Ever since she was young, Alishba’s parents knew she would not turn out to be a ‘typical’ girl. Enjoying work involving hard labour, climbing trees and using ropes for acrobats with her elder male cousins, it was clear that she had a yearning to do something different.
She joined a martial arts training centre when she was seven. Four years later, Alishba is the proud owner of seven gold medals and a black belt. Coming from a rural background, Alishba became a champion after four years of extensive exercise at the Wushu martial arts training club that her father, Mohammad Akhtar, runs in Abbottabad. Akhtar himself is also a martial arts expert and the strongest influence in Alishba’s life.
Alishba has accomplished many feats at this tender age, and that too in a less than opportune setting. She has set an unprecedented record by receiving the title of second dan black belt (a high martial arts rank) of the Wushu branch of Chinese martial arts, an accomplishment that girls of her age could only dream of.
She has also won four gold medals in a row after defeating senior boys and girls at the national Shiolin Wushu Championship held in Faisalabad, Jhang and Nankana Sahib last year.
But she didn’t stop there. She went on to secure the title of junior National Champion in inter-regional martial arts contests and the Kids Fighting Championship in 2011. In addition, she was selected for South Asian Federation (SAF) games in 2012.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the national champion said that she is fully equipped to defend herself, using the art of the sword, stick and spear. “I can perform with a double-edged Dishou sword,” she said. Usually, it is the wide-edged sword that is used by karate masters. “I feel confident that I can face and defeat four well-built attackers at a time.” Finding herself fully equipped with the art of self-defence, she never feels intimidated by anyone.
At the beginning of her journey, she had moments of doubt where she thought she was not capable of fulfilling her dream of becoming a black belt. But her father’s attention combined with a tough exercise regimen helped her become second dan, which usually requires three to five years of hectic training even for an adult male. “The day I was declared a black belt was the happiest of my life.”
The young champion says she’s glad she grew up learning something useful. It’s better than wasting time on the internet, mobile phones and watching Indian movies and dramas like most girls.
She disseminates her knowledge and expertise to others by training eight girls of the club, including two who are ten years older than her. One of her pupils, Amna Sardar, who is a student of class two, beat a university student and won a bronze medal in the national junior martial arts championship last year.
Responding to a question, the young sportswoman said her ultimate goal is to become the world champion and reveal the positive side of terrorism-torn Pakistan in the international arena.
A lack of appreciation
However, Alishba appeared disappointed with the response of the government, disclosing that despite all her milestones, not a single government official has appreciated her achievements. This is surprising to her since she mentioned that even players who get district level titles are encouraged by the government.
Her father said that the government’s indifference was because they belong to a region that has always been neglected, both in terms of resources and polishing sports talent, adding that this is despite the fact that this area is brimming with talent in sports.
A disgruntled Akhtar said that in Punjab, even those students who win bronze medals are honoured by the ministers who award prizes and write appreciation letters. In comparison, his daughter was never encouraged by the sports department of K-P or federal government, even though she was the only girl who won the gold medal in K-P during the 9th Women Games.
Akhtar says all his daughter needs is adequate support and funding to become the world champion in the sport. But at present, the proud gold medalist patiently waits.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2014.
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