Saif Ali Khan and Muhammad Shah-Noor Khan

Mixed martial artists

On a daily basis, brothers Saif Ali Khan (15) and Muhammad Shah-Noor Khan (12) spend between one to one-and-a-half hours training at their dojo. This dedication has certainly paid off. Saif Ali, a learner at Isipingo Secondary School in Durban — who achieved his black belt in karate last year — won two world titles at the World Martial Arts Organisation (WMO) Championships in London last year, placing second in points fighting and third in continuous fighting.

A few weeks ago, he was placed first in points fighting and first in continuous fighting in the boys under-55kg division at the Arnold Classic Africa. Muhammad Shah-Noor, who attends Isipingo Beach Intermediate School, was placed first for points fighting in the 12-14 years division at the same event, and has also won numerous local competitions.

Both boys were introduced to karate by their grandfather, a seventh Dan. “I simply love MMA (mixed martial arts) as it as it gives me the opportunity to fight full contact, allowing me to freely execute the techniques I’ve learnt in karate,” says Saif Ali. “Whereas in karate we are taught to execute controlled techniques, MMA also gives me the opportunity to see if I’m able to defend myself.”

Muhammad Shah-Noor agrees: “I enjoy MMA as it is a full contact sport. It gives me the chance to really see how fit I am when we do continuous fighting, and karate teaches me self-discipline and control.”

The younger brother is now working towards attaining his black belt in karate, while the older brother has his eye on more world championship titles. “I intend to take myself to the highest level possible and achieve numerous world championship titles. Eventually I want to open my own dojo, following in the footsteps of my mentor — my grandfather — and achieving my seventh Dan just like him, or even more.” Fatima Asmal