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“My fighting name is Dogon Aleka,” he says, introducing himself. “I am a Dambe fighter. The reason why I started fighting Dambe is because Dambe is my ancient tradition.”
The Nigerian sport of Dambe is rooted in tradition and generational legacy. As we’ve talked about in our exposé on the sport of Dambe, it’s an honor for many to represent their village in the sport.
Dambe’s roots are from tradition. You have guys that want to compete to just put their village on the map.Maxwell Kalu in Dambe: Bringing the African Warrior Spirit To The Entire World
Aleka’s story is rooted in that tradition. As a child, he was told stories of these legendary Dambe fighters and, much like superheroes are in the west, Dogon Aleka looked up to these heroes of his people.
“When I was younger, my Father would tell us stories of Dambe legends. As a little boy I admired the fact that they were strong men and fought for the honor of the villager, because of that, the people exulted their names. They are told as stories to younger children and that inspired me. I really want to become a Dambe legend to be remembered after I am gone, by the special grace of God. Another reason is because of the money I make fighting Dambe. Because of Dambe I am able to send some money to my old mother in the village, my brother too. Because of this, they are happy and always praying for me.”
Dambe isn’t a hobby, it’s a living for many people, Aleka included. While he is one of African Warriors more popular fighters, it took him time to get to the point to where he can be a fighter full time. But even that is temporary as the body cannot fight for forever. Aleka says he hopes that Dambe and African Warriors will bring him other skills for later in life.
“Because I started fighting Dambe when I was small, I didn’t get to learn other skills but I sell cows and rams. So now I am a full time Dambe fighter. I travel around Nigeria fighting Dambe and making money. When African Warriors signed me, they said they can help me to learn other skills. I did not object to that but for now, I am strong and young so I will focus on making more money from dambe and when the time for learning skills comes, I will not say no to them.”
Dogon Aleka and the Sport of Dambe
Dambe, like most combat sports, is not easy on the body. Putting your body on the line gets you more than a payday. It gets you glory. For Aleka, it’s the glory of his House that drives him to fight.
“Dambe is not an easy fight because it is a sport for fearless men. In my place, any man who fights Dambe is respected in the society because he is seen to do what many people could not do. You get allot of respect from your mates because you fight Dambe, especially when you keep winning your games against other houses. You are seen to bring honor and glory to your house when you win fights. So the fight is attractive because you are doing what legends has done uncountable years before you.”
And the history is deep in Dambe. Generations of families have taken part of the sport and Aleka believes that it’s important to keep the sport of Dambe alive and well.
“I think it is the will of my Ancestors that we keep the sports that they have introduced to us. Because I was born barely 24yrs ago but Dambe has been in existence before my grandfather was born. So it is a good thing that the Hausa people has kept it alive till today so that people like me and others can enjoy the sport and make money and fame.”
The Strategy of Dambe by Dogon Aleka
Dambe is unique. Fighters are only allowed to kick and punch with the spear hand. The other hand is not allowed to punch, only block. For Dogon Aleka, having a strategy is important and being the standout that he is, Aleka has developed his own.
“When I fight, I watch my opponent closely. When they least expect, I kick them high and hard on their upper body. If you stand that then I am coming with a strong left hand that you cannot withstand.”
But Aleka says it’s not only him that wills him to win. It’s his family, those close to him, and the music. As mentioned in our first Dambe piece, music is very important in the sport. Overall, it’s the thought of providing for his family that motivates Aleka to fight.
“One thing that keeps my energy high is the prayer of my mother, my Malam, my family members and the song from the musician. I am young and I see myself fighting Dambe in big places. I never knew I will fight for African Warriors company but today I am here and I am making money. They told us we can make more money to buy our own house and our own car, that I look forward to someday.”
With African Warriors growing the sport of Dambe online, Dogon Aleka says the first rule is to be strong. He also requests the world to keep Dambe what it is, to keep it’s soul and to make sure to be respectful to the Nigerian ancestors who kept the sport pure throughout the years.
“Foreigners who want to do Dambe will first be as strong as we are because this is not an easy sport. For people who love what we do, we appreciate them because you won’t feel happy if you fight without supporters. I also hope that they don’t change the history and essence of Dambe as they practice it in their various places.”
There are many interesting sports throughout the world. From Senegalese wrestling to chidaoba, the types of combat sports are varied as much as the culture. For Dambe, it will continue to hold it’s tradition.