Northern Nigerian Martial Arts Photo Gallery

Some ancient "combat traditions" in Northern Nigeria   (as is the case in the African Indian Ocean) are alive and well. A brief summary of some of the most important survivals includes:

Dambe - a form of traditional boxing practiced by members of the butchers' guild and increasingly by local toughs who are not members of this guild. In dambe only one hand is "gloved" (i.e. bound in cloth for striking purposes), the other hand being used to ward off blows. Kicking and butting with the head are also permitted [Photos #1 - 7] .

Farauta - hunting expeditions in which one group snatches prey from another, In bishi ( a specially convened gathering of hunters) the combatants - armed with knives, bows and arrows, maces, clubs, and other sundry weapons - shout their taunts and praises and engage in mock (sometimes real) confrontations. Feats of magic, such as the materialization of arrows from the thin air, are said to occur at such gatherings [Photos #8, 9, and 17] .

Kokawa - a form of traditional wrestling practiced mostly by farmers. This is perhaps the safest of the combat games (though in some cases serious injury results particularly when a wrestler is lifted high into the air and slammed to the ground at the foot of a spectator). Unlike American wrestling, one does not need to pin an opponent to win. If an adversary's hand or body touches the ground, he is considered defeated. In Sokoto, there existed (in 1984) the survival of a harsher form of wrestling in which adversaries were equipped with ringlets that could slash the back of an adversary when grabbed [Photo #14] .

Shanci - a spectacular and often bloody contest performed exclusively by the Maguzawa Hausa in which gallantly arrayed adversaries armed with razor sharp iron bracelets engaged in pitched combat [Photo #16].

Sharo or Shadi - a Fulani manhood contest involving mutual flogging with a long flexible stick or a short hard one. Those who cry out in pain are disgraced and are not considered worthy of marriage [Photos #10-13] .

Tauri - a large gathering of "tough skins" ( 'yan tauri ) who (due to their use of traditional medicines) are held to be impervious to being cut by metals. They shout their praises and taunts while demonstrating their invulnerability by drawing swords or knives across various parts of the body including the tongue. If conducted in a remote area, these gatherings (commonly called gangi ) produce confrontations in which serious injury and/or loss of life is likely to occur[Photo #15].

Other Contests - include minor combat games such as faka (back butting), kwambe (foot boxing), wowwo (communal mock war raids ) , wasan sanda (Fulani stick fighting), as well as those games of courage which do not pit man against man, but rather against the forces of nature such as: wasan wuta (testing invulnerability to burning), hawan kaho (riding the horns of a bull), wasan kura (dangerous play with hyenas), wasan mahaukata (self flagellation with swords), wasan macizai (snake dodging), and wasan kunama (permitting poisonous scorpions to roam over one's skin).