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PHOTO STORY: Dambe, the Nigerian combat sport with global aspiration

PHOTO STORY: Dambe, the Nigerian combat sport with global aspiration
January 01
10:20 2023

In China, there is Kung Fu martial arts. In northern Nigeria, it is called Dambe, a traditional martial art that started in the olden days to prepare men for war. It has now become one of the most celebrated sports activities in the region.

Dambe is usually accompanied by drumming and other ceremonious activities.

Each participant or boxer is allowed to make use of one leg which is also called the lead leg, which has clothes taped around it. That leg can be used for both offense and defense while the unwrapped leg can be used for kicks.

One hand, which is referred to as the “spear”, is wrapped with a piece of cloth; while the other hand called the “shield” is unwrapped and can be used to grab and hold an opponent.


Dambe has received much attention from boxers who travel to the region to witness and participate in the event.

Preparing for the fight

A Dambe fighter

There are three rounds in this game. Unlike other sports, there is no time limit in this one. Instead, they end when:
1) There is no activity again.
2) One of the participants or an official calls a halt.
3) A participant’s hand, knee, or body touches the ground.

To be declared a winner, the competitor must subdue the opponent in total submission within three rounds. Knocking the opponent down is called “killing the opponent”.



In 2019, Sunday Dare, minister of youth and sports development, pledged to create a national league for the martial art. He said he would cooperate with the Dambe Sports Association to form a federation for organising competitions and tournaments across and outside Nigeria, but the plans were said to have been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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