When people think about martial arts, we are certain that they think about Asian people fighting each other. When you watch martial arts movies, it does seem pretty obvious that Asia has a stranglehold on the market, mostly with disciplines such as aikido, ninjutsu, karate, kung fu, and taekwondo. Some might also think about bare-knuckle boxing and krav maga in Europe, or Brazilian jiu-jitsu in South America. However, not many people will think about Africa when thinking about martial arts. Here I will discuss some awesome African martial arts that people often overlook. Dambe Dambe was created by the Nigerian Hausa people and it has become one of the more popular forms of fighting in North Africa. It is a brutal style of martial arts and each fight takes place in a sandpit. Before a fight starts, fighters have a “magic” herb mixed into any incisions as this is believed to increase their strength. Rope cords are then wrapped around their dominant hand and the two fighters then step into the ring and trade blows to any part of their opponent’s body that they manage. Fighters are allowed to use their arms, legs, and heads to inflict damage. The Nigeria Traditional Boxing League Association is trying to increase the popularity of this sport and make it global. Laamb This is a form of wrestling that originates from Senegal in West Africa. This sport first started out as a hobby for fishermen and farmers that were exchanging goods. However, it has since evolved, and it is not a much-anticipated event that even has sponsorships. Before a fight, the ring is sprinkled with a powder that they believe wards of black magic and the fighters take a bath in a liquid that they believe repels negative energy. There are timed sessions and the fighters punch and grapple each other until there is a winner. The loser of the fight has to present the winner with a gift as a show of good sportsmanship. Zulu Stick Fighting This African form of fighting is exclusive to a tribe that originates from South Africa’s Bantu people. It has been used in battle, ceremonies (such as weddings), self-defense, and recreation. When it is used for recreation, the fighters set the tone for good sportsmanship by tapping their opponent’s shield before the fight starts and not aiming for the head when the sparring begins. However, when this is used in battle, all restrictions are off and everything goes. Other Types of Fighting Styles There are plenty of other African martial arts that are practiced throughout the continent. Below I will talk briefly about some that are worth talking about. Tahtib: This comes from Egypt and it is another type of stick-fighting that was traditionally used by soldiers that were cross-training in archery and wrestling. Istunka: This is another fighting style that uses sticks and it originated in Somalia. It was was once very popular due to its use of lethal weapons and armour. Sudanese wrestling: There are no prizes for guessing the African country where this originated from. It is also known as Nuba wrestling and it takes place when farming festivals are in full swing. The matches are usually a community event that is passed down by previous champions. Musangwe: This is a brutal and ruthless type of fighting that is popular in a lot of countries across Africa. The aim of this sport is to be the fighter that draws first blood as the fight is over whenever blood has been spilled. There are no gloves involved and the fighters can use any means to draw blood or to get their opponent to surrender. Evolution of Martial Arts While the majority of martial arts can be traced back to ancient times, many have evolved in such a way to fit the popular demands of today’s modern world. Dambe as well as other forms of African martial arts may not be as popular as martial arts from Asia, but the techniques and styles that you practice while fighting can help you to become a better all-rounded martial artist. Even today’s popular martial arts such as Muay Thai and karate were unknown as one point in their history. So, maybe in a decade or two you will be able to practice some Dambe or Laamb at the martial arts school near you.
When I was 18, I went back-packing to Thailand and had planned to stay there for just 6 months. However, I loved the country so much that I ended up staying there for ten years and found myself a beautiful Thai wife. During my stay there, I took up Muay Thai and I have now opened up a Muay Thai school back in the UK. Learning Muay Thai is Thailand was one of the best things I have ever done and below I am going to explain why you should consider taking up a form of martial arts. Great for Self-Defense This is one of the main reasons why people take up martial arts. It really does not matter which type of martial arts you study because you can use any of them to defend yourself better. Martial arts do not only show you the techniques needed to defend yourself, but they also teach you to think about how to defend yourself, which can help you to avoid any potential dangers. Training in a form of martial arts is also great for improving your reflexes, which are vital when you are trying to defend yourself against an attacker. Will Improve Your Confidence As you get betting in the martial arts that you have chosen to train in, you will find that your confidence will start to grow. Confidence is great in many situations outside of a martial arts lesson. For me, learning Muay Thai has made me a lot happier about myself as well as more comfortable when I find myself in potentially dangerous situations. Will Improve Your Discipline Practice makes perfect is a common expression and it is one that almost certainly applies to any form of martial arts. In a traditional martial arts lesson, you will have to execute certain movements over and over again. This is something that will teach you that progression is something that only happens during slight improvements in stamina and technique. In order to become perfect in whatever martial arts you are learning, you need to be committed and determined and go to your lessons even when you do not feel like it. Being disciplined and humble is what all martial arts are about. There is Gender Equality One great thing, in my opinion, about martial arts is that anyone can do it – it does not matter what age you are (obviously the elderly should give it a miss) or whether you are a man or a woman. Martial arts are one of the few sports out there when girls and boys can play together. Martial arts also give siblings a chance to practice against each other and learn from each other too. Help You to Stay Healthy and Lose Weight Most martial arts lessons will include warm-ups, guidance from instructors and practicing some moves. The move advanced lessons will also include other physical activities as well as sparring. The technical drills and the warm-up will take up most of the time, while ending cardio and stretches will come towards the end of the lesson. Obviously, this is just a rough idea as things can change depending on the martial arts you are studying and your instructor. At the end of the day, there really is no such thing as a real martial arts workout. When compared to other sports such as football or basketball, martial arts are more intense as it includes your “fight or flight” responses. Furthermore, there are many sports where you do not have to use all of your body parts, but this is not the case with martial arts. Take up some type of martial arts and your body will appreciate it in the future. They Are Not Seasonal Many team sports, such as soccer or cricket, are seasonal. This means that there will be a chunk of the year where you will not be able to partake in your favourite sport. However, this is definitely not the case with martial arts as they take place inside. This constant availability allows you to build on your skills and your discipline. Furthermore, the fact that you can partake in martial arts throughout the year means that kids can improve at much faster speeds than they can when participating in team sports. You Can Learn Important Values and Life Skills Life skills are very important, especially for children. Martial arts are a great way to shape your behaviours and values such as fairness, focus, tolerance, discipline, and humbleness. If you have all these values, then you will certainly go far in life. Learning Muay Thai has taught me a lot about life that I never knew. Not only is it a great way to keep fit, but the mental strength needed is very humbling. I never really thought that I would have grown so much as a person by learning Muay Thai, so I am really glad that I made the decision to start practicing it when I was living in Thailand. It is safe to say that without Muay Thai, my heart would not be as full as it is.
With any sport, fans and experts always disagree with who they feel deserves to be on the greatest of all-time list. MMA is no exception to this. In fact, in my opinion, it is the constant debates and differences of opinion that makes sports worth watching. Imagine how boring sports would be if we all had the same opinion. Below is my list of the best MMA fighters ever, please feel free to disagree. Anderson Silva For six years between 2006 and 2012 Silva mauled everyone that he came up against. During this time frame he had 17 fights and he won all of them – he knocked 14 of his opponents out cold. During his early years (he started fighting in 1997), he defeated fighters such as Carlos Newtown, Hayato Sakurai, Lee Murray, Jeremy Horn, and Jorge Rivera. These were all great fighters in their own right. Dana White, the UFC President, once called Silva the best MMA fighter ever, and there are probably not many who would disagree. Fedor Emelianenko From 2001 until 2009, Emelianenko had 28 fights and he won them all. He was not just fighting nobodies during this time either – he defeated some of the greatest heavyweights that MMA has to offer such as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Mirko Flipovic. When it comes to heavyweight fighters, Emelianenko is considered to be one of the best to grace the sport. He only lost 4 fights in his whole MMA career. Georges St. Pierre His last fight was back in 2017, but over his MMA career he only lost two fights. The first loss was to Matt Hughes who made him submit, while the second was to Matt Serra by a technical knockout. While it might seem that his kryptonite is fighters that have the first name Matt, he beat Hughes on two other occasions and Serra on the other occasion that they thought. Serra’s win over St. Pierre is still one of the biggest MMA upsets ever. St. Pierre also defeated talented fighters such as Jason Miller, Jon Fitch, Jake Shields, and Carlos Condit. He was one of the most popular fighters to grace the sport. Royce Gracie From 1993 until 1995, Gracie won 3 UFC competitions, which is the most that any fighter has ever won in that time frame. What is more impressive though is that he defeated 11 opponents using submission. The fight that most people will remember him for though is the fight against his big rival Dan Severn. Severn held a ninety-pound weight advantage over Gracie, but the latter proved his skill and mettle by toughing it out with him for 16 minutes before winning the fight thanks to a triangle choke. Bas Rutten Between 1995 and 1999, Bas Rutten and 21 fights and he won every one of the apart from one. During this period, he was crowned the heavyweight champion of the world thanks to a split-decision victory over Kevin Randleman. It was a controversial decision, but Bas Rutten cared not. During his career he also defeated talented MMA fighters such as Frank Shamrock, Maurice Smith, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, and Minoru Suzuki. Chuck Liddell From 1999 until 2006, Liddell had 20 fights and he won all but two of them. During this time, he became the light heavyweight champion of the world and defeated talented fighters such as Tito Ortiz, Jeff Monson, Kevin Randleman, Vernon White, and Alistair Overeem. Before he retired, he lost five of his last six bouts, but this should not take away from the amazing MMA career that he had.