In the draft “Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn,” Baba Ali carries a carved wooden stick from his grandfather. We were looking to have Ali to have a means to protect him and although he did have a khanjar, using a blade seemed too violent for the character. I didn’t want readers to fall into the assumption that he would know and use staff fighting. In part, because most people would think of Robin Hood and Little John’s staff fight on the log over the river (or at least that’s what I thought of). So instead, I brought in the idea of tahtib. It seemed like a natural fit. His father was a travelling merchant and Ali having an *uncle from Egypt from whom he could learn Tahtib would not be out of place.
Tahtib is…unusual and very awesome. It is a very old style of stick fighting and dance from the Middle East, more specifically, Egypt. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Brazilian Capoiera in its connection to music and dance. It is both self-defense, combat, sport, martial art, and folk dance. It dates back to ancient Egypt where images show it as a set of fighting and combat techniques. Modern Tahtib seems split between the more dance-oriented, sport or competition oriented, and combat/martial art styled.
The stick, or Naboot is about four feet long. It is held, usually single handed, from the end and flailed in large figure-8 patterns across the body.
The demonstration below is from 2010 at the International Martial Arts Festival in Paris. The first time (I believe) Tahtib was shown broadly to an international audience.
Adel Paul Boulad, a martial art expert and big proponent of Tahtib, has worked to develop and codify five forms or katas. Below is a video of the most basic form – “NAKHLA: The Palm Tree.”
And Youtube has several wonderful videos of a variety of forms of Tahtib – https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=tahtib
*Growing up I had many uncles and aunties, none of whom were blood relations, and yet were as close. They were family. So Ali, I decided could just as easily have uncles and aunties. 🙂