KHURMAL, Kurdistan Region — The Iraqi Karate Team is preparing to participate in the Asian Karatedo Championships in Malaysia with four members from the Kurdistan Region.
Four Karate students from Khurmal and three from Sulaimani are training and vying for the spots.
"I am a Karate fighter from the Peshmerga Club of Sulaimani. At the same time I am a participant with an Iraqi team..." Karate student Roza Yunis told Rudaw.
The championship is only for practitioners under 21 years old.
"We’ve been training for 15 days. We train five days in Khurmal and five days in Sulaimani," she said.
Coach Mustafa al-Attal, who hails from Egypt, says the students have good abilities.
"The Kurdish students have a high level [of training]. What is important is that they still continue training. They’ve been training for a long time," he said.
Ten participants are training at the gym in Khurmal, Halabja Province.
"They eat healthy foods and have a good environment. This strengthens their abilities. Now we are preparing for the Asian championship that will be held at the end of the month," he added.
Four of them will be selected to represent Iraq in the championship in Malaysia.
"I got the first place in Iraq's [first round] tournament which was held in Duhok and was chosen to go to Baghdad. We were five and went to Baghdad for a second tournament where other contestants from Basra, Najaf and other places took part. In that tourney, four of us were selected. We have been receiving training from an Egyptian trainer. We hope we’ll have a good result," said Karate student Bzhar Mehdi.
A continental youth championship lasts from April 26-28.
With the rising global popularity of mixed martial arts, Kurds are getting a chance to showcase their long history with Karate, Taekwondo, Wrestling and other combat sports.
Reporting by Amal Najee