Inspiration from a Muslim Woman’s Nightmare to a Black Belt In Training…Story of Elan Elnimrah
As a teen, I always read those books with strong female characters who could defend themselves and gave off a don’t-mess-with-me attitude. However, as much as I wanted, I couldn’t portray myself as such when facing my nightmare. I am a survivor, and during my nightmare I knew I could never be physically stronger. During that time, I thought if I trained in martial arts I would be faster at predicting what would happen next and try to save myself and those I loved. The daydream to become like those female characters I admired became a distant memory, until now. I finally found the opportunity to train in martial arts five years after becoming free from my nightmare.
What type of martial arts is this and why did you choose it?
Choi Kwang Do. I didn’t exactly choose it, it chose me. About a year ago, I went to a self-defence class for teen girls and mothers at a Muslim Community Center. The instructor was an energetic and compassionate Christian lady with a 5th-degree black belt. She was teaching us how to stay safe if someone grabs our hijab, how to walk the streets around campuses, and of course how to disable an attacker and run. I had tears flowing down my face due to the trauma it triggered as I practised with the other girls. I kept in contact with her, and over time I shared with her why I wanted to learn martial arts. She offered to train me as her way of giving back to the community and the future impact I would have to inspire other women and girls.
Choi Kwang Do chose my instructor too. It just happened to be the discipline of a martial arts studio near her home where she enrolled her shy children in and later herself too. We laugh about it, because not only did we both get into martial arts for unique reasons, but that we “chose” one that promotes building of the whole person, is a modern martial arts designed under consultation with biomechanical engineers, physiologists, kinesthesiologists, and other experts, and promotes longevity in the art and great physical and mental benefits. You should read up about it, Grand Master Choi is 75 years old and is still nimble and moves with power. Of course, neither my instructor nor I knew all this when we started!
What are your greatest struggles or fears while training?
Hmmm. I try not to let my struggles or fears overwhelm me. I think my fears for life, in general, carry over into my training. Fear that it will all be taken away. Fear of my distant nightmare. Fear of not being able to continue due to my heavy responsibilities. However, with the Lord’s will, I know my support system and my instructor will guide me through it all. My instructor never refers to IF I receive my black belt, rather she refers to WHEN.
What motivates you to continue with your training?
I was always athletic. There wasn’t any sport I would tell you I couldn’t play growing up- I just never tried skating yet. However, my body had deteriorated significantly after I was free of my nightmare like it made all the sacrifices it could to help me survive to that point. My body knew it no longer had to survive through trauma and unrealistic expectations and told me to focus on caring for it alone now. Since I started training, my body has become healthy again. I don’t feel drained anymore. I love feeling my muscles as I move. I love the sense of accomplishment and self-care it gives me.
The thing that motivates me the most is when I get the opportunity to give back. I was invited to lead a self-defence class at another Muslim Community Center with my instructor and her other students from the dojo(school). The second time, we were able to use the venue to get donations of sanitary pads for women in need and worked with an organization to distribute them. We are working on coordinating a self-defence class at the support agency I received and continue to receive help and support from. Being able to do this is truly my Lord’s mercy on me.
What belts have you covered so far and how long did that take?
I started training this past Ramadhan. My instructor was working with the young ones in my family and me twice a week for a little over an hour. She would give us drills for endurance and technique to work on the days we didn’t train with her, along with training equipment and a punching bag to work with to speed up our progress. Since school started, my instructor works with me once or twice on weekday mornings and every Sunday she stops by on the way home from Church to work with all of us. Choi Kwang Do has 18 belts until black belt, then there are “degrees” of black belt rank, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. each with its own curriculum and test.
So, in about 4 months I have just moved from white, white senior, yellow, and now yellow senior (from bottom to top).
What impact has this had on your deen or spirituality?
My instructor and I are both very spiritual women. We share that spirituality as we chat during warm-up- it may be something we read, something we felt inspired by, or a thought/feeling we had. I know one-way training has improved my deen is my desire to improve my Salah (prayers). I train for hours through several repetitions to perfect a technique- a kick, a block, a punch, requiring my complete attention of body and mind. Why should I not train to improve my Salah? Why should I not perfect each technique- ruku, sujood, qiyaam, and ensure my body and mind are fully aware and devoted during that time of prayer?
Any advice you can give to females who want to pursue training?
Ask. Seek out any opportunity to meet someone, to share what you want to do, and ask how they can help you. I learned many things I wanted to do this way. I learned how to swim 2 years after I became free of my nightmare- I emailed several instructors and asked if they had access to a private pool they could teach me at. I was ready to make sacrifices of time, money, and distance, as the fear of being near water with young ones was very real. I visited one but it was kind of sketchy, way too far, and had murky water! I was ready to give up my search until I found one more instructor I wanted to try. This female swim instructor and I set up a meeting and she ended up inviting me to her private and secluded salt-water pool. We still keep in contact and are good friends.
Martial arts happened the same way. I searched online but didn’t find anyone I felt comfortable contacting. It was just something always in the back of my mind. Then I went to the self defence seminar for 2 hours, waited around to introduce myself to the instructor and exchange contact information. I shared what I wanted to do and she helped me find a way and also became a dear friend of mine.
Whether its martial arts or anything else, meet instructors, trainers, and experts- they will help find a solution that will be comfortable for you. Their passion is your desire to learn.
Lots of love to Muslimah World and followers asking for my first ever interview! If you would like to read more about my journey please subscribe to my blog at www.elanelnimrah.com, follow on twitter @EElnimrah, and on Instagram @ElanElnimrah. I write about my clothing design inspirations, empowerment, martial arts, and other topics close to my heart.
Note this is a true narrative, yet the featured picture is a model, not the person writing the blog.