ALL in for AFRICA ’17 by Seth Hamilton
All In For Africa 2016 already set the bar high, and it seemed impossible to top. However, the trip this year achieved some new high points in terms of both impact and experience. Seth Hamilton, Pro-MMA fighter, took two of his students from East St. Louis to Senegal and Gambia. They broke new ground in the Gambia and trained athletes in new gyms and other locales, including two seminars on the beach in Dakar! There were even fighters who traveled all the way from St. Louis, Senegal for the seminar. They taught over 400 local fighters between both countries!!
It was great for them to reconnect with the friends they had made last year in Dakar. Bouba even showed them his b-boy skills, teaching them some break dance moves. It was impressive to see how everybody’s fighting skills and technique had advanced in the last year. These guys are beasts!! The AIFA team stayed in the same beach side house and enjoyed the food at Brioche Doree. They revisited several gyms from 2016 and got to see Goree Island as well where they saw the slave houses and the slavery museum, gaining a deeper understanding of one of human history’s most profound tragedies. One of their final seminars was a beach seminar with boys, girls, men, and women. It was with a group of martial artists working together to promote martial arts in the country. There were people from most arts represented giving brief seminars on the different techniques from the plethora of teachers with diverse martial arts pedigrees. “It was organized by one of the LHI coordinators in Senegal, and it was amazing to see so many schools working together after watching gyms work to undermine each other as I have trained, taught, and fought around the world. There is real unity on the ground in this movement, and it shows in how it is growing!!!” Seth remarked. Just getting to Gambia was an adventure in itself. The AIFA squad took a car to the border. From the garage to customs, they rode on some motorcycles. After Customs where they met Luc Paziaud, LHI Gambia project manager, head of the national judo federation, and ecologist extraordinaire, they went to the ferry to cross the river into Banjul. On the crowded ferry one peers off at the river delta filled with fishing boats and possibly dolphins below the sunset. They then took a van from Banjul to Alpha Male gym to get to work with the fighters.
“The fighters were tough! My team was surprised by the natural skills of the Gambians” – Seth Hamilton
The first night was 3 hours of kick boxing. They then went into to the jungle home and reptile farm of Luc’s family in the Gambian bush on the Casamance border of Senegal. They slept to a nocturnal serenade of African frogs. They woke up and went to go learn to catch the wide array of African reptiles including baby crocodiles, monitor lizards, chameleons, green and grey snakes, rock pythons, a Burmese python (HUGE!), and we finished with spitting cobras (Totally optional). They then went back to the gym in the evening for a 3-hour grappling seminar with the fighters. There were even more people this time. The Gambian fighters were still very new to the ground game, but they caught on fast!
“We can’t wait either for the new experiences and to see old friends again” – Seth Hamilton
The next day the team went from the farm to the beach. It was a 10-minute walk, and it was fun to walk the jungle path out to the ocean. They swam in the waves before proceeding to the rock pools where went crab fishing, catching large blue and black crabs that were then cooked and eaten for dinner that evening. They went back to the gym to give their final seminar. Three more hours of grappling, and AIFA’s trio had made a lot of new friends. It is fascinating how martial arts can bind people. They returned at night to eat the crabs and some fresh African cuisine from Luc’s wife. She even taught them how to make the bread African style. The team then made the journey back to Dakar, via the same process by which they came. This time they were greeted by a beautiful ocean sunrise on the ferry and told that next year of Luc’s plan go into the mangroves to catch crocodiles.