Emirati karateka Salem Al Mehairi received his yellow belt and has become the first Emirati with a disability to register as a member of the World Federation of Martial Arts.
The 19-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, received his belt from the general secretary of the UAE Karate Federation Fahkuraddin Abdul Majed at Al Wasl Club on Friday.
Salem was introduced to the sport when he was just nine by his late father Mohammad, who passed away six years ago aged 47. Since then his mother Maryna has encouraged him to continue his training.
The former Al Noor student and Dubai Club for the Disabled member made his international debut in the World Karate Championships in Austria last year and is now hoping to compete in Japan in September.
The end goal is for Salem to compete at the 2024 Paralympics, and inspire more Emiratis with disability to pursue their dreams. “Each belt Salem gets is a victory not only for himself but for people with mental impairment everywhere, proving that determination pays off,” said Salem’s mother Maryna.
“Salem trains every day and his posture and balance has improved, and cognitively he gets challenged every time he performs.
“It will be an amazing experience for Salem to now compete in Japan, the heart of karate, to see how they train there.”
Maryna hopes to make a documentary of Salem’s trip to Japan detailing his improvement.
“I want to film the cognitive and physical effect of karate on people who practice the sport long-term. Just imagine the positive effect karate can have on people with disability, especially mental impairment.”
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