Senegalese wrestling

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Senegalese wrestling (fr. Lutte sénégalaise, Wolof Laamb) is a type of Folk wrestling traditional to Senegal and parts of The Gambia, and is part of a larger West African form of traditional wrestling (fr. Lutte Traditionnelle).[1] The Senegalese form traditionally allows blows with the hands (frappe), the only of the West African traditions to do so. As a larger confederation and championship around Lutte Traditionnelle has developed since the 1990s, Senegalese fighters now practice both forms, called officially Lutte Traditionnelle sans frappe (for the international version) and Lutte Traditionnelle avec frappe for the striking version.[2]

Transcending ethnic groups, the sport enjoys the status of national sport.[3] Traditionally, young men used to fight as a distraction, to court wives, prove their manliness, and bring honor to their villages. Usually each wrestler called M’burr in Wolof performed a particular dance before the start of the combat.

Today it is very popular in the country as an indication of male athletic strength and ability [4]. Presently, wrestling is arranged by business-promoters who offer prizes for the winners.

One of the main objectives is to throw the opponent to the ground by lifting him up and over, usually outside a given area.

Senegalese wrestlers train extremely hard and may perform press ups and various difficult physical exercises throughout the day to build up their strength. However whilst they believe strength is important they also believe that there is an element of luck in the winner, and may perform black magic rituals before a match to increase their chances. Common to Senegalese wrestlers is rubbing a foot on a stone or rubbing themselves with lotions or oils to increase good luck.

In April 2008 a BBC documentary entitled Last Man Standing covered the lives of a group of British and American hopefuls at a boot camp in Senegal who took on Senegalese opponents [5]. Laamb was featured in the 2005 film L’Appel des arènes (English title Wrestling Grounds).

Laamb is the Wolof word for “fight”

Since the 1950s, Senegalese Wrestling, like its counterparts in other areas of West Africa, has become a major spectator sport and cultural event. The champions of traditional wrestling events are celebraties in Senegal, with fighters such as Yékini, Tyson and Bombardier (stage names) the best known. [6]