What is Dambe?
Dambe is a form of martial arts that originated from the Northern Hausa regions of Nigeria and served many purposes.
Traditionally practiced by Hausa butchers travelling through villages to slaughter animals for festivals, it was also used in organised fights to showcase their bravery and attract unmarried women as well as to train for war.
Nowadays though, Dambe is mainly for entertainment. Tournaments are usually organised in open spaces with huge crowds and are often sold out.
Among the audience, people sell cigarettes, alcoholic drinks, and other intoxicating substances to keep the mood in a frenzy.
Drum-driven Hausa music is played to create a dramatic atmosphere and a ring announcer, who often sings, introduces the fighters to spectators.
History of Dambe
According to Wikipedia, Dambe is a form of boxing associated with the Hausa people of West Africa. Historically, Dambe included a wrestling component, known as Kokawa, but today it is essentially a striking art.
The tradition is dominated by Hausa butcher caste groups, and over the last century evolved from clans of butchers traveling to farm villages at harvest time, integrating a fighting challenge by the outsiders into local harvest festival entertainment.
It was also traditionally practiced as a way for men to get ready for war, and many of the techniques and terminology allude to warfare.
Historically, Dambe derived from the Hausa word for “boxe” and included a wrestling component, but now it is essentially a striking art. Traditionally it was practiced as a way to ready men for war and its techniques and terminology allude to warfare.
Although there are no formal weight classes, competitors are fairly matched. These competitors aim to knock down their opponent using kicks and punches in the three-round fight.
Like the weight classes, the rounds are also open-ended – there is no time limit. Instead, a fight ends when there is no activity, one participant or an official calls for a halt, or a participant’s hand, knee or body touches the ground.
The main weapon is the participant’s hitting arm, which is known as “the spear”. Instead of sporting a boxing glove, as is the case in modern boxing, the hand is wrapped in a piece of cloth and tightly covered by rope.
In the past, fighters would dip their rope-covered hitting arm in resin mixed with shards of broken glass, but this practice has been banned – for good reason. The other hand, or lead hand, is referred to as “the shield”. It is held palm open toward the opponent, in order to grab or hold on as needed.
Although a vibrant industry, the sport has little regulation. With protective gear is rarely worn and medical personnel often not present for tournaments, many fighters have been left in a vegetative state and some have even died due to the sport. This lack of regulation also means that many fighters indulge in drugs to numb pain and boost their courage.
There are also claims that most of the fighters use charms which are visibly tied around their wrists, ankles or necks.
The need for rules
There is a need for government and/or stakeholder regulation in the sport, so as to enable it to prevent loss of lives and injury towards having the international recognition it truly deserves.
There need to be caution and regulation especially on the aspect of drugs. Fighters smoke large quantities of cannabis before a fight, saying it calms them down and makes them stronger.
The issue of locally made charms and jinxed trinkets also needs to be looked into.
Credit: Wikipedia, Sutava, ThisIsAfrica
Photo Credit: Wikipedia