Modern Tahtib: A 21st-Century Martial Art
Like many East Asian martial arts, he decided to introduce forms or a structure (kata in Japanese) which practitioners could learn. He, therefore, created eight different forms, all of which are made up of between 30 and 60 different traditional movements. Each person holds and stick and moves in time to music, much like the Brazilian martial art, Capoeira. According to Boulad, the role of the music in Tahtib is to regulate the movements and keep people in time, as well as provide a link between the practitioners and their audience.
The stick still plays a crucial role, although in modern Tahtib, destroying your opponent’s head is no longer the objective. The modern sticks are lighter and less dangerous, but practitioners still have to learn to control the stick and its various movements indicate which person is on the defensive and which is offensive. The noise of the stick banging together is also done in time to the music giving a pleasing rhythm for any watching audience to enjoy.
Modern Tahtib is open to all-comers, including women, which was not the case 5,000 years ago. The dress-code is much more relaxed too, with the red sash around the waist, the only remnant of the original flowing robes which were thought to have been worn.
Boulad’s modern version of Tahtib was only created in the year 2000, but it has already made great strides. There are now Tahtib clubs in countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, and France, where Paris boasts no fewer than five.
And in November 2016, UNESCO formally recognised Tahtib as an intangible cultural heritage of Egypt. This is crucial in ensuring that Tahtib remains intrinsically linked with Egypt as well as ensuring there is an international recognition of what is a growing martial art. It should help to ensure Tahtib’s future and who knows, maybe it will still be around in another 5,000 thanks to one man, Adel Boulad.