Historically, Dambe as a Hausa martial sport, it is a combative game, brutal in nature, and takes place at the village level. Competitions are held on festival occasions or at the end of the harvest seasons, when farmers, having earned enough money from crop sales, were able to pay for entertainment and the arts which belong to members of the butchers' guild. Originally dambe was a means of practicing military skills that is a means of training fighters to get prepared for war, but today guild members use the game as a means of demonstrating masculinity, accruing personal prestige, and bringing honor to one's family and village. Also butchers desire to offset their lowly social status by distinguishing themselves at a sport that draws large crowds of spectators.
In Dambe boxing, the dominant hand is used for striking, while the other hand or weaker hand is used to ward off blows or shield from blows. The dominant hand is referred to as “the spear”, while the other hand is labeled “the shield”. In addition, Dambe competitions are held between groups "armies" who meet in dueling pairs on a symbolic battlefield which is about at least ten meters diameter either indoor or outdoor. The dueling pairs in dambe boxing are customarily evenly matched in size even though there is no standardized way of matching the fighters.
While Dambe boxers can strike any place on the body with the fist, head, or feet, but the fighter's dominant hand is primarily used to strike. This hand, balled into a fist, is enveloped by a length of fabric called a "Kara" over which is a knotted cord called a "zare". As the opponents remain in a knees-flexed prepared position, the bound hand is the rear hand and stretched out well to the back in anticipation of delivering clubbing blows to the opponent.
The lead hand palm confronts the opponent acting as a "shield" for protection when the front hand is held with the fingers spread. This hand might be used to grab and hold the opponent's head. Generally, the lead leg which is the left on account of a right-handed boxer is wrapped by a chain reaching out from lower leg to knee known as "akayau", this could be utilized as a weapon when kicking. In any case, kicks could be executed with either foot. Despite the fact, the utilization of the akayau has been surrendered in contemporary Dambe boxing.
The goal in Dambe is to deliver a single fatal blow called “kwab daya”, meaning one that causes the opponent's hand or knee to touch the ground or, even better, knocks him flat to the ground. The act of delivering this fatal blow is referred to as “killing” the opponent, a metaphor of warfare to signify the strike that leads to winning a match. Matches are scheduled for three rounds. A round ends when there is a significant lot of inactivity, a boxer's hand restricting turns out to be free, or either warrior willfully breaks his battling position. Percussive music usually accompanies Dambe sessions.
Sharif Gani, a popular dambe fighter, started dambe boxing in 2002, his passion for fighting became known while growing up as a young boy. He came to fighting through late Garba Dan Garmun Garkawa who mentored him and he eventually went on to become a great fighter in his weight class. He won the National championship twice along with many other competitions across Nigeria.
From Nigeria, Oluyemi is a phenomenal writer and researcher with a passion for education. His desire for Africa and especially his home in Nigeria is to be able to create a better life for all his people through education.
Cover Photo By Jeremy Weate (Flickr: Taiye (right) - a champion dambe boxer) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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