We’ve all seen Karate movies. I’m sure most of us here associate the fighting discipline with Chinese and Japanese culture. But in recent years, Karate as a sport has gained traction all over the world.
Even in Pakistan, there are academies and training centers where boys and girls, dressed in immaculate karategi, train with their teachers in this ancient martial art. More skilled than anyone else in the country are the residents of Quetta, who count Bruce Lee as one of the biggest inspirations behind making martial arts mainstream in their region. There are some who even wish, and have succeeded in representing Pakistan at the global stage.
Kulsoom Hazara is one such individual. She was the first female ‘karateka’ to represent Pakistan at international competitions. She participated in the 2012 Asian Championship, squaring off against fighters from various Asian countries.
Kulsoom belongs to the Hazara community in Balochistan. The Hazaras have faced various threats and challenges to their way of life, in the face of militant organizations, lack of governmental support and security.
Amidst such a bleak outlook, Kulsoom didn’t allow her circumstances to come in the way of her goals.
Kulsoom’s journey as a martial artist started at a very young age. Her brother-in-law introduced her to Karate, during a time when Kulsoom was going through a very personal tragedy. She had lost both her parents.
It was Karate which proved to be the means to flush out her anger and pain. But tragedy struck again when her brother-in-law became a victim of target killing in 2007. To honor the memory of those who passed away, Kulsoom decided that to turn Karate into a means to an end.
After losing most of her family, karate was all she was left with.
The 28 year old says:
I come from a conservative society but the support I got from my sister and her husband laid a strong foundation and it was their encouragement that drove me into this. I belong to the Hazara community but I carry on with this, knowing fully that our culture dictates our lives – where women are obliged to be modest and conservative.
Coming from a background which lacks facilities and is traditionally dominated by males, Kulsoom has broken stereotypes to become a professional ‘karateka’ and make a name for herself and Pakistan.
Since her career began, she has won several national titles and two gold medals at the South Asian games. Both her gold medals were won in India and she secured a gold and a silver medal in South Asian Karate Championship in New Delhi, last year. Her first gold medal came in a South Asian Karate event in India.
The Baloch girl recently represented Pakistan in the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. Kulsoom lost the bronze medal match after close competition.
She believes that there’s still room for improvement and that she can compete with the world’s best and come out victorious.
Pakistan team at the opening ceremony of Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku, Azerbaijan
Apart from sports, the South Asian champion is pursuing a Masters degree in Health and Physical Education. She plans to work as a fitness consultant while coaching future female karate players.
She has become a role model for the next generation and help them reach greater heights in their professional martial arts careers.
Not only is Kulsoom making a name for herself in the sport arena, she is also trying to send a message that women are capable of much more. Her professional career is also an example of how someone from a difficult background and without official support can still come a long way.
We wish her good luck in her upcoming competitions and hope she secures more gold medals for Pakistan.