South African Inspired Activities for the Physical Education and Music Classroom

Lesson 3: Intonga - African Stick-Fighting

North Carolina Essential Standards

PE.5.MS.1.1: Executive combinations of more complex locomotor skills and manipulative skills specific to individual, dual and team activities.

PE.5.MS.1.2: Use increasingly complex skills with power and accuracy

PE.5.MS.1.3: Illustrate mature form in combining locomotor and manipulative skills for traditional and nontraditional  activities.

PE.5.MC.2.3: Identify basic offensive and defensive strategies in modified game situations.

PE.5.PR.4.3: Understand the importance of culture and ethnicity in developing self-awareness and working productively with others - Explore various culture games/dances

Prerequiste Knowledge

Students know the purposes of offense and defense.


Students will be able to:

  • explain the cultural significance and history of Intonga stick fighting in South Africa.
  • compare the present day sport to that of the past.
  • participate in a modified version of stick fighting.


  • Students will identify significant sentences, phrases, and words from a written passage.
  • Students will complete a 3-2-1 exit ticket.


Online resources:


  • “Intonga: The African Art of Stick-Fighting” [video created by the authors of S. African children engaged in stick-fighting]
  • Pool noodles, tape or cones

Prior Preparation

  • Prepare computer and monitor to show video
  • Copy articles
  • Use tape or cones to mark fighting circles
  • Have pool noodles label with O or D


  1. Review briefly the two previous lessons by explaining we have learned about 2 popular sports in South Africa: soccer and netball. Both games relate to U.S. sports.
  2. Today, we are going to learn about a unique, traditional South African sport called “intonga” or stick fighting.
  3. Share and discuss the quote:  “When a Xhosa boy goes to initiation school, one of the skills he works on is that of stick-fighting. It is an ancient African art of deep cultural significance. A young Xhosa man who carries himself well with ‘the sticks’ wins a lot of respect wherever he goes in life.”
  4. Show students video  of S. African stick fighting taken in Port Elizabeth.  Following the video, ask students for any observations such as “two sticks, played in a circle, trying to hit other person, etc.”

Guided Practice

Part I

  1. Place students into three groups, each receiving an article on Xhosa stick-fighting.
  2. Have students to read their article as a small group. Any words or sentences they do not understand, they will underline and research.
  3. Engage students in the Sentence-Phrase-Word visible thinking strategy:
    • Highlight a sentence that was meaningful to you and helped you gain a deeper understanding of the text.
    • Circle a phrase that moved, engaged, or provoked you.
    • Draw a box around a word that captured your attention or struck you as powerful.
  4. One-at-a-time, project the articles and have students to share the sentences, phrases, and words they found meaningful.
  5. Ask the following questions during the discussion:
    • What is a tradition? “Things that are passed from one generation to the next, from parents to children.  It can be a belief or a behavior.”
    • Can you give an example of traditions people have? “ It can include many things such as food, language, holidays, beliefs, etc.  The example from the article is the tradition of stick fighting.”
    • What is meant  when when a spectator say “it is a way to reconnect with his culture?” “Bring back something was a tradition, learn from their ancestors”
    • What does a herd boy do? “Take care of livestock”
    • Why might he need to fight with sticks? “To defend the herd from danger”
    • Would this still be relevant and necessary in present times? And what has has changed between the past and present of stick fighting? “There might still be herd boys that need to protect the animals” “Stick fighting is done as a sport or competition to earn money” “helmets and protective gear”
    • Who is Nelson Mandela and why is he discussed in this article? “He was a South African revolutionary and anti-apartheid activist that served as president from 1994 - 1999. He was Xhosan. He wrote the the book, Long Walk to Freedom. In this book, he talks about the tradition of stick fighting and how he learned to do it as a boy.”

Part II

  1. Learn and practice a modified stick fight.
  2. Use pool noodles, cut in half and labeled O for offense and D for defense.
  3. Review the purpose of offense is to score points, and defense to keep from being scored upon.
  4. Pair students up.  Each student will one noodle only.  The objective of the student with the O noodle, is to score 3 points.  They do this by touching, not slashing, the other student on the torso or legs.  Head and arms do not count.  
  5. They cannot touch 3 times in a row without pulling back.  
  6. If a student steps out of the circle, they are disqualified.
  7. The objective of the defensive student is to keep from being scored on.  They hold the stick in the middle, keeping it horizontal in order to block.
  8. The game is over when the student scores 3 points and the students switch sticks.
  9. After students have time to practice both offense and defence, students will be given 2 sticks each.  They are only allowed to score with the offensive sticks.  The winner is the student who scores 3 first.


  1. Summarize the lesson: “Today, we learned about a traditional South African game called intonga or stick fighting. Traditional means that it has been around for generations.  It is something passed from parent to child.  The sport of stick fighting is  unique to the Xhosa tribe.”
  2. Have each student to complete a 3-2-1 exit ticket.
    • First you will list 3 facts that you learned about intonga.
    • Next, write 2 things that relate to or describe a tradition.
    • Finally, name 1 tradition you have in your family or one you would like to start.