By Sonia Ahmed  |  20 August 2020   

Pakistan’s cultural hub, Lahore, is at the confluence of historical traditions and modern lifestyle. According to the legends, Lava, son of Rama, founded this city, which later came to be known as Lahore after his name.

Lahore was an important city during the Mughal era. Mughal emperors built the Lahore Fort, a UNESCO world heritage site, and other great monuments around it, many of which can still be witnessed within the walled city Lahore.

The walled city, also known as the old city or old Lahore, is also famous for its unforgettable history of pehlwani. It is still home to a few historical akharas (arenas) where you can see pehalwans grappling early in the morning. Albeit, the pehlwani culture is receding, and most people prefer famous martial arts such as MMA, Taekwondo, or Karate nowadays.

Today Lahore is a technologically advanced metropolitan city with a fast-paced life. It’s an MMA stronghold with gyms like Synergy Club and UFC Gym Pakistan training the champions of tomorrow.

Nonetheless, it’s wonderful that the city still clings to its ancestral roots and celebrates its cultural diversity in food, sports, festivities, and everyday life.

Architectural Wonders of The Walled City

Old Lahore is a window into the city’s glorious past. The wall around the Old City is 9 meters tall with 13 gates. However, only six of these gates stand today.

The Delhi gate leads into the 400 years old Akbar Mandi, the oldest and biggest spice market in the subcontinent, set up by Akbar, the Great. Even today, this glorified market is preserved in time precisely as it was in the Mughal era. The path leading from the Delhi gate is known as the Royal Pathway. 

Pakistan Akbar Mandi | Fighting Arts Health Lab

Source: Naveed Ashraf

Royalty used it to enter Lahore and reach the fort. The streets are lined with various havelis and heritage homes.

Half a kilometer inside, you get to see one of the oldest mosques, Wazir Khan Mosque built during Shah Jahan's reign. It is known for its intricate tilework, called Kashi Kari, and elaborate frescoes. You can also witness this level of Mughal art in the nearby Badshahi Mosque, opposite the Lahore Fort.

Wazir Khan Mosque | Fighting Arts Health Lab

Right beside Wazir Khan Mosque is the Shahi Hamam (Royal Bath), which won the Award of Merit by UNESCO for its renovation. It was a luxury bathhouse for royal guests and was built after the traditional Turkish and Iranian architecture and tradition.

Akhara and Pehlwani Culture of The Walled City

On the other side of the walled city are the Bhatti and Lohari gates. This area is famous for its pre-partition akharas frequented by world-renowned pehalwans (wrestlers) of yesteryears.

Long before daybreak, you can find pehalwans softening the mud and rubbing the soil mixed with mustard oil on their body. A full bowl of Sardai, thick milk with crushed dry fruits, is also an essential part of their morning routine.

Legendary pehalwans, Bholu brothers, and the world-famous Jhara pehalwan, grandson of the Great Gama, used to frequent these akharas and practice in that very soil.

Gama pehalwan, Rustam-e-Hind, defeated Stanislaus Zbyszko in England and won the Rustam-e-Jahan title. It took him only two minutes to defeat American wrestler Benjamin Roller. Gama remained undefeated; people used to say that only death could defeat Gama.

True to his legacy, his grandson Jhara became the first Asian wrestler to defeat the legendary American wrestler Hulk Hogan and the famous Japanese wrestler Inoki. Inoki also visited these akharas on Jhara's invitation and, some years later, returned to take Jhara's nephew, Haroon Abid, with him to train as a wrestler.

If you're a traveling fighter and wish to see the ancient pehlwani culture up close, you can book a competent guide to help you get the most out of your experience and assist with any language barrier.

Synergy - First Step Towards Advanced MMA Sports in Lahore

Outside the walled city, you will experience a very different Lahore. Although you’ll find many karate and taekwondo clubs, MMA is fast becoming the nation’s heartthrob.

Bashir Ahmed Somchai, a Pakistani American MMA athlete, brought world-class MMA to Pakistan. Known as the God-father of Pakistani MMA, he opened his first gym, Synergy, in a rented house in Lahore.

After five years of success, he created his dream project, Team Shaheen, and later tried to gather all the MMA practitioners under the banner of Pak MMA. If you’re in Lahore, you can train with Bashir and his brilliant team at Synergy Club.

He is on a mission to create tomorrow’s MMA champions representing Pakistan at the international level.

Pakistan Synergy Fitness and MMA | Fighting Arts Health Lab

The club has a regular training schedule from Monday to Friday, but you can also train with them on weekends. The Weekend Warrior program is led by one of the best boxing athletes of Pakistan, Usman Zulfiqar, a certified boxer from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).

Usman is a two times Illinois champion in boxing and also holds the record of winning the Golden Glove Championship in the 125-pound category. Besides MMA and boxing, Synergy is one of the few authentic clubs that teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The instructor Jazzie Rashad is one of the finest practitioners of BJJ in Pakistan.

The club believes in ‘fit for all’ and offers a flexible training schedule for everyone.

Lahore offers a unique opportunity to experience a deep-rooted culture in a modernized urban city. Enjoy the lip-smacking food from famous Lahori Food Streets and practice with future One Champions. Don't forget to enjoy the nightlife in the city that never sleeps!

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About the author

Sonia is a holistic health and fitness writer who believes that we cannot lead a happy and fulfilling life unless we treat ourselves and the environment with equal care. Being a mum and a full-time professional writer, she knows how everything else takes a back seat when duties call. As a professional writer, she considers it her duty to inspire, motivate, and educate people about the miracles of a healthy and fit lifestyle, one that's in sync with the environment.

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