Inside UmmiKulthum’s 27-year martial arts journey

UmmiKulthum Abdallah during the grading event in Kampala Uganda

What you need to know:

  • UmmiKulthum, who had waited for this moment for 27 years says she feels honoured to be one of Tanzania’s first female Taekwon-Do athletes to reach a first degree International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) Black Belt.

July 31st, 2022 will forever be etched in UmmiKulthum Abdallah’s memory.

At around ten o’clock on that fine Sunday morning, UmmiKulthum and her teammate Hema Rathod were promoted to the Black Belt level at a colourful event that took place at the Uganda Police Training Centre in Kibuli, Kampala, Uganda.

UmmiKulthum, who had waited for this moment for 27 years says she feels honoured to be one of Tanzania’s first female Taekwon-Do athletes to reach a first degree International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) Black Belt.

The 41-year-old athlete travelled to Kampala with her instructor, then second degree ITF Black Belt, Busabum Ali Amirali (who is now a third degree ITF Black Belt) and fellow first female black belt holder and teammate, Hema Rathod on 29th July.

Following a marathon three-hour examination, on 31st July, 2022, the two Tanzanians were awarded their first degree Black Belts in ITF Taekwon-Do – making them the first female ITF Taekwon-Do black belt holders in Tanzania.

UmmiKulthum was examined by a seventh degree ITF Black Belt, Master Niklas Enander from Sweden, who is also a member of the African Development Team - ITF Taekwon-Do. The grading was organised by the Uganda ITF TaekwonDo Federation (UTF).

Prior to the grading on Sunday, she competed in the 2022 Uganda Heroes Cup, a competition also organised by the Uganda Taekwon-Do Association in which she secured a Gold Medal for her first place in the Technical Tools (Patterns).

How it all began

UmmiKulthum’s ITF Taekwon-Do journey began in 1996 when she was 15 years old. She was trained by South Korean instructor (then fifth degree ITF Black Belt) Master Sin Jae Sop while pursuing her high school education at Shabaan Robert Secondary School in Dar es Salaam.

Unfortunately for UmmiKulthum, Master Sop’s tenure in the country ended before she was able to undergo her black belt exam.

Following his departure, she was unable to secure further formal Taekwon-Do training facilities to continue her martial arts journey. She proceeded to live her life without any formal Taekwon-Do training for the next 23 years.

During those years, UmmiKulthum dived into several other sports activities including squash, swimming, open water swimming, cycling, as well as expanding her linguistic skills by learning Russian and Korean.

In November 2018 at the age of 37, she met her current instructor, Busabum Ali Amirali and enrolled at his training Centre- Won-Hyo Taekwon-Do Training Facility, where she also met her fellow teammate, Hema Rathod. For the next four years, UmmiKulthum dedicated herself to her Taekwon-Do training while working full time and managing her personal life.

Supportive family

When asked who her strongest supporters were, she said, “My parents introduced me to martial arts at a young age and together with school and religious studies, training was also mandatory in our household. I was not allowed to skip school, religious classes and training. My parents attended every event I participated in. I owe my parents everything for what I have achieved for they have been my ultimate well-wishers and supporters.”

She adds; “My second ultimate well-wisher and supporter after my parents is my husband, who has zero interest in martial arts but completely accepted my love for martial arts. He stood by my side all these years with my training, adjusting to my training schedules and being patient with me when I would be late for family gatherings if I had to train.”

In 2019 UmmiKulthum was examined and successfully graded again for first Kup (red belt with black stripe) by fourth degree ITF Black Belt Sabum Gustav Olson from Sweden and fourth degree ITF Black Belt Sabum Richard Burr from New Zealand.

She also participated in the 6th ITF Taekwon-Do African Cup which was hosted in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from 26th October 2019 - 27th October 2019 and won a Silver Medal for Tanzania.

A dream come true

She is also one of only two women in Tanzania who have been awarded an ITF Taekwon-Do Umpire C Certificate, which means she is authorised and qualified to umpire National ITF Taekwon-Do sparring competitions in Tanzania.

When the opportunity to grade came up to fly out to Kampala, UmmiKulthum did not hesitate. Her teammate and herself had committed themselves wholly to training and preparing for the opportunity to grade for their first degreeBlack Belt. Covid-19 had denied them of any opportunity to grade earlier.

UmmiKulthum had waited for 27 years for this moment and now she is one of the first women to get her black belt in ITF Taekwon-Do in Tanzania. When asked what her plans were after getting the belt she said; “This journey has just begun.”

Busabum Ali Amirali, the dedicated instructor who has played a great role in training the first two women in Tanzania to get their black belts said; “Their success means that several doors of opportunities have opened up for women in ITF Taekwon-Do Tanzania. It is time for change. Female leadership and empowerment led by the example of BusabumUmmikulthum and Busabum Hema, is only the beginning.

Taekwon-Do is a Korean self defence martial art that was used by the military in the 1950s. It involves using your body focusing on striking by punching and kicking techniques. The literal translation for “Tae” “kwon” “Do” is “foot kicks,” “fist punches,” and “the art or way of.

General Choi Hong Hi, the founder of Taekwon-Do definedTaekwon-Do as ‘the art of disciplining the mind through disciplining the body.’ The five tenets of Taekwon-Do are honesty, integrity, respect, perseverance and indomitable spirit.