As students of martial arts gather at Dr. Muhammad Khan Sports Academy in Quetta, a boy without arms entered the hall with a small bag on his shoulders. Shoukat Khan, a young martial artist, dressed in his white karate kit and green belt, joined other academy members to carry out the usual warm-up routine.
Khan has been practicing karate for the last 11 years. He learned Shotokan, Taekwondo, kickboxing, and gymnastic, which helped him develop his strength and made his body much stronger. He is now able to protect himself in most situations.
The 22-year-old athlete told the Arab News that he chose to become a professional karate player due to the “sarcastic remarks” of people around him. His sense of indignation also led him to become the first person with a disability in his province to opt for such a hard sports discipline.
Khan won a silver medal in gymnastics at an inter-district championship held in March. He also secured a gold medal for his club earlier when he was asked to fight with another disabled martial artist in a local karate competition in Quetta.
Zakir Khilji, his coach, described him as one of his most disciplined and hardworking students. “I wondered how an armless boy could practice karate,” he said. “But Shoukat astonished me with his courage and passion for martial arts.”
“Today he can perform stunts which most able-bodied people cannot do,” he continued. “He has set a new precedent for other persons with disabilities who sometimes give up hope and find it difficult to face the hardships in their lives.”
Nothing can stop him
While Khan has not participated in national-level competitions since he could not find an opponent in his category, it did not stop him from preparing for the Paralympics.
His elder brother, Zahir, recalled a day when Khan entered the home with a bleeding head after taking up a fight with another boy. He was only nine years old back then, but the incident later compelled him to become a karate player. “Our family and his fellow club members have been campaigning for donations to get prosthetic arms for Shoukat which can cost over Rs1.8 million,” he said.
Khan also enjoyed playing soccer as a child. So much so that he left his studies at a local seminary since he was obsessed with the sport. “I was the captain of the soccer team of our street,” he recollected. “We played a match with the team of disabled football players from Mastung, though they managed to defeat us by 2-0.”
Khan said he had seen many people with disabilities who were begging on different street corners. “I often share my story with such individuals and encourage them to join any sport that they like to play,” he continued. “This helps people face social pressures and live a more colorful life.”
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