Who says women are not equal to men when it comes to physical strength? Samina Tai and Kehkashan Nadeem are two such women who have proved this statement wrong by their excellent performance...
-a force to reckon with
Believe it or not, women have always been the more energetic gender and not to forget they are good at multi-tasking as well. This is why they can manage a home, take care of the kids and build a career at the same time. One such lady who has been managing her children with an inspirational career is Samina Shah Tai.
Wife of Grand Master Muhammad Ashraf Tai and mother of four children - two of them below 5 years of age - Samina, runs a family business with her husband. However, what is unique about what she does is the nature of her work. Samina doesn’t just run a normal business; she takes care of the Tai Karate Centre, Karachi, and at least three Tai gyms located at different places all over the city. Yes, we usually don’t associate fitness and health related jobs to women as they require physical strength, but this woman has managed to impress us all.
Samina’s fiery temperament helps her to fight and she has proved herself to be a good fighter in Martial Arts, a field where women seldom make any achievements.
Born in Abbottabad, Samina moved to Karachi when she was a teen with her mother and two brothers after her father’s death.
“I grew up in a strict household, my mother reared us with a steel hand. She had no issues in disciplining us using different means - we were reprimanded sometimes physically and I think that helped us to keep on a straight path,” says Samina.
Regarding how she developed an interest for this career, she shares, “I was never a timid girl, I was always a tomboy in every sense of the word. I grew up with my brothers and I always wanted to be strong like them and was determined to prove that women could do anything.”
For her, education is the most important thing in one’s life but so is fitness and health. But to achieve fitness and health one has to work hard. She began training in martial arts with her two elder children at Tai Karate Centre run by renowned Martial Arts expert Ashraf Tai - Samina’s husband. One would think that since her husband owned and trained at the centre she would be given a little more attention.
“I was given the same kind of vigorous training just like all the others, if not more. Sir Tai (this is what she calls her husband like all his other students because she has been trained by him in Martial Arts) didn’t allow any short cuts, in fact he would select me for the toughest competitions,” she tells.
With the right amount of passion and aggression Samina soon proved herself as a great fighter. Samina is also trained in using the nun chucks and has received many medals in her long career.
“Sir Tai saw the spark in me and encouraged me to train. I trained and later fought with the male fighters mainly because girls were too scared to engage with me. Fighting with male fighters made me stronger but in the process I also got a lot of injuries and broken bones but I never let that pull me down. I always took the challenge and exerted myself,” informs Samina.
According to Samina Tai there is no male or female when it comes to competition.
“I don’t think there is anything women can’t do. I don’t believe in weakness - one has to try everything. My own daughter is a black belt and I make her participate in the toughest regimes because if you are a fighter you can’t be scared. I tell the same thing to girls who come to the centre,” she stresses.
Samina Tai accepts all challenges and believes the more dangerous the better. She has even tackled a bull on a reality show in which she brought the bull down. From hockey breaking with the shin to ice breaking she has done it all. She broke 6 blocks of ice with her elbow and stone breaking on her abdomen.
Three of her four children are black belts - the youngest is just five and he got his black belt at the age of three, making him the youngest black belt in Pakistan. “I want all my children to excel in Martial Arts and I don’t let them take any short cuts,” adds Samina.
Samina got her black belt in one and a half year - which is a feat in itself. “I see that girls nowadays - and even boys - lack the passion that I had during my training years. When I was giving the test of my black belt, I fought with two male fighters, out of which one was a 2nd Dan (rank) at the time,” she shares.
Regarding the benefits of martial arts, she says, “I believe Martial Arts training helps you to not only remain fit but enables you to defend yourself. In today’s world it is very important that people know how to defend themselves, especially girls. I think all girls should at least train in self-defence.”
Samina has won many tournaments in Martial Arts all over Pakistan. “I was the first woman ever to participate in the National Championship 2006 which was held in Lahore and I got a silver medal in Shotokan style of Karate.” Samina has also received many medals and awards - three of them in National Games held in different districts of Karachi.
“Women should not be considered less than men, we have the strength to do anything if we put our minds to it,” concludes Samina.
Photography by Shahzaib Ali