Sagi traditional boxing, is a popular cultural activity in Ngada and Nagekeo districts of Indonesia. The tradition, which has been passed on for generations, is used both to entertain the gathering crowds and is a sign of good harvest when blood from the fighters spill onto the ground. In recent years, the traditional boxing has become a major tourist attraction in the areas.
Sagi Traditional Boxing and Why It Is Popular
Unlike modern boxing held within a ring, Sagi, as the Soa people call it, is characterized by two men fighting each other in the center of an open field. The fighters, who fight bare chest, wear traditional sarongs for the fights. The boxing also comes with a rather strange kind of glove called kepo or wholet. The purpose of these gloves is to harm the opponent rather than soften the fighters’ blows. The trickling of blood from the furiously fighting men marks the climax of the boxing as the wild crowd cheers loudly.
Sagi traditional boxing, is native to Nagekeo and Ngada districts. The event, which is held regularly on predetermined dates, has become a popular cultural attraction with tourists coming all over the world to witness the unique festival. The event also moves from one village of the districts to another. The calendar has been set such that within a year, all the communities host the event.
Although the exact name of the boxing varies from one village to another due to local languages, it roughly translates to ‘fighting with one’s fists’ in each of the dialects. In Nagemi, Watugase, and Rega villages, the boxing is called Etu; in Rowa it is Sudu; while in Zepe village it is called Sarasedu.
The boxing serves various functions in the local community. In the past, it was a form of military training for warriors from the villages. The fierceness of the fights provided the local fighters with a realistic fighting environment, critical for enhancing their fighting skills and improving their brevity. Secondly, the blood spilled during Sagi, traditional boxing, gives the local community a brighter future in the form of abundant harvests. The communities believe that every drop of blood spilled is a blessing that will be accompanied with an excellent harvest in the future.
The event also enhances the communication between the villages. As the people come together to cheer their heroes, they get to meet people from other parts of the districts and share a good time with them. This results in the various villages having stronger social bonds and enhancing the spirit of brotherhood amongst them. The friendship spirit is deeply rooted in the traditional boxing as the referees are required to ensure that there is no loser or winner in a fight and also to prevent the fights from getting out of control. For the community, everyone is a winner. Fighters are also required to share a conciliatory hug after the fight to avoid any grudges from being carried away from the fighting arena.
Sagi, traditional boxing, is an entertaining event that continues to attract more local and foreign tourists. Some of the best boxing events are held in Soa Village and Tadho Village. The events are in April and July respectively. The villagers also allow the visiting tourists to join the fights in the moderate/playful modes.