Arwa: the grappling queen

May 22, 2022

The young practitioner of mixed martial arts deserves support from the government as well as corporate sector

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Combat sports are not made for softies. You need a body of steel to take opponents blows and a sharp thinking mind to outmaneuver your adversary, before he puts your knees on the ground with a lightning move.

Arwa Zameer Afridi is one such daughter of the soil who made the nation proud by winning gold medals in grappling and kickboxing in the prestigious second World ALPKGUT championship (Mixed Martial Art) held in Baku in 2019. Arwa hails from Dara Adam Khel near Kohat, but was born in district Haripur and completed her high school studies there.

She is inspired by her father who was a mud wrestler and earned his living by driving a taxi. The proud Afridi raised his three daughters and a son through sheer hard work.

The 45 to 50 kg category super-fit Arwa played handball, netball, volleyball and basketball at college level. At district level, she played netball, handball, volleyball and field hockey. She was also part of PCB Abbottabad region women Cricket team in 2008-09 but it was the jujitsu (Niwaza) national gold medal and the judo gold in Quaid e Azam Games for KP that brought her to the limelight of combat sports.

A simple, soft spoken and upright Arwa loves to eat rice and chicken while pomegranate and guava are her favourite fruits. While explaining the difference between judo and karate she said that judo primarily involves body maneuvers against the opponent whereas Karate is a hard-hitting form of martial arts where blows are landed on the opponent's body. Arwa said that a karate player draws his or her energy from mother earth and uses it against the opponent whereas energy for judo is drawn from the opponent and redirected towards the mother earth by tossing the opponent down.

Arwa further explained that in karate points are earned from kicking and punching whereas in judo points are earned through grappling and throwing with a similarity to wrestling. She said that karate is an attacking form of martial arts whereas judo is purely defensive in nature.

Arwa joined the Army as a contractual athlete where her skills in martial arts were initially sharpened by the skillful Baba Riaz. She was later coached in judo by Talib Husain of Army and by Iranian coach Sajjad Kazmi.

She said that sports made her fearless and confident. Arwa said that combat sports sharpened her communication skills and taught her to negotiate all kinds of challenges and pressures.

Arwa confidently said that she is no less than any of his male colleagues, and urged women to play sports regularly, as it would help them a great deal to overcome the challenges of daily life and challenges thrown by society.

Arwa said that Covid hurt her growth as an elite sportswoman because she was at her peak during the past two years.

Arwa is a fighter who doesn't give up easily. She is now preparing for ALPAGUT World Cup 2022 to be held in June in Bursa, Turkey. Then she will compete in the 3rd World ALPAGUT Championship in November this year.

She is in high spirits and in top physical condition, but like many other promising athletes Arwa also has financial constraints. Her federation is new and not in a position to support her. Arwa is not just an athlete but has the potential to be a "Product" for the corporate world. The corporate world in Pakistan needs to support this sharp-featured champion, who can carry the logo of their product for promotion at international pedestal.

Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) under its new leadership may also consider sponsoring Arwa's trip to Turkey. I am optimistic that Arwa can make Pakistan proud in Turkey. I am also confident that there are many budding athletes in Pakistan who, if supported by respective federations, sport boards and corporate sector under their CSR programs, can bring many laurels for the country.

We need to look beyond a few pet sports and invest in new and promising sports like ALPAGUT in which Pakistan can win medals. Arwa is a symbol of women empowerment in Pakistan. She represents the bold and self-made segment of our society, who shouldn't be ignored because of lack of financial resources. We wish Arwa and other young female athletes of Pakistan best of luck in pursuit of their goals.

Aamir Bilal is an eminent sports analyst with expertise in sports management and sports for development

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