Interview with Akram Abdolmaleki: Iranian Female MMA Fighter
Seeing hijabi-clad athletes from Iran competing in sports like running, soccer and rugby are fairly common. What’s not as common is seeing a hijabi-clad mixed martial arts fighter. In fact, I think sister Akram from Iran is the first I know of!
I sat down with Akram to explore her reasoning for choosing mixed martial arts.
What was your upbringing like? I am so blessed that I grew up in a family that everyone loved sports. My father was one of the first Judokas in my province and my brothers pursued the same passion and they were always the top two in Iranian tournaments. I was also 8 years old when I put on my first judo gi and took my first Judo session from my father and it was his love and care that gave me the motivation to stick with the art of Judo for 9 years and then ultimately kickboxing.
What was your main motivation for competing? I was always competitive. My competitiveness was not only to win every match but I always wanted to make sure that my dad was proud of me as a girl growing up in a Muslim country. In another way, I was sort of competing with my brothers as well. I wanted to prove that as a woman we can earn the same respect as men and any time my father praised me in front of my brothers, I felt so good and more victorious that any match I have ever been to.
What was your migration to kickboxing like? As my brothers were competing in judo I decided to become a champion in kickboxing and that is how I found myself in kickboxing rings, fighting for belts. I loved getting punched in the face and every time I fought a hard fight I was more excited to know what was next for me.
What sort of success stories did you have while competing? I won many different events in local, national and international levels in Muay Thai and kickboxing. In 2004 I was honored to be selected as one of the female representatives of Iranian National team and the following year I won the Iranian Judo National championship. In the same year I married one of the most caring and amazing kick boxing coaches for Iranian Sanshou National team, coach Mehdi Oodbashi
In later years, I won the Turkish Thai kick Boxing championship in 2011 and in 2012 I competed in World Martial Arts Festival and defeated fighters from Finland, Turkey, Norway and Vietnam and won the championship.
How did you eventually learn your grappling? In 2006 to have a better quality of life my husband and I traveled to Brasil through a job agency for work and we lived there for two years and worked as welders which was a tough job for a woman and meanwhile we started learning Brazilian Jiu jujitsu in Luis Mazes Academy in Belém in the province of Pará. I got my purple belt in Brazil and I was very interested in testing my BJJ skills when we came back so I stayed very active in that matter
How did you eventually become an MMA fighter and what are your goals with the sport? Training and competing in Judo, Jiujitsu and kickboxing gave me all the tools to blend and become an MMA fighter. I love competition and my goal is to one day be in ONEFC and win their belt. I want to make my family and my country proud and I want to be an inspiration and good example for all those women that live in countries that women have a small role in sports and send them a message that sports are not just for men.
What are some challenges you have in the sport? As you know, MMA is a new sport and it is hard to find fights here especially for females. This has been the biggest struggle to me. I have one loss in my professional career and I am currently 0-1. My loss was because I was forced to accept a fight in Armenia with someone who 8 kilograms heavier than me and I took the fight just because that was the only option I had or I would have to wait for another year.
What advice do you hope to give other aspiring female Muslim fighters? Competing in hijab doesn’t have to limit you. It can be beautiful. I hope to prove to the women in this country that this isn’t a man’s sport anymore.
I know it’s been a while, but as promised, here’s
my post about my trip to Japan! I initially thought I’d have a ton to things to
tell you guys about this trip, but honestly, after returning home I just feel so speechless… because Japan is simply
STUNNING. Anyways, time’s up for writing my impressions in any case!
First of all, I must say I had pretty high
expectations for this trip. Japan has been on the top of my bucket-list for a
while, so when I planned this trip I was quite cautious of not letting my
idealization of this country to become too much. However, it wasn’t even
necessary: Japan was what I had imagined and even more *_*
I spent 3 days in Tokyo, 4 in Kyoto and 1 in
Osaka. The first pics are from the Jump Shop in Tokyo Dome. If you’re wondering
what that shop is, it’s the official shop of the “Shonen Jump” magazine that
publishes some famous shonen manga like Dragon Ball, One Piece and Naruto, of
course. I couldn’t miss it for the world <3 There you can not only find
manga, but original products from the series! Obviously I spent a couple of
hours there finding the perfect gifts for my anime-loving friends and family.
I also visited Akihabara, which is definitely the
craziest and also most awesome area
in Tokyo, especially if you are into anime and manga culture. You never finish exploring
the colorful shops full of incredible products (including Pikachu hoodies), anime
songs (no kidding, the Digimon theme “Butter-Fly” was playing in one of the main
shops), cosplay costumes, anime figures, maid cafes and more.
Another place I went to was the Pokemon Center in
Sunshine City, a huge shop dedicated exclusively to Pokemon products. It even
had a Pokemon song sung by Pikachu the whole hour I spent shopping there. It
was pretty fun to visit.
Other places that were among my favorite in
Tokyo where the Shinjuku National Garden (the park of Makoto Shinkai’s movie “The
Garden of Words”) and the more traditional Asakusa area.
All in all, Tokyo, was super overwhelming:
huge, fast-paced, crazy and awesome, all at the same time.
Kyoto was a much more traditional city, full of
temples and shrines almost literally in every street. One of the main places I
was dying to visit there was Fushimi Inari Shrine, the Shinto shrine with the
many thousand gates. Maybe some of you may recognize it as one of the filming
locations of the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”. I actually went there twice: once
at 6pm, and then next day at 8am, because it’s impossible to get a good shot of
the tori gates after early morning, given that the place is always crowded!
That morning, after I finished my visit to the shrine, I bought my kitsune mask
in one shop nearby. Have you guys seen the movie “Hotarubi No Mori E”? Well, if
you haven’t, watch it! It’s one of the most touching anime films I’ve ever seen
<3 And, because one character from that movie wears a kitsune mask, I couldn’t
resist and bought myself one (only later some friends told me I looked like an
ANBU in my pics!)
Later that day I also decided that it would be
good to try a kimono! I was going to the Kiyomizu Temple, so it was a good
opportunity to do so. What I didn’t know is that kimonos really take a long
time to put. I rented one in a shop near my hostel and the lady in charge spent
like 40 minutes helping me to put it on. It also was a bit uncomfortable to
wear at the beginning, but it was certainly an interesting experience and I
would try it again if I ever go back! Of course, the funniest part of it was
getting my taxi to get to the temple, because I was a foreign girl dressed with
a kimono walking confused in the middle of Kyoto. Many Japanese people were
looking at me with amused looks from their car windows, but it was still fun!
My others days in Kyoto were full of visit to
more temples and shrines, as well as traditional streets and shops. I will
never forget taking the train and seeing people dressed with kimonos or yukatas
like the most normal thing in the world. It was like being in a movie.
Finally, I spent my last day in Japan in Osaka.
I stayed for a really short time, but found it equally amazing. My favorite
place there was the famous Osaka Castle, but not only for the castle itself,
but because, the day I visited it there was a freaking matsuri in the park! Apparently,
they were holding kind of like a martial arts/dance festival the weekend I was
there, so as soon as I arrived to the Osaka Castle park, I encountered groups
and groups of male and female performers with what it seemed to be samurai and
ninja inspired clothes. Of course I stayed and watched as many dances as I
could. It was awesome! I also loved the souvenirs shop of the castle: they were
selling tons of traditional products that I had previously seen in Tokyo and
Kyoto, but also included samurai and ninja products like katanas, ninja “stars”
and “kunai”, headbands, ninja shoes, masks and so many more. I definitely need
to visit Osaka again one day, because only 24 hours in that city is nothing.
Anyway, I thought I couldn’t love Japan more
after visiting it, but I guess I was wrong, because after my trip I fell even
more in love with that country <3
Also, I eat REAL Japanese ramen IN JAPAN! I had
it three times, one in each city, but my favorite one was the tonkotsu ramen I
had from one of the food carts in the park in Osaka. It was absolutely
Some other random impressions I got from Japan:
- Everyone rides bicycle. Everyone. If not, you take the train.
- School uniforms are EXACTLY how they are in
anime. I’ve seen it in person.
- I saw a guy rocking a Sasuke duck-hair style.
- Hair in general is soooo varied. Anime isn’t
that surrealist, because I’ve seen some pretty crazy styles and colors there, especially
- Japanese people are super kind. Maybe it was
just my experience, but every day I got to a train station, no matter in which
city, people asked me if I needed help, even before I even had the chance to
ask them! Maybe I really looked like a lost person? Haha… but regardless, I
received many expressions of kindness from Japanese people ^^
Well, I think that’s it for the most important
things of my trip! If you ever get a chance to visit Japan… DO IT. It’s an
incredibly beautiful country with a lot of rich culture, modernity and
tradition. And if you go you can totally message me to ask me some advice :) I’d be happy to help you! That’s
all for my crazy solo adventures in Japan… ja ne!
A few weeks ago I went to a few Battle of Nations/ HMB type shindigs with Team Kraken, our local team here in Melbourne. We left late on Thursday afternoon and arrived in Sydney at 5am Friday. People were fighting again at 11am. We then drove back to Ballarat (another 12 hours) for more fighting. I don’t know how we’re all alive and how we didn’t actually strangle each other from the excessive time spent in the car, but hey. We’re still here.
I was a squire so I spent a lot of time fiddling with straps, adjusting things/ repairing things with shoe laces and just trying to keep stuff safe and functional. It was a lot of work, pretty stressful, but also a ton of fun because all of the guys on Team Kraken are friends of mine and A++ people.
I’m not a great photographer but I did manage to get a few cool shots. The last photo is of myself, hanging out with Son of Fear before it was broken in a fight later that day.
To those wondering, check out Battle of Nations. It’s coming up really soon and is an exciting combination of medieval costuming, gorgeous yet functional armour and kicking the crap out of each other. Best sport around.