Stick Fighting aka Bois | Elements of Trinidad's Carnival

Original Image © The Carnival Quandary/

Bois, French for stick, has come a long way from its early beginnings of the Calenda where folk music, dance and martial arts were all incorporated to give us the Boismen of the Gayelle seen during our carnival celebrations.  For this post, we feature a Newsday.TT news-clip and an educational video from the YouTube channel, "RomeInCarnival". Watch the video for some of the key elements that makes for a 'good stick-fighter'! 

The following is an excerpt from Newsday TT:
The tradition dates back to the days of slavery when men would duel with sticks (Bois) in the center of rings or Gayelles. In TT there are two types of stick-fighting tradition: kalinda and gatka.

The kalinda which is the form that is observed in National Stick-fight Competition. Kalinda is based on martial traditions that can be found in Central and West Africa and also among the Oromo people of Ethiopia. Gatka is a combat training style developed by Sikhs and brought to Trinidad by indentured laborers from Southern Asia (Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, according to the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and The Arts’ Facebook page.

Variations of kalinda exist from community to community. Different training styles exist, and these are based on the style passed on from generation to generation.
  • The Gayelle is the space where the battle between two stick-fighters takes place.
  • The fighter who draws first blood is declared the victor. The fight is accompanied by a dance knows as “Carray”.
  • An important part of the Gayelle is the music. The chantwell leads the call and response Lavway.
  • Every village has its own chantwell who sings the praises of their champion stick-fighter or knows the right song that will bring out the fighter’s warrior spirit. The chantwell is the “forefather” of the calypsonian.

RomeInCarnival - Stick Fighting

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