Waleed Shah has been a member of the Pak MMA team for a little less than 2 years, he is an active member of the organization and is seen around all major happenings in the MMA scene in Pakistan. We welcome Waleed Shah to our ever expanding group of writers.
I was introduced to MMA in Pakistan by a very close friend. When I was told that I will be going to a “gym”, I had already perceived how it is going to be. I had in my mind a place where there will be a number of machines for weight lifting, some tread mills and exercise cycles and free weights here and there. What I saw was something akin to a cultural shock.
It was a small basement gym with no exercise cycles, no tread mills, no machines, no grunting and growling guys with bulging muscles. Instead, there was boxing ring in one corner and wrestling mats which doubled both as the exercise and practice area. There were few free weights but nothing like you’d see in a traditional gym. It looked like a minimalist approach to what a gym usually is. This was my 1st visit to Shaheen MMA Academy in DHA Lahore..
I went to the gym because I wanted to lose weight. To me the prospect of learning how to box, fight and to learn how to defend myself while losing weight and getting in shape was exciting as it was completely different than the usual methods used for weight loss. Here, not only I was going to lose weight, I was going to have fun doing that and I was also going to learn new skills. Skills that everyone in my opinion must learn.
I met Bashir Ahmad who was the head coach, trainer and owner. Day one and I was made to go through some of the toughest exercises I have ever had to go through in my whole life. I have played Rugby for Lahore so I was not alien to tough workouts. However, I was neither mentally and in no way physically ready for what I was made to go through. Day 1 at the gym had taught me few things: This is not your traditional gym. They are not just going to help you lose weight, they are going to train you like a warrior. In the next few days, as I started to get to know the guys, I found everyone really warm, really easy going and very friendly. These were guys who would get into the ring every Friday and would punch each other out without holding back. As soon as the bell rang and the round was over, they would be brothers, friends and comrades.
Even though I was told not to push myself too hard, I decided that I was good enough to get into the ring and spar. A freak accident led to an injured knee and I was out for over a year. My weight loss effort had come to an abrupt end. In this one year, a lot changed. Shaheen MMA Academy moved to a new, bigger and better location in DHA and took on a new name. It is now known as Synergy MMA Academy. There are classes in the morning and females have started to come into train as well. From one MMA promotion, we now have 2 MMA promotions in Lahore (VCL & PFC). MMA in Pakistan is now more popular thanks to what Basheer achieved in Singapore. Basheer “the coach” I knew, had won his fight in ONE FC and is widely being recognized for his efforts and rightly as God Father of MMA in Pakistan.
The location of the gym may have changed, MMA in Pakistan may have gained more popularity; the soul of this gym has not changed at all. Besides it being completely different than a traditional gym, this “hang out” is unique in many ways. You will find guys from every level of the society working out at the same time. I have seen CEO’s of companies working out alongside waiters from local restaurants. No one bothers who you are. There is an atmosphere of mutual respect where who you are outside the gym means nothing inside the gym. One will be hard pressed to find such an atmosphere in any gym in Pakistan.
My knee is fine now. I am going to start my “hang out” again. As I do that, I would like to urge anyone who is reading this, to join Synergy. You have no idea what you have been missing out on. Should you decide to give MMA a try @ Synergy, I want you to come with an open mind. You will not find gleaming, chromed, branded equipment. What you will find is: tough workouts that are geared towards results and enriching your quality of life.