The fierce nature of Dambe is tied seriously to the fist. Yes it is the ruggedness of the fist that made Dambe to be really rugged.


Before Dambe got to be included in the National Sports Festival, the fist was sinisterly fixed and wickedly prepared. Some fighters we were told, usually used starch to gum the bandage/cloth with fine grinded broken bottle in order to be able to deliver devastating blows on the opponent. The fist would be so hard and rugged. However, since the advent of Nigeria Association of Traditional Sports in 1993, all that started to change.



The fist started to be prepared with crepe bandage. The binding of the fist has to be done openly and only with crepe bandage that has not gotten any other inimical treatment before usage. The wrapping of the fist under traditional sports rule, has to be done openly with the two fighters standing side by side while the binding goes on from the two of them. This was done to build confidence of the two fighters. The two of them would see each other’s fist from basic preparation stage and to the finished point. The binding of the fists of the two fighters are done in the presence of technical officials in order to ascertain that the basic rules in wrapping the fist are obeyed to the letter. All these are done to ensure safety and equity in the sport.


Next step taken by the Traditional Sports Federation was in the weight categories. In the past, the weight categories among the Dambe fighters were not done empirically. Because people believe in extra-ordinary powers. Some did not respect the empirical weight. In fact, at Imo’98 when the heavy weight category became problematic in getting validity as regards the rules and regulation, some of the officials from the states boasted and insisted that they were going to give us a ‘Small boy” that will summarily deal with the “So called” heavy-weights” within a twinkle of an eye. This was because some of the old practitioners of Dambe did not really observed strictly the weight category rules of the sport. They believed in magic-more than the personal competence of the Dambe player himself.


At Imo’98 there were only three weight categories:-

Junior weight category: 55-65kg

Intermediate: 70-80kg

Senior: 85kg and above

At Edo 2002, the categories were divided into five. Viz

  • 45 – 55kg
  • 56 – 65kg
  • 66-75kg
  • 76-85kg
  • 86-100kg


The five weight categories are designed to reduce weight disparity among fighters in order to further promote equity in playing Dambe. But certain negative individuals went wide against TSFN administration, that TSFN had destroyed Dambe by creating more weight categories.


Fortunately the Authorities in charge were no illiterates in the matter. That negative move was summarily disposed off, as the Technical Department of TSFN was very able to defend the action. Despite the mischief in the motive of the individuals, NATS simply looked at it in parlance of as Tradition die hard and considered the negative individuals as one of the core conservative people who abhorred initiating new ideas in our Traditional Sports. That is the crux of the matter that takes us to the next level of this discuss, that is, that Dambe has been undergoing serious reforms over the last twenty years recalling that Dambe was demonstrated at Benue’96. And scored 5 gold medals at Gateway 2006.


It is just a pity that Dambe attracted a lot of ‘temper’ instead of tempo at Gateway 2006. I cannot say much about the administration of Dambe at Gateway 2006. At Bauchi 2000, I gave very close monitoring to Dambe. In fact I was more frequent at Dambe’s arena than any of the other four Traditional Sports (Abula, Ayo, Kokawa and Langa). It was because I recognized that situations in Dambe arena were more volatile than any of the other four.


The same thing happened at Edo 2002 and Abuja 2004. Dambe officiating needs very close monitoring for one reason or the other. I remember vividly that at Bauchi 2000, Dr. Amos Adamu spent about two hours with us at the ring side of Dambe. (I was the then Chairman Technical Committee of NATS). He was asking me various questions on all the various aspects of Dambe. You will recall that he was the then Director of Sports Development in Nigeria. I can also recall vividly that Alhaji Sanni Toro, the then Commissioner for Sports, in Bauchi State, was highly elated being with me at the ring side of Dambe at Abuja 2004. Also at Edo 2002, the Commissioner for Sports in Borno State was very proud of the way we handled Dambe. I recall all the aforementioned personalities and situations  to show our readers that Dambe is never short of attentions of the people that really matter and relevant in sports development in Nigeria.

The main problem with Dambe is that we have to make haste slowly otherwise, administrators in Dambe will be labelled by some “conservatives” that you have destroyed the “traditional flavour in Dambe”. As we are trying to retain the flavour, we are introducing measures that will eventually evolutionalise Dambe to the expectation of modern era and ensuring safety dictates of the modern western civilization. It will be a nasty mistake to use the western dictates to adjudicate Dambe as at today, but we can, and should use them to refine Dambe for tomorrow. And it must be a very quick evolutionary pace .


We have made a lot of progress in improving Dambe. Apart from the general rules which are in written form as I had said earlier on, infrastructures are also improved to ensure safety in Dambe fighting. The Dambe circle is protected by its size as it allows a skillful and agile Dambe player to free himself easily from punches of the opponent. A good fighter is never trapped in any corner as there is no corner where a player could be trapped in Dambe.


There are also some standing orders that protect life of a Dambe player. e.g

  • Stopping of the match if there is any deep cut/profuse bleeding
  • If a Dambe fighter surrenders
  • If a Dambe fighter falls down that is the end of the match. Falling down includes the tip of the finger touching the ground when a blow has been unleashed. He may fall down as a result of exhaustion. Yes, I have seen that happen.


In Dambe, once you are down, you are out. This is very important in safing life and safing players from unnecessary punishment; both from himself and the opponent.


There is a convention in Dambe that once a player scores thirty points, (good punches) he has automatically won that match. It is a convention and not a rule. This convention is to prevent those that can really endure punches from unnecessary punishment.




The coach of the player can throw in the towel. This is a western value that has been imbibed by Dambe. This also helps to safe life and Dambe fighters from unnecessary punishment, injury and internal damage.


Finally the use of glove guard has been approved for the use of Dambe fighters. That has satisfied the apprehensions of those elites that see Dambe as a saga.


Now that I have given you the pros and cons of Dambe being a saga or sagacity like a typical debater representing a typical Secondary School in Nigeria, “that I hope I have been able to convince you, that Dambe is not a saga but a sagacity”, thank you, it is an entertainment from Afrotradosports.


For more on technicalities of Dambe, visit www.Afrotradosports.com Dambe (unit).



Mallam Elias Yusuf






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