Zulu Culture
Zulu Combat, Weapons and Tactics
Zulu Combat
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Battle Formation

Battle Formation

Shaka developed the 'chest and horns' battle group where the army advanced in close order until they were almost upon the enemy when young warriors at either flank ran around the enemy and surrounded them.

The central group of experienced warriors then advanced and crushed the enemy against the anvil of the 'horns'. Behind the chest was the 'loins' as reserves, also of experience warriors.


Close Combat Encounters between warring groups before Shaka consisted of both parties insulting each other from a distance whereupon spears were thrown. Casualties were few and a stalemate often resulted when both sets had used up all their spears.

Attaching a blade to a shaftShaka invented the short, large bladed iXhwa spear, so named from the sound it made when being withdrawn from the body of an opponent. He also turned the shield into an offensive weapon. Warriors were taught to catch their shield behind that of their opponents and thrust it out of the way, exposing the warrior's body.

The isaGila is more commonly known as the knobkerrie - a heavy stick with a fist sized end used as a club. It was also used as a throwing weapon when hunting.

The isiPhapha is the long throwing spear.

The umTshisa is the traditional fighting stick - one end tapered to a point and the other with a sharp chisel end. A smaller stick and small shield are used to fend off blows.

The battleaxe was used to identify the indunas, who only fought each other.