The Ancient art of Abotri
The concept of fright or fight necessitated the human ability to flee dangers or wrestle when challenged to resolve conflicts, respectively. Nature endowed the human body with necessary, natural tools to defend itself, spontaneously. Out of the needs for humankind to defend, offend, or compete without dangerous and artificial weapons gave birth to Abortri, naturally. No matter the purpose of an Abortri bout, the ultimate goal is to display superiority of strength and wit by grounding the opponent. Before the invention of outboard motors, the hard work—rowing (propelling canoes with oars and manning the helm—“lanpado”), hoisting and lowering sails, the casting of nets, retrieving nets with heavy fish load, and other manual tasks —of GaDangme fishermen manifested in well-built physiques. What a better way to exhibit these physiques and strengths during spare time than showcasing Abortri prowess. While boxing depends on weight groupings and hence heterogeneous age groups, Abortri, on the other hand, focuses regularly on competing close-range homogeneous age groups.
Among the GaDangme people of Ghana, the fishermen are the experts of Abortri. Humorously, it is fair to say that Abortri was (during our ancestral era) and still is included in GaDangme imaginary, congenital, human, instructional manual or DNA. Purpose and usefulness Most of the time, household chores, work, and play can be drudgeries in GaDangme households and lives without considering the economic and health benefits. The community, relatives, and family encourage hard work in all activities through endless naggings and insults. As a result, Gadangme people may be conditioned to gracefully embrace domestic responsibilities and economically rewarding tasks, of which Abortri fits into that hard work framework and unconscious, healthful regimen or routines.
Other purposes and usefulness of Abortri are settling of disputes, sports, competitions, and measure of war preparedness.The formidability and performance proficiency of competitors may be deduced and related to war achievements and past fitness activities, among others. Occasionally, Abortri was used to settle disputes, which usually stipulates winner takes all, including determining who marries who, in the old days. Also, Abortri euphoria abounds in the audience of these competitive sports, especially where an undefeated champion wrestles a fearful challenger. Besides Homowo Kpashimor, when future and current warriors are paraded, Abortri was used to select and determine prospective brave warriors. The past Abortri wins are reliable indicators of the future performances of the champion or the underdog. Perhaps, in addition, the Abortri fights and contestants’ performance may attest to the healthy condition of the contestants, since there are no physical test requirements before fights. Expectedly, an Abortri win brings respect and fame to the winner.
Techniques and Moves
There are several complex moves and technique in Abortri. It requires frequent practices through friendly bout to master the full scope of Abortri. Although power, weight, and height are advantageous to the Abortri wrestler, intelligence and perfection of techniques (hand and legs movements) are keys to ambitious Abortri wrestlers. The rushing of an opponent and attempting to ground one’s opponent is predictable for initiating and renewing physical contact. An Abortri wrestler applies contingency approach, some pre-existing and pre-meditated, while others are prompted and necessitated by the confusing and surprising move of the opponent, intuitive counter attacks and balances. Nonetheless, there are common moves such as back arching to exert pressure and pain on the opponent’s back and vertebrae, thus tripping backward an opponent with one leg strategically placed behind the opponent’s legs. The traditional lift and drop moves works well for powerful Abortri wrestlers. A tricky Abortri wrestler may use pseudo resistance that they may reverse by suddenly easing the resistance conveniently to the canny wrestler’s favor, thus pulling and using the opponent’s forward motion and thrust to assist gravitational pull, grounding the opponent. The agility to move legs out of vulnerable situations helps to keep Abortri wresters standing. The success of an Abortri wrestler depends on cleverly applying appropriate counter attacks, techniques, and moves to outwit the unsuspecting opponent.
I grew up around a bunch of fisher-folks who were apprentices learning carpentry in my neighborhood. They were often the instigators of Abortri fights, and I will never back out or down in the face of such challenges. I did not want to lose my reputation as a strong fighter. While my pre-occupation was to win an Abortri match and redeem my reputation, I did not realize that the carpenters at Asafoatse Oblie’s carpentry workshop—who may qualify today as bullys and apprentices who are transferring aggression from their school of hard knocks—were preserving the ancient art of Abortri. Abortri is or may be safer than most sports. Can you imagine Abortri matches with monetary rewards among local fishermen, while Kpanlogo is being played in the backgroundat a broad shoreline beach or on a padded canvas in a stadium? “Ebaafee gbeyee!” Certainly, it will be entertainingly awesome. Technological advancements such as computers and other electronic gadgets, among others are taking the present generation away from ancient pastimes. I will keep on dreaming of the day Abortri would be sports in GaDangme, public, and private schools in GaDangmeland, but whole Ghana as well.
Written by Nii Boye Martey-Agborsorku