x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Indian kung fu master brings training to the UAE

Short and slight of build, this Indian national is a kung fu master with a calm exterior.

Mujeeb Rahman demonstrates a fighting stance during his class at the Kodokan Martial Arts Club in Ajman.
Mujeeb Rahman demonstrates a fighting stance during his class at the Kodokan Martial Arts Club in Ajman.

DUBAI // Mujeeb Rahman is quiet, short and thin, and seems a man at peace with the world.

He doesn't look like a kung fu master with more than 25 years of experience.

Yet Mr Rahman has trained officers at the Malabar Special Police in India and studied kung fu with Shaolin monks in Zhengzhou, China.

At 165cm tall and weighing 58kg, he walks with a confident gait and a smile on his face.

"True martial arts are about restraint," says Mr Rahman, 39, from Kerala.

He says Mixed Martial Arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championship send out the wrong message.

"They encourage people to use their skills to go on the attack and fight, where kung fu is really about protecting yourself.

"Just by blocking an attacker's kicks and punches in the proper way you inflict pain, delivering a message that you also can hurt them but without inflicting maximum damage."

A hajji, having undertaken the pilgrimage to Mecca, Mr Rahman is a pious man who performs his prayers five times every day on time.

He is also a sifu, the Chinese term for master. Sifu Mujeeb, as he is called by his students, has never been in a street fight in the time he has been practising martial arts. He saves his fighting moves for training and tournaments.

A member of the Binladin family, who has been studying kung fu under Mr Rahman, says he remembers the first time he met the master.

"When I started with Mujeeb, the first thing he told me was that he wouldn't train me if I wanted to go out and fight," says Mr Binladin, who preferred not to give his first name.

"I learned that kung fu is about physical fitness, mental control and self-defence. It's not about going out and beating people up."

Mr Rahman began his martial arts training at the age of 13, encouraged by his father. His father had been trained in kalaripayattu, one of the oldest fighting systems in the world, developed in Kerala.

"Martial arts actually originated in India around 5,000 years ago and kung fu 2,000 years ago there as well," Mr Rahman says.

"The Bodhidharma [a Buddhist monk] took kung fu to China 2,000 years ago, where Shaolin monks developed it.

"That's why kung fu is thought to be of Chinese origin but in reality it originated in India."

Mr Rahman trained in kalaripayattu for three years, then karate for a year before moving on to kung fu.

By the time he was 24 he had earned his black belt in kung fu. At that time he moved to Saudi Arabia to be with his father, who was working as an ambulance driver.

The young Mr Rahman found immediate success, winning a tournament held by the Asian Martial Arts Federation.

Soon after he was approached by the KTG sports club in Jeddah to teach kung fu. He remained in Saudi Arabia for 10 years before moving to Dubai, where he has continued to teach kung fu in Dubai, Ajman and Umm Al Qaiwain.

On Thursday nights, he is in Ajman at the Kodokan Martial Arts and Fitness Club.

His students travel from all over the UAE to train with him, wherever he may be.

Alawi Al Safi has been practising kung fu since Mr Rahman's arrival in the Emirates.

"Sifu Mujeeb teaches us kung fu and through it he teaches us to spread peace around people," Mr Al Safi, 24, says.

"We use kung fu to spread peace and defend ourselves from bad people. It's a spiritual sport that teaches you about yourself and how to treat people."

ealghalib@thenational.ae