Everything you dared to fear about sjamboks but were afraid to ask
Updated: Sep 14, 2019
The South African Sjambok
An implement used often during impact play in my commercial dungeon, Strafkamer
Photo of some of the sjamboks referred to below. Sjamboks are numbered in the photo:
Sjambok #1 on photo:
Sjamboks are still widely used here and are sold almost everywhere…from the cities and small towns to rural townships, one may find a sidewalk hawker offering these exact sjamboks, every couple of miles. It is the sjambok that is typically used on offenders in so-called ‘kangaroo courts’ and in urban townships.
They’re made from plastic and are thus very whippy towards the tip. During BDSM play I find it quite difficult to wield with accuracy indoors (my dungeon space is too narrow). It is much easier to use outside, especially if the recipient lies down on the ground for a vertical downswing stroke.
Other shapes of plastic sjamboks are readily available at large supermarkets or hardware stores (Sjambok #4). This kind is most often used for personal protection around the home or in the car; even to discipline large, thick-skinned dogs like the so-called Boerboel. I find it a very nice sjambok to use during CP play sessions: though it appears too thick, it is in fact hollow and very light, manufactured from a durable plastic, enabling ease of control in terms of severity, from light to very hard application.
Sjambok #3 is a heavy, rubber sjambok, similar to the standard issue, South African Police Force weapon, used for crowd control during times before CP was banned judicially in the mid-90s. The police sjamboks were shorter though, with a thicker, rigid tip.
Here is a photo reference:
Personally, it is unlikely that I will choose the police-style sjamboks for a BDSM play, due to safety concerns: these implements have been compared to bullets before, because it was as easy to drop a person to the ground unconscious, as it was to do the same with a bullet. They are prone to cause muscle bleeding, soft tissue damage and broken bones too easily.
I do not like and never use this specific sjambok of mine (# 3) during play sessions, due to its heavy, yet wobbly tip, impossible to control accurately.
Sjambok #4 is my hippo hide sjambok, custom made. Rhino hide sjamboks were also popular (rhino leather is similar to hippo leather, not stronger and tougher) until these animals became endangered, and it is now illegal to use them. Elephant hide sjamboks are very rare, but it is still legal to process and trade in them under special licensing.
Back to my beauty above. This particular one was not made in the traditional, African way. The manufacturer uses special soaking, treatment and varnishing methods, resulting in an almost resin-or amber-like appearance and ‘feel’. It is exceptionally heavy, and only after a year of weekly practice, my wrist became strong enough to not droop while wielding it, and before I could maneuver it with the same level of accuracy as the cane. These guys are difficult to obtain and pricey. They’re used mostly on farms to control large cattle and on game farms on large, wild animals. They’re also used in the veld to easily kill a snake, by striking its head off or breaking its spine, without having to get close to the danger.
The following paragraphs were written by Mr. Conrad Hodson, used with his permission, to explain traditional ways of making sjamboks around these parts.
The word “sjambok” seems to cover quite a variety of heavy impact toys. Originally a single piece of rawhide cut or stretched to shape, ISTR it’s just a generic word for “whip” in a lot of Bantu (sic) languages. The simplest form is rawhide carved out of a very thick hide, especially hippo, rhinoceros or elephant. Cut to shape and left to dry, this makes a cane-like instrument, that basically works like a heavy cane. Like rattan, it’s moderately flexible.
Traditional hide-curing in most of Africa has been an oil-curing process, as opposed to vegetable tanning as was done in Europe and its colonies. The piece of hide is oiled, worked by hand or by beating it with sticks, and left out in the sun. This is repeated–a good many times if supple “leather” is wanted. The oiled leather can also be stretched during this process, and a long strip can be tapered by doing a lot of stretching at one end, and little or none at the other. It’s possible to make an unbraided, crackable single-tail this way, and these are also called “sjambok” in many areas. They are even rarer in the States than the cane-like ones.
AFRICAN HIDE SJAMBOKS & BDSM
I wouldn’t recommend using hide sjamboks that were made in the traditional African fashion…hide sjamboks seldom break the skin, but it does happen and such wounds are prone to infection.
My hippo hide sjambok can be used safely, without fear of such infection, because a different method was used during manufacturing. As mentioned above, it seldom breaks the skin—even when wielded at maximum force. The bum should be closely inspected after every set though, to detect signs of muscle bleeding and dangerous bruising. Play should be stopped immediately if it does seem as if the swelling of the stroke bruises has a gravelly/grainy texture, creating the impression they’re clumped in bundles on top of one another.
For most hippo hide sjambok play recipients, the intensity of the pain and the unique sensation come as a surprise…the shape of the sjambok, similar to that of a cane, often creates an expectation that the intensity and sensation would be cane-like. However, instead it is ‘thuddy’; dull, very deep and much more painful.
When playing at hard/judicial severity, bruising and bruise coloring is instantaneous and the color here is a purplish-black.
The healing process is as dramatic as the initial bruising. Coloration of the bruises changes, resulting in very vivid and very deep marks, often spreading far beyond the original impact points.
African hide sjamboks can be used safely during BDSM play sessions, as long as impact occurs on the fleshiest body parts only (the buttocks) and as long as the Top keeps an informed eye on bruise/blooming progression.
Personally, I adore using African sjamboks, especially African hide sjamboks. They’re challenging and unique implements to wield, and for the bottoms, a unique challenge to endure; an intense pain to conquer.
In terms of the pain levels they cause, many consider them the most severe CP implement of them all.