the traditional fighting arts of Africa and her diaspora.  HAMAA’s goal is to shed light on these arts in a way that pays them the respect that is long overdue. We want the World to be able to look past the negative stereotype forced upon traditional African warriors and their fighting arts, and see them for the effective combat arts that they are. We invite ALL to come join us as we research, learn and train together.

Where can people find out more about your work and HAMAA?

Our main discussion group can be found on Facebook as well as several training videos on Youtube. We can be followed on Instagram and our website is always available to provide more information and contact links.