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The School of Hard Knocks

The School of Hard Knocks

Issue 2 Nov / Dec 2003

By virtue of the fact that he is five years old, Habib insisted that he could punch harder than me. No sooner had his fist finished pounding away at my palm had I almost started to believe him. Underestimate the opposition at your own peril, as they say.

So began my introduction to the weekly boxing lessons at the UKIM’s West London Islamic Centre. The centre has been offering physical activities to the community for the past six years. Inspired by role models such as Danny Williams, ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed and of course, Muhammad Ali himself, boxing is enjoying something of a revival amongst Muslims. Not just for the sake of sport, but also for the health and social benefits which it brings.

Imran Hameed, one of the instructors, explains. “Compared to the martial arts, boxing is unique because of its comprehensiveness. The lower, middle and upper body are all exercised rigorously through a mix of skipping, bag work, sparring and circuit training; and most importantly, it gives an excellent cardiovascular workout”. To maintain a good state of health is to fulfil a prophetic injunction, as the hadith mentioned at the beginning of this article testifies. Many exercises (including running and wrestling) have been encouraged by the Prophet and physical wellbeing, it seems, aids spiritual growth.

The mix and diversity of participants at the boxing class is eclectic with some recent attendees being of pensionable age and some travelling from as far as Oxford! The reason for the broad appeal of this sport lies in its simplicity, according to Imran. “Effort, resilience and  determination are paramount, with skill coming secondary to stamina.” One of the regular attendees, Afzal, offers instruction on the art of the right hook. He has been training here regularly for two years.

As well as the promotion of wellbeing and brotherhood, Imran emphasises that learning how to defend oneself is also of paramount importance. However, he stresses that the class ethos is that any fighting skills learnt are only to be employed when strictly necessary; ostentation is frowned upon, and egos left at the door. Boxing as a sport, therefore, has a great deal to offer participants. The myriad of personal and group benefits as well as the reformed characters of many of the young boxers here bear witness to this. In the words of the great Muhammad Ali, “If they can make penicillin out of mouldy bread, they can sure make something out of you”.


Boxing classes are held at the UKIM:

West London Islamic Centre, Brownlow Road, West Ealing W13, on Thursdays from 7.30pm-9.30pm and

Sundays from 2.30pm-4.30pm. All welcome. For further details please call 020 87994425 or 020 840 4140.

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