The Sansibar Sword, sometimes mistakenly known as the Zanzibar Sword, is an African sword, mainly from the Saudi Arabian/African border line area. If there is a historical connection between the Filipino version of the Sansibar and the Zanzibar, it is presently unknown.
The Sansibar was officially born in Leyte in 1881 before Spain sold the Philippines to America through a treaty. The sansibar was mainly, and is still used, by the river men who cut bamboos for use as floaters for their "bangka" or boats, for local traveling. These same boatsmen also travel the seas to cross to the other islands in the Philippines. That is how the Sansibar design reached other islands within the Philippines. You will see various popular designs of the Sansibar sword...approximately 5 different designs in the various islands where the Sansibar had found a home.
The name Sansibar was first called "pang sibak", in which "pang" means "for" and "sibak" means "to chop" in Filipino dialects. So, pang sibak means "for chopping." Later, the term evolved into "pang sibar" which means the same in Tagalog. Other explanations are "san sibak," meaning "one" (san or isan or isang) and "chop" (sibak) so to put the two words together, "san-sibak" means "one chop!" Much later, the name sansibar was adopted even though every Filipino dialect differs on most every island. The sound and the pronunciation of the word "Sansibar" changed until the occupation by America ...and then the word "Sansibar" was used as the standard name for this particular sword design.
This particular history is only one version, supported by the beliefs of the Filipino people. Any other history of this sword may not be well known since more popular swords like the "Katipunan" and "Pinute" were used by the katipuneros. Those swords are widely used in everyday tasks as tools and for survival, so the Sansibar's image, shape and style was temporalriy forgotten. Then again, the Sansibar was also used by many of the katipuneros for all out combat purposes due to its perfectly engineered balance and lightning speed.
Sansibar Blade Art Page
Important Note from our Swordsmiths on Use of the Sansibar
"These long swords are forged to obtain flexibility because of their length. Normally, the dangers of a long sword, such as the sansibar, is that you may never know when it is going to snap into two. So we created a solution to this problem by making it flexible enough to avoid such accidents. The sansibar is used basically only as a weapon, and not for farming or industrial use. Chinese weapons, such as the wushu sword, and other flexible swords, are used in a specialized manner (such as techniques of maneuvering the wrist) to avoid bending. Flexible swords are not meant to be used against hard, inanimate targets. For combat use, only the vital parts of the body are the targets for such swords. Using the sansibar outdoors for chopping trees or the bones of game, are incorrect uses and will not maximize a flexible sword's usefulness. The proper use of this sword begins with techniques of moving the wrist with proper execution which takes some practice prior to using it for everyday chores."