As Maghrib Azan is distributed, students and masters share their homemade snacks and dates.
It’s 6:30 p.m. and an Iftar table is set up in this martial arts studio in Dubai. Huddled around him, ready to end their fast, are Master Grant Randall, a Muslim convert; his non-Muslim assistant, Master Karel Josh De Vera; instructor Elim Asangaziev and some students enrolled in the advanced athlete class.
This is the daily evening routine at the dojang (training area) of WTTU MooDuk Taekwondo at DIFC during the holy month of Ramadan.
As Maghrib Azan is distributed, students and masters share their homemade snacks and dates. There are jokes, laughs and lots of fond memories as the small group breaks their fast together, as seen in the video below:
British master Grant Randall is the Kwan jang-nim or master of the dojang. Master Karel Josh De Vera, the SaBumNim or guide/master comes from the Philippines. The Kyo Sa Nim or instructor is Elim Asangaziev, from Kyrgyzstan. This is his first Ramadan in the UAE.
“I first started fasting as a sign of respect to Master Grant,” said Josh De Vera. “The first day I fasted, it lasted 16 hours. I had such a bad headache I thought I could never do it a second time. But I did it again and started noticing huge differences in my health. That’s why I started doing it regularly. This is my fourth year of Ramadan fasting and it’s a really special time for me.
After breaking their fast, the masters have no time to rest. Two of them rush to finish their Maghreb prayers before resuming training.
As soon as the children finish their training at 7 p.m., the adult class begins.
“We don’t have time to eat,” Elim Asangaziev said. “If we eat after Iftar, we won’t be able to continue training effectively. We have dinner later in the evening after returning home.
As the others finish their prayers, Master Josh – pictured below – makes a protein shake with peanut butter, milk and chocolate flavored whey protein.
“The drink is usually something we take after practice,” he said. “But during the month of Ramadan, we have it after iftar to have the energy to continue training.”
Even during the holy month of Ramadan, intense training continues as usual and there is no drop in energy levels, despite the fasting of masters and many students.
For brother-sister duo Falak Jalal, 12, and Hamza Jalal, 10, this is their first year training while fasting.
“It’s a bit difficult,” Falak said. “Sometimes I forget which leg to kick with. But I really like sitting with the masters and my friends to break my fast. It’s special.
“I also like to train while fasting,” Hamza said. “Especially because we only have to do five push-ups while the rest of the class has to do 10.” Students train while fasting below:
“We don’t spare fasting students,” said Master Grant Randall. “However, their energy surprises us most of the time. They are ready and eager to leave. It’s really nice to be able to walk them through martial arts and how to train safely while fasting.
For Mehreen Arfaz, 11, this is the second year she has fasted during training. “Last year, my parents were worried about whether I would be able to do it,” she said. “I wanted to give it a try and thought it was good. I wasn’t hungry or anything. But last year, classes ended before Iftar. This year, I like to have Iftar here. It’s a very nice feeling.“
For his 9-year-old brother, Zayaan, it was the first time he trained while fasting. “I was always afraid that it would be difficult,” he confessed. “But it’s not as difficult as I thought. So, I will continue to train while fasting. I like it.”
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