Laamb Wrestling

Laamb Wrestling is a form of wrestling from Senegal involving a mix of bare-knuckle boxing and orthodox wrestling. It transcends all ethnic groups and enjoys the status of national sport. Traditionally, young men used to fight as a distraction, to court wives, prove their manliness, and bring honor to their villages.

Traditional wrestling, also known as “Laamb” in Wolof, is a centuries-old sport in Sénégal. In terms of form, it’s more usually compared to the Greco-Roman style of wrestling; however, it is very typical of traditional, African wrestling.
There are two forms of Laamb: the first allows the wrestlers to strike each other with their bare hands, which can be painful; the second is more acrobatic, and hitting is not permitted. When a wrestler’s back touches the ground, the bout is over; he has lost.

Laamb is as much a spiritual activity as it is physical; and wrestlers engage in various rites and rituals preparatory to fighting. No wrestler, regardless of his strength, physical, or technical abilities, will ever dare to enter the ring, muchless fight, without his “marabout” or JuJu Man, or without participating in his own pre-match ceremony.

African Laamb Wrestling

During the ceremony, the wrestler, accompanied by drummers and singers, dances around the arena; around his arms, legs, and waist are various kinds of juju or amulets the purpose of which is to protect him against evil spirits and the witchcraft of other fighters. It is this aspect of the sport which elevates a wrestling match beyond the level of ordinary spectator sport. Many people attend as much for the enjoyment of the ceremony as for the sport.

In spite of the popularity of soccer, basketball, and other imported sports, traditional wrestling is still the national event for the people, and receives a lot of sponsorship dollars to advance its growth. National champions are crowned and praised as the subject of numerous songs.

In the ancient days of kings and queens, wrestling matches were frequently held at night or in the afternoon in the main square of various villages. They were accompanied by much singing, dancing, and retelling of tales of past glorious and peaceful days. Spectators of today’s laamb matches, as those of yesteryear once were, are new links in the unending chain of Sénégal’s history.

Presently, wrestling is arranged by business-promoters who offer prizes for the winners. Laamb is the Wolof word for “fight”, Laamb was featured in the 2005 film L’Appel des arènes (English title Wrestling Grounds).

Traditional Senegal Wrestling

Laamb is the African martial art of wrestling that is mainly practiced in Senegal. Laamb events features musical overtures that includes drum beats accompanied by mellow voices to that signals people that the event is about to begin.

People would gather around a sandy pit and watch several bouts before the final bout of 2 champions.

Laamb fighters would wear “wrappers” around their waist, which would be provided by their fiances or female relatives, and the rest of their body will be naked. The winner must knock his opponent’s knees, shoulder, or back to the sand. Nowadays, strikes and slaps are allowed.

Traditional wrestling, also known as “Laamb” in Wolof, is a centuries-old sport in Sénégal. In terms of form, it’s more usually compared to the Greco-Roman style of wrestling; however, it is very typical of traditional, African wrestling.

There are two forms of Laamb: the first allows the wrestlers to strike each other with their bare hands, which can be painful; the second is more acrobatic, and hitting is not permitted. When a wrestler’s back touches the ground, the bout is over; he has lost.

Laamb is as much a spiritual activity as it is physical; and wrestlers engage in various rites and rituals preparatory to fighting. No wrestler, regardless of his strength, physical, or technical abilities, will ever dare to enter the ring, muchless fight, without his “marabout” or JuJu Man, or without participating in his own pre-match ceremony.

During the ceremony, the wrestler, accompanied by drummers and singers, dances around the arena; around his arms, legs, and waist are various kinds of juju or amulets the purpose of which is to protect him against evil spirits and the witchcraft of other fighters. It is this aspect of the sport which elevates a wrestling match beyond the level of ordinary spectator sport. Many people attend as much for the enjoyment of the ceremony as for the sport.

In spite of the popularity of soccer, basketball, and other imported sports, traditional wrestling is still the national event for the people, and receives a lot of sponsorship dollars to advance its growth. National champions are crowned and praised as the subject of numerous songs.

In the ancient days of kings and queens, wrestling matches were frequently held at night or in the afternoon in the main square of various villages. They were accompanied by much singing, dancing, and retelling of tales of past glorious and peaceful days. Spectators of today’s laamb matches, as those of yesteryear once were, are new links in the unending chain of Sénégal’s history.