Cain Velasquez discovers Senegalese Wrestling in Africa | Olympic Outposts

From Chinese martial arts being
practised 4,000 years ago, to amateur boxing first getting
introduced into the Olympics in 1904, combat sports have
been practised all around the world. In Senegal, a former wrestling
known as Laam, or La Lutte, is rapidly taking
over the country. What was once a leisure
activity for fisherman and farmers has now become the most
sought-after profession here in Senegal. Let’s find out how their
passion for this ancient art form drives them to realise
their dreams of being the next champion. (OLYMPIC OUTPOSTS.
PRESENTED BY BRIDGESTONE) My name is Cain Velasquez. I’m a two-time MMA
world champion, and I have fought
for over 10 years. I have practised and perfected almost every combat sport out
there. But I have yet to be
introduced to Laam. Now that I’ve come
to Senegal, I want to learn more about the
beliefs and customs associated with Laam, and how it’s
become an integral part of the Senegalese culture. Dakar is known for
the beautiful beaches. And a lot of the up-and-coming
wrestlers actually train here. So we’re here to
check out a practice. What’s the first
thing that you’re looking for when you’re
out there competing? If I grab my
opponent’s cloth first, I will prevent him to grab
mine and take him down. Now if we both grab then the
moves begin and make a move. This is what Senegalese
wrestling is about. How is it training on sand,
and also competing on sand? When you wrestle
on the hard soil, you got bruises and
wounds all over your body. If your head hits
the hard ground, you may end up with trauma. Whereas here on the sand,
you incur no risk. Wrestling is in our blood. We were born
and raised like that. Our fathers and
forefathers used to do it. We just cannot live without it. We are wrestling so we can
support our families back home, our mums and dads. Fame does not come overnight. You start with small combats
such as small communes and rural areas. But once you win a
major competition, winning becomes easier. Just like he said, we
just want to be champions. That’s why we are here
on the sand practising. They’re going to show me some
Senegal wrestling moves. It’s always good to learn
from different techniques, different fighting style. Got the overhook
here on this side. Tricep on that side, then him
throwing that leg in there, that hip, throw his opponent down. We do that a lot as well. Yeah, wizard,
it’s a good technique. Good technique. Nice. Called a new tap. Underhook to a new tap. OK. They’re using Russian tie-ups. They’re using front
head and arms. They’re using
duck-unders, single legs. Whether it’s Senegal
wrestling, folkstyle wrestling, all different sports,
same technique. In my sport,
it’s always evolving. So when you can ever go out and
learn from a different sport and taking little
bits from that sport and put it into your game,
that’s how people elevate, that’s how people get
better, and that’s how people become champions. Senegalese wrestling is as much
spiritual as it is physical. We’ve come here
to Tivaouane Peul to view one of those rituals
between a Senegalese wrestler and his marabout, or in other
words, his spiritual advisor. This is the marabout here. He’s cut down this
branch, and he’s going to use it for the
first step of this ceremony. You split it open and you jump
over it four times and any hex they put on you just stops. There are lots of mystical
things going with wrestling so people cannot get
you but if they do, you could remove the
juju people put on you. Are all the ceremonies the
same with each fighter? A wrestler has a lot of stuff
so he needs to be surrounded with people who will help out. He has advisers, he has
shamans. People who will tell
him how to properly do things and those people come
from different backgrounds and have various practices but
each of them brings something. Each one of them plays a part. Do you want to show me
the rest of the ritual that you guys perform
before a competition? Once he is done he has to
shower himself with sour milk. Then he will be
ready to wrestle. So you just finished
the ceremony. How do you feel right now? Right now, whoever I am
fighting with I am sure I can win because
of the practice. I trained a lot and
there is something that gives me the strength.
I have the strength of a lion. I am here at Ima Mar
Diop Stadium in Senegal. And the energy here is crazy. The music is non-stop. The wrestlers are actually
their own hype men, getting the fans on their side. The fans are
screaming, and they’re dancing with the wrestlers. Make some noise for
the champs please! Make some noise for
these two champions! The combat so far
has been great. The wrestling technique
has been awesome. I’ve seen a little bit of
punches here and there thrown. These guys know how to wrestle,
and they know how to punch. – Baboye, pleasure to meet you.
– Meet you. You’ve been in this
sport for so long. You’ve been a great champion. What have you learned
over the years? I defeated all the great
champions here in all arenas. That’s why they call me
mbarodi, which means the lion. I behave like a
lion in wrestling. I am fast and strong. What has this sport
brought you? How has this sport
changed your life? Wrestling changed my life. It gave everything
that I have today. It gave me buildings,
fields, etc. I am going the world over. Each President has received me. I supported all of my family –
my mother, my siblings, etc. I took them to Mecca,
I accomplished everything with wrestling. Now that you’ve been in
this sport for so long, in the future, how big do
you see this sport growing? The way I see
wrestling now, well, I started from about one
dollar and a pile of carrots to $200,000-$210,000 so
wrestling has truly expanded. You know I was
the first wrestler to fight abroad in France? We thank you so much. This means a lot to us. Thanks again! This is the last
match of the night. You have the majority
of the people… I would say their
favourite is the wrestler in the black trunks. His name is General. He looks to be the
favourite by his body size, but that doesn’t matter here. Anything can happen here. They’re doing a little bit
of hand fighting to start. They feel the distance of
each guy…each opponent. Some extensions being thrown. Some punches being thrown. These guys looking
for their exact shot. Exact punch. They’re in the clinch. They’re doing some dirty
boxing. Oh! A good combination by
General takes him down. It wasn’t a knockout, but he
got him down with the punches. Look at this place. They’re rushing the sand! My experience here in
Senegal has been so amazing. As a professional MMA athlete
and a long time wrestler, it is key to learn from
other people’s sports. The similarities of this sport
versus what I know of wrestling is the technique. The techniques are similar
all across the board, when it comes to the
takedowns and the strikes. The differences
I would say in this sport is much more spiritual, from what these guys
do before they even come out of the arena. And then once they’re here in
the arena they’re still going. They’re still putting on the
potions, hyping up the crowd. That’s something different
than what I’m used to. After spending some
time here in Dakar, I’ve know now that Senegalese
wrestling isn’t just a sport. It’s a way of life.

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