Fighting boys, strong men and gorillas
January 13, 2009 9:35 PM   Subscribe

At nightfall youth gangs transform the streets of Kinshasa's townships into arenas of the fight. Although many of these boys and young men are trained in foreign fighting styles such as judo, jujitsu and karate, in the public clashes between the fighting groups, these boys and young men perform mukumbusu. This fighting style, inspired and based on the gorilla, was invented during the last decade of colonialism, and is an original mixture of a traditional Mongo wrestling practice, libanda, and Asian and Western fighting practices. An essay from Edinburgh University's Center of African Studies (PDF - or accessmylibrary link)

More on race and African martial arts and Africa, America, Identity and African martial arts (and plenty of other stuff) from Lloyd De Jongh.
posted by Smedleyman (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I know kung fu mukumbusu.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:56 PM on January 13, 2009


I confess I'm a bit disappointed in that video. I saw a couple of kicks that look like capoeira's armada movement, and the rest seemed very much like what I'd come up with if I'd tried to make my own generic karate-like system. Got any traditional Mongo wrestling links? Cos that sounds cool.

Piper's blog is very interesting.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:18 PM on January 13, 2009


This fighting style, inspired and based on the gorilla...

How so? In the video, they don't look any different from any other bunch of martial arts guys hitting and kicking each other. Whereas gorillas do some serious fighting:
Severe aggression is very rare in stable gorilla groups, but when two groups meet, the leading silverbacks can sometimes engage in a fight to the death, mainly using their sharp canines to cause deep, gaping injuries.
posted by pracowity at 10:58 PM on January 13, 2009


A fighting style based on the gorilla would go like:

1) be insanely strong
2) bite and smash

I'm sure these people say their style resembles gorillas, but I don't think that has to be taken literally, any more then when Ali said "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" we have to assume he was literally down on his hands and knees in a field studying bees and butterflies. Comparing yourself to a gorilla can be an inspiring analogy, but a man stands up to fight and a gorilla charges on all fours, so strictly speaking there's no real similarity.
posted by creasy boy at 11:42 PM on January 13, 2009


South African Piper knife combatives
posted by infini at 12:39 AM on January 14, 2009


I think the Piper system should be marketed with a cooler, more descriptive name--something like Spaz and Stab.
posted by sexymofo at 4:01 AM on January 14, 2009


Do you think your gorilla warfare can defeat me? En garde. I'll let you try my Wu-Tang style.
posted by box at 6:41 AM on January 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't think that has to be taken literally, any more then when Ali said "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee"

I must confess, I'd watch a lot more boxing if it actually did involve hovering insectoid men jabbing each other with their pointed venomous posteriors.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:54 AM on January 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


meta: hovering insectoid men jabbing each other with their pointed venomous posteriors.
posted by infini at 9:25 AM on January 14, 2009


A lot of that first video looked more like traditional karate/kickboxing than anything else. For a period, a basement class mma group I trained with would call other groups of other styles to lightly spar (though "lightly" included bloodied noses and black eyes). One guy we met had some training in mukumbusu, and the gorilla techniques he used, mostly wide looping hooks or fluttering charge, could be effective when mixed with other elements. I definitely got caught with one of those wide looping hooks, which you think wouldn't be effective, until you realize how entrenched the straight line attack becomes, so much that it surprises when a weird wild swinging punch lands, and lands hard.
posted by sarcasman at 9:36 AM on January 14, 2009


I don't think that has to be taken literally, any more then when Ali said "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee"

Except that Ali's line was clearly a poetic way of saying he moved around the ring lightly and gracefully but delivered a painful wound. If he had instead said "my fighting style was inspired by and based on" butterflies and bees, it would have been a different story. That's why when I read, "This fighting style [was] inspired [by] and based on the gorilla," I was waiting to hear exactly how these fighters supposedly borrow moves from gorillas. I even wondered whether they'd fucked up and really meant guerrillas, which seemed more likely. Upon reading a little of the PDF, however, I see that they did indeed mean gorillas:
I will discuss a group of young fighters who call themselves bakumbusu ( sing. mukumbusu), which means ‘gorillas’ in Lingala, Kinshasa’s vernacular language. [...]

During training sessions and fights, the bakumbusu imitate gorillas in their ferocious way of fighting, and even in the sounds they utter. Bending through the knees, bringing the upper body slightly forward, with the arms hanging next to the body, and imitating gorilla sounds, a mukumbusu shows he is about to start a fight (kobanda libanda).
posted by pracowity at 9:48 AM on January 14, 2009


Yeah, I should have framed the post more around the essay. It’s pretty interesting. Bit dry and lengthy, not as spectacular as video.
De Jongh and the Piper system probably deserves its own FPP. But the connection between identity and the martial arts community seems pretty strong even in places where the main society hasn’t broken down.
This seems to fill a sort of hole. And it’s interesting how personal the interpersonal violence becomes (not just this, but the knife fighting, etc.).

Intriguing how imitative humans are. You hear stories (in traditional Asian martial arts) about how someone observed the preying mantis and developed a fighting style based on it - but rarely does one consider the environment, social and natural, and the conditions of integration - or lack thereof - that gave rise to it.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:14 PM on January 14, 2009


Yeah, pracowity, I also wanted to see more gorilla-ish fighting and was disappointed. I'm just saying, ultimately I wasn't too surprised, since I'd seen this movie (spoiler) with its supposedly elephant-inspired fighting style, and since, if you think about it, it's impossible to fight like a gorilla. Also, I bet that as a youtube-inspired Westerner, I have a much better sense of how gorillas move than your average African. I don't get the feeling that gorillas are just walking around in front of people in Africa, never mind fighting in front of them. But I understand how you'd pick a local animal as your emblem and then start saying things like "we based our fighting style on them".
posted by creasy boy at 1:19 PM on January 14, 2009


and since, if you think about it, it's impossible to fight like a gorilla.

Actually, when gorillas fight it looks very much like a bunch of untrained people clumsily grappling (no sophisticated locks and throws) and biting each other. Gorillas don't even punch, which makes sense when you realise that making a proper fist is not instinctive behavior (think about how children will often curl their thumb inside their fingers when making a fist).
posted by PsychoKick at 3:24 PM on January 14, 2009


A fighting style based on the gorilla would go like:

1) be insanely strong
2) bite and smash


Actually, a fighting style based on the gorilla would go more like:

1) Beat chest
2) Throw barrels.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:49 PM on January 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


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