Wrestling in Ancient Nubia
It’s been a while since I’ve posted on the site. Apologies! Hopefully as the world gears up for the Olympic Games and begins inspecting their origins in Greece and their home countries, more information on traditional styles will be uncovered.
The following piece is from Scott T. Carroll, Assistant History Professor at Gordon College, who spent years researching the origin of Nubain wrestling, something he claims reaches back to the earliest records of Ancient Egypt and some of whose physical traditions live on unmolested.
According to an oral tradition, the Nuba began wrestling in order to imitate certain species of monkeys which were abundant in the hill country. The young monkeys played by trying to overthrow each other.(31) The Nuba wrestlers imitate certain animal and insect characteristics while wrestling. Like a baboon or monkey threatening its foe, the Nuba will rub his hands on the ground; (and it helps his grip). He stamps his feet and roars like a bull. Flicking his tongue and moving his fingers like a large flying insect, the Nuba dances into the ring, not as a man, but representing the spirit of his cattle herd.(32)
The Nuba wrestling matches are quite thrilling. The spectators enthusiastically cheer for their village heroes. Oskar and Horst Luz, while studying the Nuba, wrote an exciting description of how the matches were fought:
“A wrestler dances into the ring, looks challengingly around, assumes a fighting stance, elbows on his knees-and waits. Whoever accepts the summons enters the ring. . . . Now the two men take measure of each other, crouching, wary, flexing bulging biceps. To over awe the opponent, they whirl with springy steps, shake arms and shoulders, limber up, and ripple their muscles. One wrestler darts forward, taps his head, feints probingly, backs away, flicks his tongue in and out, advances again. The easy graceful movements resemble advance. The adversary springs forward, reaches down, tries to seize his opponent’s legs. The two grapple, arms coiled around each other. One lifts his opponent and attempts to throw him to the ground, but the other, catlike, lands on his feet. It is only a momentary reprieve. A quick fake, a rush, another clinch, another lift-and this victim is slammed on his buttocks to the ground. Next match!”(33)