TRADITIONAL WRESTLING: LAAMB

Traditional wrestling and its ceremony

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.


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