DAMBE | The Brutal Martial Tradition Where Hausa Butchers Allegedly Train For War 😲😲


Dambe is a martial art of the Hausa people from Nigeria. Competitors in a typical match aim to subdue each other into total submission mostly within three rounds.

It often results in serious bodily injuries for the challengers such as broken jaws and ribs.

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.

Today, companies of boxers travel performing outdoor matches accompanied by ceremony and drumming, throughout the traditional Hausa homelands of northern Nigeria, southern Niger, and southwestern Chad.

The name “Dambe” derives from the Hausa word for “boxe”, and appears in languages like Bole as Dembe. Boxers are called by the Hausa word “daæmaænga”.



The brutal combat sports dates back to the 10th century, that has found its way to our modern world. The sports attract thousands of onset viewers, including millions of offset viewers. In 2017, the sport was watched by over 200,000 people and flew to 24 million people online.

Dambe is not for the faint-hearted because of the brutality involved.  The aim of the sport is to knock down your opponent to the floor. This is achieved when one of the fighters delivers either a punch or kick in fights that can last up to three rounds.

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Time seems to pause during each round and only completed when an official or an opponent calls for the fight to end. The fight may end if an opponent is figuratively killed. This means that a part of an opponent touches the ground.


The fighters make use of ropes called ‘kara’ to bind their punching hands.  The arm is called the spear and bound to make them hard as possible. The arms are the primary weapons while the weak hands are called shields.

The sport is held during festive periods, and taken as a test of bravery, for the men. Butchers and fishermen started this wresting in Zamfara, Nigeria. The sport can be used as a rite of passage for marriages in the Northern part of the country.

The popularity of the sport has made it meet social media like YouTube.   Generally speaking, the sport is easy to relate to the Asian countries that practice martial arts.


While the sport continues to gain international recognition, the prize purse of Dambe is relatively low compared to other similar sports.  The price set for the winner isn’t much, but to the locals, it means more than the money.


The winners of these fights have earned more than they can imagine. From goats to motorcycles, these fighters get richer when they win their fights.  The passion has kept the fighters coming even the monetary prices are not important to them.

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Some of these fighters fight every day because of the strength and stamina they receive. When some of them lose fights, they get furious and want to fight again to win the battle. However,  Dambe comes with risks.  The dangers outweigh what these fighters gain.


The sport which is extremely dangerous has left many fighters with countless scars, broken noses, and brain damage that force some to retire from the sport. Others who are not intimidated by the danger believe in medicine that will ward off danger during the sport. 

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