Dubai: Martial arts teacher ends fast daily with non-Muslim assistant, students

As the Maghrib Azan is given out, the students and masters share their homemade snacks and dates with each other

By Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Fri 8 Apr 2022, 10:28 AM

Last updated: Fri 8 Apr 2022, 5:08 PM

It’s 6.30pm and there is an Iftar table set up at this martial arts studio in Dubai. Huddled around it, ready to end their fast, are Master Grant Randall, a Muslim convert; his non-Muslim assistant, Master Karel Josh De Vera; instructor Elim Asangaziev and some students enrolled in the advanced athletes class.

This is the daily evening routine at the dojang (training area) of WTTU MooDuk Taekwondo in DIFC during the holy month of Ramadan.

As the Maghrib Azan is given out, the students and masters share their homemade snacks and dates with each other.

There are jokes, laughter, and lots of good memories being made as the little group breaks their fast together, which is seen in the video below:

British national Master Grant Randall is the Kwan jang-nim or the master of the dojang. Master Karel Josh De Vera, the SaBumNim or guide/master is from Philippines. The Kyo Sa Nim or instructor is Elim Asangaziev, from Kyrgyzstan. It is his first Ramadan in the UAE.

“I first started fasting as a sign of respect to Master Grant,” said Josh De Vera. “The first day I fasted, it was 16 hours long. I had such a severe headache that I thought I could never do it a second time. But I did it again and I started noticing huge differences to my health. That’s why I started doing it regularly. This is my fourth year fasting for Ramadan and it is a really special time for me.”

After breaking their fast, the masters have no time to rest. Two of them rush off to finish their Maghrib prayers before getting back to training.

As soon as the children finish their training at 7pm, the adults class begins.

“We don’t have time to eat,” said Elim Asangaziev. “If we eat after Iftar, we won’t be able to continue training effectively. We have our dinner later in the evening after we get home.”

As the others finish their prayers, Master Josh (pictured below) prepares a protein drink with peanut butter, milk and chocolate-flavoured whey protein.

“The drink is usually something that we have after training,” he said. “But during the month of Ramadan, we have it after iftar so that we have the energy to continue training.”

Even during the holy month of Ramadan, the intense training continues as usual and there is no dip in energy levels, despite the masters and many students fasting.

For brother-sister duo 12-year-old Falak Jalal and 10-year-old Hamza Jalal, this is the first year that they are training while fasting.

“It is a little hard,” said Falak. “Sometimes I forget which leg to kick with. But I really like sitting with the masters and my friends to break my fast. It is special.”

“I like training while fasting, too,” chimed in Hamza. “Especially because we only have to do five push-ups while the rest of the class have to do 10." Students are training while fasting below:

“We do go easy on the students that are fasting,” said Master Grant Randall. “However, their energy surprises us most of the time. They are ready and raring to go. It is really nice being able to guide them in martial arts and how to train safely while fasting.”

For 11-year-old Mehreen Arfaz, this is the second year that she is fasting while training. “Last year my parents were worried whether I would be able to do it,” she said. “I wanted to try it and found that it was fine. I didn’t feel hungry or anything. But last year the classes got over before Iftar. This year I like having Iftar here. It is a very nice feeling.”

For her nine-year-old brother Zayaan, this was the first time he was training while fasting. “I was always scared that it was going to be hard,” he confessed. “But it is not as difficult as I thought it would be. So, I am going to continue training while fasting. I like it.”


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