Meet Rasha Al Fahad!
07 Nov 2018
Rasha is a 26 year old, half-Kuwaiti, half-Hungarian, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. She trains at Sidekick Academy, and is one of the first female Kuwaitis who got a blue belt.
How did you get into BJJ?
I was randomly introduced to the sport by my childhood friend Khalifa Al Kusaimi who is also the former Light Heavyweight Champion in GFC2.
How does BJJ empower you?
Honestly, it's nice being a small person with a secret. Half the people I know would never guess how hard I grind and how fierce I fight in the gym. It’s made me more humble and prepared. I hope I would never have to be in a situation where I physically have to protect myself, but if I ever have to I know Jiu-Jitsu has my back.
How’s it like, being a female, in a male-dominated sport?
I think being extremely stubborn really helped me here. My coach has probably lost a few hairs on his head because of me, but taking no as an answer is not really my strong suit. It’s tough being in a class with men who probably think you will last a week and they will never see you again but… here I still am! One of the greatest things I have experienced is gaining respect from my team. It took a long time for them to recognize, speak or acknowledge me but now, I have the greatest support system I could ever imagine. They push me harder because they want me to be better and they encourage me to do what I never in a million years thought I could. In September 2017 I received my Blue Belt in BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu). This was the first time in the history of Sidekick Academy that a Kuwaiti female got promoted to a Blue Belt. It was also the first time in Sidekick history that 2 females had ever received their Blue Belts in BJJ, so I am extremely proud of myself.
How has being an athlete changed you as a person?
I am forever bound by routine now! Honestly, you always hear “Jiu-Jitsu changed my life”, but in my case, it really did. If you would have told me 3 years ago, you would be a gym and Jiu-Jitsu junky.. I would have told you “Jiu-Jitsu whattt” and laughed in your face. But here I am now eating super clean, watching my calories, strength & conditioning training and going to class to try to make weight for Abu Dhabi 2019 Inshallah.
If you could pick any other sport, what would it be?
I’ve done and participated in many different sports really and this is actually how I ended up with Jiu-Jitsu. It got too hot to continue horse riding so I decided why not give this a go. I’m open to trying all sports, luckily I grew up doing many different things including ballet, horse riding, shooting, learning how to drive motorcycles.. So I’m blessed to be a pretty well-rounded person in terms of skills.
What obstacles have you faced in your career?
Trying to balance everything. Being the Chief Operating Officer in a company that we just started a year ago and pushing myself to be the best I can be on that mat was and is extremely difficult. Getting past your own mental blocks is also a huge thing in BJJ. I go through phases of thinking I’m not getting any better or I just suck at this, but you just have to trust the process and keep going.
What has been your greatest achievement?
The acceptance I have from my team. Some people would definitely say medals but to me, its that they don’t see me as an outsider, they see me as one of them and that is the greatest thing I could have ever wished for and achieved.
What was your first competition like?
I think I was a little out of my mind when I decided to compete in my first competition, but I am so glad I did! Firstly, I had never competed before and my first competition was in a different country (Bahrain). Secondly, I had just received my Blue belt, a month before I competed, so I was going up against people who were already in their Blue belt phase for a year or so. Thirdly, I never practiced in class thinking about points, so the whole competition strategy aspect was completely foreign. But with all of that, I still went for it! My first fight, I really surprised myself, I won 16-0 and finished with a submission (bow & arrow choke) in 1min 47sec. My second fight, I went up against a very tough Emarati competitor who almost broke my arm, but I came out of that whole experience with a Silver Medal, my arm intact and my team really proud of me!
What are the best and worst parts of competing?
For me, the best part is just going for it. When you're in a competition you don't think “oh sorry did I hurt you?”, you turn on “Beast Mode” and you go! The worst is when you're sitting down on the chair waiting your turn before your fight. The build-up is so intense! Also, finding out what you're made of is awesome. When you fight with people you have never fought with is when you realize the true strength and weakness of your game. If you win, good for you. But, if you lose, you really do learn a valuable lesson. My first one “don't expose your arm, someone will break it!”.
How do you prepare for a competition?
Train as much and as hard as I can and mentally get prepared.
What is your goal? (ex. What is the thing, that when you achieve it, you will think “I did it.”)
I don’t think there will ever come a time in my Jiu-Jitsu career where I think “I finally did it”, there are so many steps I want to achieve and so many “firsts” I want under my name. I want to dissolve this idea that because you're a female you cant, you can and you will if that's what you want. I want to keep going because Jiu-Jitsu makes me happy and I want to put in the effort to get to the next stage my of BJJ story. I don’t know where it will take me but I am willing to put in the time to find out.
Is there someone you look up to in your industry? If so, how have they inspired you?
There are so many inspirational stories and athletes in this industry and they are all a reason to see, anything is possible if you really want it. So many of the greatest BJJ players came from pretty rough circumstances that many of us will never experience. But now they have world titles, their own schools, and an overall better life.
What’s your favorite song to listen to, that motivates you to train and push yourself harder?
I don’t have a favorite song, I like music with a good beat that makes you move.
What is something you do when you’re feeling unmotivated or have had a bad training session?
Suck it up and keep going. I recently had one where I kneed myself in my eye socket pretty hard, and got kneed in the chin 3 times and bit my tongue but you just have to keep going. You had a bad day, tomorrow will be better!
Any advice for other females who want to start training and competing in a male-dominated sports industry?
Don’t take no for an answer and do what you want to do.
Rasha is inspiration to girls to keep fighting for what they believe in. She works hard for her goals and doesn't give up. We wish her all the best in her career, and hope to see her breaking barriers and paving the way for more females in the sports industry.