With more than a decade of experience in the country’s karate-do scene, Umi Fakhriyah Hj Mohd Noorzairi has competed both locally and regionally, with some of her achievements including Brunei Darussalam Karate-Do Federation (BRUKAF), Brunei Darussalam National Games (SKBD), Southeast Asian Karate Federation (SEAKAF), and the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) last year in Kuala Lumpur.

The national athlete represents Brunei’s karate-do team and she first took up the sport at the age of 15, where she joined the club a part of her school’s co-curricular activity. “I didn’t think it would be such a big thing for me – I only joined because all my friends were joining it,” said Umi Fakhriyah.

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sulaiman

“As time went on, all my friends stopped going for training and I was the last one standing. I sincerely enjoyed karate,” continued Umi Fakhriyah.

When she attended Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Umi Fakhriyah continued going to the karate club and developed more skills – that was when her coaches recommended her to participate in the bigger games in the country.

Umi Fakhriyah admits that she wanted to be different from the other girls. “My other friends were playing netball, badminton, basketball, so I wanted to learn something that seems rather extraordinary to other people.”

Although karate is stereotyped to be a sport for men, the reality is remarkably different. Karate is a sport loved by many of its practitioners for its ‘family-feel’ with men, women, and children of all ages and abilities taking part.

Karate is a very controlled sport, where safety of yourself and your training partner is crucial, and violence outside karate is discouraged unless absolutely essential for self-defence.

She underscores the importance of knowing the basics of self-defence, especially being a woman. “The skills that you learn in martial arts will give you a peace of mind knowing that you are in safe hands.”

At the moment, Umi Fakhriyah and the rest of the Brunei Karate-Do team is training for an upcoming tournament in Bangkok, which will qualify them to go for the SEA Games at the end of the year in the Philippines.

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sulaiman

They go through various trainings such as fitness, gym and skills training as well as fitness tests to keep their fitness right on track. There are two types of karate – kata, which is the choreographed pattern of movements and kumite, where it involves two individuals sparring. Umi Fakhriyah focusses more on kumite because she enjoys the thrill of it.

Karate is slowly picking up as a sport worldwide and it will make its first appearance on the programme list of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sulaiman

Umi Fakhriyah expressed how karate is not really opened up in Brunei, however she wishes to see more people join the club. The Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex will have details for the classes and they have classes for both adults and kids. “We have contributed a lot to the country and proudly brought home winning medals, so it would be great to see more people join!”