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High Kicks - Tae Kwon Do

High Kicks - Tae Kwon Do

Issue 100

The ancient martial art of Tae Kwon Do originated in Korea many centuries ago but is now practiced as a hobby, a form of self-defence and an Olympic event in over 100 countries throughout the world. It is unarmed combat that requires discipline, speed and physical prowess.

Yasmeen Nawaz, 25 , from East Kilbride on the outskirts of Glasgow. Ya sme en h as been practicing Tae Kwon Do for seven years and has won many major tournaments and championships at Scottish and British level. 

“I’ve always been a sporty kind of person, and used to watch martial arts fi lms starring Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee with my uncles when I was younger. I played football for my school team which was unusual since I was the only Muslim girl in my school. My friend took me once to a karate class, but I didn’t fancy it much. Then I went to a Tae Kwon Do class when I was a little older and have been doing it ever since.”

Yasmeen’s parents have backed and supported her in all that she has achieved and she insists she has them to thank for her success. “My parents were fi ne with it, in fact they were really behind me as they believe that if that is what I want to do then I should go ahead with it. My dad is really enthusiastic about coming along to my competitions but my mum doesn’t because she doesn’t like to see me getting hit!”

Yasmeen’s recent increase in training is due to the fact that she will be travelling to Iran next year for the International Muslim Women’s Games. “I’m going next year to Iran, where I’ll be representing Britain so hopefully that will be my first International competition. It will be a good experience to go and meet other Muslim sportswomen from across the Muslim world.”

She was chosen to represent Britain after winning The Faezeh Hashe m i Award for Excellence in Sport at this year’s Muslim News Awards for Excellence. “I was thrilled to find that my name had been put forward and when I read the nomination list I was the only female and thought there was no way I was going to have a chance. I was very surprised to win it.” Despite recent media coverage on Yasmeen’s co ntribution towards the sport and her success, she still clarifi es the fact that fame is not her priority. “I’m not in this for the recognition. As long as I get a chance to open more doors for Muslim women who want to take part in sports I will be more than happy. You can be Muslim and a woman and still achieve high standards in sport. You shouldn’t let religious or cultural barriers stop you from achieving the best you can.”

As far as she is concerned, “Tae Kwon Do gives you a lot of discipline, making it especially good for younger people. In this day and age where there is increased Islamophobia, Muslim women in particular should be confident walking down the street without the fear of reprisal or attack. This is where any form of self-defence can be vital. As the Prophet said, “A strong believer is better than a weak believer.” So what do other people think of seeing a Muslim woman involved in a male-dominated martial art? Yasmeen confi dently says that it hasn’t been a problem at all for her. “I’ve had no negative criticism from other Muslims. Whenever I meet new people and tell them I do Tae Kwon Do, they just think that it is amazing that a muslim woman is doing martial arts.”

There are six belts in Tae Kwon Do, white, yellow, green , blue, red a nd black, which measure proficiency and skill. The highest is the black belt which has nine degrees and Yasmeen is currently working on her second degree. She has also sat an instructors’ course and passed, so is now fully qualifi ed to teach from ages 14 to adults. “I want to get across the image to young kids that this can be a fun sport to take part in. If you have fun with the kids, you tend to act the same as them.” The black belt signifies both maturity and proficiency. To this Yasmeen says, “I try to be mature with the kids. They call me Miss or Miss Nawaz, and that’s all to do with the discipline and respect that is taught with the art. You can’t cross the line.”

Now that she is fully qualified to teach, Yasmeen sees herself developing a career within the sport and also promoting the sport to younger Muslim girls. “I would like to open up a small club in Glasgow where I can teach martial arts, especially to Muslim women. I would like to start women-only classes where ever yon e can feel comfortable, sa fe an d increase their self confidence and have fun, all at the same time. This is my plan insha-Allah.”

“I am a Muslim fi rst and my obligations as a Muslim woman are very important to me. I recent ly started to wear hi jab during my training and I will be wearing it during competitions too.” Yasmeen’s busy training schedule has been made busier by the fact that she will be getting married next year. “My fi ance was a bit surprised that I do martial arts, but since he’s also a sporty person we’ve got much in common. Maybe I might be able to persuade him to take up Tae Kwon Do!”

Since Yasmeen has always been supported by her family and friends, she points out the benefi ts of involving parents and having their backing, “If a Muslim girl wishes to take up martial arts or any sport, they should go along and fi nd out more and see if it is something they wish to pursue. Take your parents with you so they know what happens. Being Muslim there will be certain sensitivities that will need to be accommodated. My instructor has no problem with me wearing hijab during practice or with me taking time out to pray. But talk to the instructor and I’m sure they will be more than happy to assist you in any way. As long as you have the heart, then go for it.” 

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