Portrait Fatma Akyüz

Martial Arts as a Means to Strengthen Willpower

Turkish-born German kickboxer Fatma Akyüz has won several international titles in her field, but the toughest fight, she says, had to be fought at home. Kateri Jochum got into the ring with the 2004 World Cup champion.

What do you get when you combine Taekwondo, Karate and Boxing? Kickboxing - the sport that has been growing in popularity over the past few years. The martial art is a great form of self-defence and a mean total body workout. And not just for men.

More and more young women are getting into it too – like Fatma Akyüz. The 29-year-old is the two-time German champ, three-time international German champ, 2004 World Cup champ, and 2001 vice world champ in women's amateur kickboxing. She is currently training to take on the European Championships in the fall.

It is Saturday and 29-year-old Fatma Akyüz gears up – mouth guard in, headpiece over her long black ponytail, velcro gloves on. The 52 kilo flyweight's dark eyes settle on her partner.

"Many women don't know the punch they've got"

The buzzer rings, their gloves slam together, and the air fills with flying feet and gloves. It may just be sparring, but you would never know it by the look on her face.

Kickboxing is a high power, fast-moving, combination of Taekwondo, Karate and Boxing. And it is growing in popularity among women world-wide says Fatma Akyüz.

"Many women have never hit anyone before; they don't know the punch they've got. That's a good experience, a good thing to know. You are more self-assured, you've got a better feeling, and you can train your entire body."

47 fights, 38 wins, 8 losses, 1 tie match – quite an impressive record. But it doesn't include her most difficult fight.

Most difficult fight at home

Turkish born Fatma grew up in Germany in a traditional Turkish family. Married at 16, a mother at 19, Fatma got divorced when she was 20. That was when she took up kickboxing. Her parents were not happy.

"I fought for my sport, and won, against my parents and against my relatives. It wasn't a conscious effort. But it was good that I did. I showed them that a woman can fight for what is important to her. That's the way it should always be. Lots of people should do that. But, unfortunately, many Turkish women don't.

The buzzer rings, and Fatma and her male sparring partner get a minute break. She says that women have definite advantages over men when it comes to kickboxing.

"I think that women are much stronger mentally when they are in a fight. If they get hit hard, if they really take a punch, then they are even more determined and keep fighting. They want to win no matter what."

Back at it, Fatma concentrates on her special combo. Left fake, right cross, left leg swings in for a half circle; then left right left punch and back leg half circle kick.

Great training for other aspects of life

She chases her partner around the matt. Her female students say kickboxing is great training for other aspects of life as well.

"I think that the sport has made me more self-confident," one of them says. "You get – well, harder, in a certain way. You know how to deal with situations better, and you can use your reaction time, speed, in everyday life."

It's the attitude, stupid!

A regular kickboxing match has three rounds, each two minutes long. You win by collecting points – full contact kicks or punches – or through a knock out. Although Fatma trains seven times a week, she says kickboxing is not a matter of pure strength.

"My body is important, I have to feel good, feel strong. But if your head isn't there too, if you are scared of being hit or kicked, then you may as well not fight. You've already lost.

Fatma Akyüz is not lacking in confidence. Sparring may be over for today. But she's not done yet. The European Championships are calling. And the World Championships in 2005. This time, Fatma says, she's going to grab the gold.

Kateri Jochum

DEUTSCHE WELLE/DW-WORLD.DE © 2004

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