As you can see, this amazingly talented young athlete never shies away from a size mismatch, which gives testament to the effectiveness of how a smaller, highly skilled and dynamic Jiu-Jitsu athlete can prevail over a much larger opponent.
She is probably one of the most exciting people you will see on the Jiu-Jitsu and Ju Jitsu circuits, as the sports begins to become over-saturated with a wealth of talented women, which paves for an exciting future beyond this year.
Beyond the mats, the other side of her is shown through her genuine care for humanitarian causes as she is fully involved with a number of very relevant organisations.
It is my very great pleasure to have this young lady tell her story, without further or do:
Tell us who you are, where you are from (or where you reside) and how long you have been training
I was born on October 28, 1995 in Brussels, Belgium and my parents are from Morroco.
It’s been 17 years now that I’m practicing bjj, I started bjj at the age of 7 with the coach Khalid Houry.
Were you a good kid at school?
At school I had too much energy, also I was the smallest in class. Classmates laughed at me and teased me, I defended myself all the time. I was fighting a lot during the breaks, so the teachers advised my mother to register me in a martial art school.
Where do you currently train and who is your professor?
I am currently training at CENS Academyled by coach Khalid Houry. In my life I only had one teacher, he followed me from my first jiu-jitsu class until today. He helped to be the person that I am as well on the sporting level and intellectually, as in my social engagement.
How did you discover your passion for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
I tried several sports before bjj (Karate, Judo, Taekwondo, boxing..) But there were only boys bigger and stronger than me. One day we found a bjj class in my mother’s friend gym, when I tried I immediately liked it. It was exactly what I was looking for: a martial art in which I am able to face the strongest despite my small size.
Firstly, congratulations on winning the Europeans this year, but what has been your most unforgettable moment in your sporting career to date? You have an incredible list of global accomplishments, do any of them stand out to you?
I had fun with each of the gold medals I won. But the event that I will never forget is the world professional jiu-jitsu championship 2018. I fought in the final against Amanda Nogeira who had already beaten me 3 times. I started to doubt myself and my limits. During this final, it was like a revenge against myself, I proved to myself that I had no limits, that sometimes the problem is not your technicality, your physique or your dietetics but your mind.
How does it feel being able to represent your country at these huge tournaments?
I am really proud and happy to represent my beautiful country. 5 years ago, jiu-jitsu was unknown in Belgium and today thanks to the medals, the meditative support and the various awards received, things have changed. I am currently under contract with my government and receive salary to train and represent my country at international competitions.
Is there anything about your sport that frustrates you?
Yes, what frustrates me in our sport is when the referees cannot remain impartial and they favors the opponent for different reasons such as the same ethnic appertense, the team, friendship etc.
How do you find the world of competition? Do you get nervous?
Yes, I am nervous during competitions and I like that. This is part of the challenge of being able to surpass yourself and your mental capacity. Succeeding to overcome fear, stress and pressure to be able to give the best of yourself on the tatami.
How long into your training did you start competing BJJ?
Two months after my registration I started the competitions. During the championship I was fighting in two categories, I entered the female categories and then I entered the boys categories that I won. I always did 8-9 fights by championship. I liked the challenges that’s why I always fight in The open division.
How do you prepare yourself/your mind before stepping out onto the mats? What advice would you give other competitors in hopes of calming the dreaded nerves?
Training hard already gives you confidence. It’s all about feeling prepared, ready to give everything and to surpass yourself. Just before stepping onto the mats I know that I trained well, that I did everything in my power to get there, everything else will depend on God. What he decided for me that day. I don’t have specific ritual before fighting, I always warm up the same way, and before fighting I pray god and I’m referring to him.
What has/have been your toughest fight/s to date?
My fight against Tayane Porifirio was one of the most difficult. This fight took place during the world pro 2013, we were both blue and the uaejjf was still organizing the open weight division. During this fight I had to fight against her but especially against myself to hold the fight and win it. At first I was just surviving, she had broken my nose and I started to bleed. I had a swollen nose and my head was aching. I resumed the fight and was more persevering and determined in my techniques to finally win the fight.
How do you condition yourself in the lead up to a competition?
I focus on my jiu-jitsu training, I also pay attention to what I eat and do physical preparation in order to make every effort to be as efficient as possible without forgetting recovery techniques such as massage, cupping therapy, sauna …
Do you generate a game plan for your fights?
I try to focus on my game in order to apply it and control the fight but obviously we have to adapt to each opponent, they do not have all the same game, the same reactions etc. So it is obviously necessary to analyze and prepare strategies in order to win the fight
Top or bottom game?
As you can see from the fights, most women try to go to down first. For my part, I have no problem working up or bottom. I feel comfortable in both positions.
Do you apply any other practices to compliment your A-game? Strength and condition programmes or yoga etc?
Yes, I do physical conditioning (natural movement without weight). I also do stretching and injury prevention sessions, I run everyday and use my bike as much as possible
Do you modify your training and sparring at the gym/on the mats?
My coach readjusts the training according to my needs and the analyzes made after each competition. I also develop my training by putting myself in tough position that I could face during competition. Secondly, I don’t hesitate to do an introspection on my experience, and change my technical habits that I acquired through time.
Who would you say are your top 3 inspirations in the world of jiu-jitsu, past or present? And why?
Number one is Marcelo Garcia for his technicality, his ability to beat much heavier opponents but also for the beautiful person he is. He represents well the values of our sport.
Is there anyone or anything else in your life who serves as a prodigious inspiration to your progress? Maybe family or friends?
Khalid Houry he accompanied me from the age of my 7 years old until today. He has been my only coach who trained me on all aspects of performance. He shaped my character to surpass the challenges. He transmitted his values to me. Thank you for always being there for me.
And also my mother Khadija Taghi for all the tenderness, love and sacrifices she made for me, for having accompanied me in my success, but especially in my difficulties, for being there by my side.
In some cases, women struggle to find training partners of similar weights and sizes, what advice would you give to them to structure their training to benefit them?
Personally I don’t try to train with people of my size. My training partners have different weights and therefore different fighting styles which allows me to develop an adaptive intelligence and prepare me for the reality of competition. I make sure I have training partners whom I can trust and with whom I am sure I will not be injured during my training.
It’s something we see all too often, a good female athlete puts a male athlete in a difficult spot and in retaliation they will try and enforce a lot of strength, sometimes going too far. Have you had to deal with this in the past and how do you manage it?
I have encountered this kind of situation when I roll with men that are not in my team. Most often, I stop the fight and change of training partner. Even if I know it can be badly taken by the person, my physical integrity is much more important. My body is the tool that will allow me to live my dream so it is really important to protect myself from injuries and to know my limits.
How do you find training/competing in a sport that it is still highly dominated by male athletes? What do you think needs to happen to encourage more women into combat sports?
I think it is time to break stereotypes, preconceptions and clichés about women. We are strong, There is no limit to what we can achieve as a woman. At the beginning of the 20th century the sport was not accessible to women and pioneers were able to fight and establish themselves in men’s sports. Mentalities change, ideas evolve. The girl who is interested in a predominantly male sport must fight to have access to it, it is really important that she does it not only for her but also for all the young girls whom she will be able to inspire. It is the vision of an entire society that must be changed, the vision that the man has on the woman but also the woman on the woman. It is time for the woman to realize all the capacities she has. It is a mission, It is a fight of ideas.
What is your favourite submission and why?
Strangulation because it is the most effective submission. The problem is that most girls are flexible and therefore when you have a submission you never know if she will tape or if she is flexible enough to go out. While strangling nothing can stop it and if you want to resist you just will fall asleep.
Have you ever had a serious injury that hindered your training? How did you handle the recovery process?
I never had a serious injury. And during an injury I keep moving and do not stop training (drill, light roll). I take care not to hurt myself even more. I pay attention to recovery by massaging the injured area, cupping therapy, rehabilitation exercises, sleep, stretching and all the things that will promote recovery of the injured area.
Do you follow a specific diet or watch what you eat, especially nearing competition time?
I do not have a particular diet, I avoid every time I can: all industrial foods. Otherwise, my dishes are nutritionally balanced by promoting a lot of vegetables. Half of my plates are vegetables, a quarter of my plates are starchy and the last quarter are meat or fish.
Do you have any other passions in life outside of the sporting world?
Outside of training, I study a Master degree Social actions. I am also responsible for an association that does education through sport (C.E.N.S. Academy). I like helping young people and sharing my knowledge. We organize not only jiu-jitsu classes but also different activities such as Scouting, school remediation, psychomotricity, English classes …
Important question, what is your favourite food?
I love everything but I have a preference for Moroccan food, it is known to be one of the best in the world.
Most hated food?
I’m not a picky eater, I eat almost everything. The only things I hate are foods containing mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is something I hate since childhood.
My favourite movie is “Invictus” which is a movie about the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994 that marked the end of apartheid, but South Africa remained a deeply racially and economically divided nation. To unify the country and give each citizen a reason for pride, Mandela bet on sport, and made common cause with the captain of the modest South African rugby team. Their bet: to come to the 1995 World Championship … This movie is really inspiring, Nelson Mandela used sport to unite people.
As he said “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”
Favourite quote to live by?
I sincerely believe in values conveyed by sport. I believe in success through the strength of work.
Do you have any plans to compete again soon? Any upcoming seminars?
I plan to compete at the next AJP Tour, I think it will be Los Angeles Grand Slam in september if we are done with th epidemic. Also Moscow Grand Slam in October, World Ju jitsu championship JJIF and World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship UAEJJF in Abu Dhabi in november to end the year with Rio Grand Slam in december.
Any particular mentions or shout-outs to sponsors?
Thank you to Adeps for all the support and help you give me, but above all thank you for the humanity and kindness that you offer me at each of our meetings. I also thank my jiu-jitsu federation and KINGZ Europewhich is my GI sponsor.
Thank you to all the people who help me, support me and follow me in my daily life and whom I have not mentioned.
Amal thank you so much for this, you have shown us all again how one can overcome adversity and turn that into their strength. We also see how some of the deadliest people in the world of martial arts are actually some of the most humble and caring, and we can see how you’ve used your sport for a greater cause.
We are really excited to watch you compete again and wish you can get over to showcase your abilities on the world stage again. Until then, we wish good health upon you, your family and network of friends and associates.