A profile of Emirati taekwondo expert Eid Al Mesmari.
My UAE: Eid Al Mesmari, a martial arts master who packs a punch
Eid Al Mesmari is a taekwondo coach and founder of the Fujairah Taekwondo Club. He organises free martial arts classes six days a week for Fujairah youth, from ages three to 18.
Despite his base in the more conservative Fujairah community, Mesmari is an advocate of female participation in combat and self-defence sports at local and national levels. He works with families to provide a setting where girls can learn taekwondo while respecting Emirati values.
"I believe if we give them a chance, the girls will do something with it. An Emirati girl can do something, but we have to give her the right support in training, the right person to teach her and we have to give her the time. I believe in our girls. Our girls are so smart and this is a smart game. I believe our girls can do anything."
Martial arts came to Fujairah in the early 1990s, when Mesmari was a rambunctious teenager. "I was a child full of energy, jumping here and jumping there," says Mesmari. "I'd be with my cousins or with my friends in my neighbourhood and my friends would be crying to my parents: 'Eddie has beaten me up'. My mom would tell me not to do that. She'd say: 'You're going to lose friends. Be good to people and people will be good to you'."
Discipline came through the martial arts. After exploring kick-boxing and muay Thai, Mesmari found taekwondo. His coach promised him: "I'm going to teach you how to be a sportsman, not like an animal".
Mesmari's training intensified after a visit to his cousins in North Carolina. He went on to live in the US, returning to the UAE with a North Carolina accent and a business management degree from Duke University. Back in Fujairah, he represented the military national taekwondo team for nine years and served as captain.
"Taekwondo is a real sport, it's classic," says Mesmari. "It's like when you ride a Rolls-Royce."
Favourite martial artist?
Bruce Lee. He’s one of the first men who jumped up and said: ‘Martial arts is not just for trainees, it’s for everybody’. He’s the first man who combined the martial arts, who mixed martial arts like boxing and wrestling.
Fish. I love fish. Grilled hammour. Right now, of course, I don’t eat it. Right now we’re helping it only to live. We stopped fishing it.
Favourite travel destination?
Korea. Let’s say it like this: when I was a kid I was just a little bit naughty in school. This martial art [taekwondo] from Korea taught me to be good. I have a lot of love for Korea and its culture because wherever you go in this country you will see new ideas.
Best advice from your parents?
Just be yourself and love people and don’t make trouble. My father, he told me that people think if you are the first to say you’re sorry, you are weak, but he said: ‘No, you are so strong’. Just be honest.
One thing that you can’t live without?
My religion. My religion teaches me to be good and honest in this life. That’s why I say I cannot live without it. I pray five times a day.
Favourite place to train?
At the beach. Just because the beach is a quiet place, and I love to go there early in the morning because it’s empty and nobody’s there.
My team, The Fujairah Taekwondo Club. All of them. You see how young they are. There’s 70, from ages three until 18. I am really, really proud of what I do.
Salsa. I love it. I love dancing it, but I dance it in my own way. I know salsa is between two people but I dance alone.
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