Strong body, stronger mind
Article from the Sun daily by Marion Fernando (posted on 1 November 2018)
FITNESS has always been an important element in Faeznur ‘Benny’ Farok’s adult life, but when she fell in love with martial arts in 2014, it turned into a way of life.
She has since picked up five different forms of the practice — boxing, Judo, Kali, Brazilian Jujitsu, and Muay Thai — and co-founded SheFights, a programme that aims to empower women to be all-around stronger through self-defence.
And the 27-year-old does not rest. Benny trains seven days a week, and even though she considers Sunday her ‘rest day,’ it appears fitness really is in her blood.
She said: “I do light training — active rest — swimming, hiking or rock climbing.”
On top of that, Benny is currently pursuing her masters in business administration at UKM, Bangi with the hopes of growing SheFights and in the fitness industry.
She’s also changing women’s perception of fitness and martial arts, one woman at a time, through her job as a resident trainer at HammerFist Fight Club, Cyberjaya.
While she has competed in four Brazilian Jujitsu competitions to date, Benny only competitively debuted in the art that started it all— Muay Thai — at a semi-pro fight in September, where she won gold.
How long were you practicing martial arts before joining your first Muay Thai competition?
"I started my fitness journey back in 2012, and ever since 2014 I fell in love with martial arts.
"The first martial arts that I picked up was Muay Thai. I love it because it’s high impact and really good for weight loss. I wanted to compete but my parents didn’t allow me to.
"This time I said please, I’ve been training for so long, then they said okay, you can go. So [it took] four years.
"From my parents perspective, Muay Thai involves punching, and you punch straight to the face. Brazilian Jujitsu doesn’t involve punching at all, just grappling. My mom used to do Judo, so she knows."
What drew you to Muay Thai?
"I think Muay Thai is one of [those] great exercises [and] sports that combines all body parts [including] the upper and lower body.
"Muay Thai is an art of Eight Limbs. It uses the elbow, punches [with your fists], knees, and [legs for] kicking.
"You get to express yourself. You get to release stress with Muay Thai. You get to build your confidence with punching and kicking [because] it drives you to be more focused.
"The coordination, especially, because we women [tend to have] poorer coordination, so Muay Thai is one of the [better] sports to actually practice our coordination and our focus."
What is the story behind SheFights?
"SheFights is a 'women empowering program'. We specialise in self-defence for ladies and children. We believe that self-defence is a state of mind and not just about the physical aspect.
"I mean, before you engage with the predator, before you engage with the potential danger, you have to know how to avoid it. We teach pre, during, and post harassment, meaning the action.
"Pre-action, for example, you have to have four things in mind. First, awareness; second [is] focus; the third is alertness, and last one is avoidance.
"The first thing that we teach in SheFights is avoidance. Always avoid possibilities that will lead you to danger. We teach martial arts as a form of self-defence against harassment.
"We include Kali, a form of self-defence art from the Philippines. It uses sticks and knives, and we incorporate that in SheFights like … how to defend yourself with a pen.
"So Kali, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jujitsu. That last one is also great for self-defence because Brazilian Jujitsu uses 'little' moves … little force with maximum impact, so there’s efficiency."
How does martial arts empower women?
"I like to encourage women to take care of themselves. I mean, these days we always hear about women getting beaten [among] other dangerous situations. I personally wanted to help and bring awareness [through] self-defence and self-protection.
"For me, number one, martial arts empowers women [through] emotional intelligence, in the sense of being strong. Not [only] physically strong but it’s emotionally and mentally strong too."
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about martial arts that you address through SheFights?
"Women tend to think that martial arts is too rough. They would say like ‘tak nak lah, ganas sangat’ (no, it’s too violent).
"[And] then I will explain how it helps in your physical fitness, in your mental alertness.
"But we are starting to get more people encouraged, especially women with kids."
Like any fitness routine, consistent training in martial arts is necessary to grasp the skill. How do you encourage your students to train consistently?
"I currently have 40 students — the ones who are active. I monitor their weight and their inch loss every [two weeks]. They’re motivated by the results.
"I also [communicate] with them. I send all my clients daily motivation, simple messages like ‘don’t quit’. I always tell my girls, don’t quit. You have to be proud of yourself, that you can do this."
Motto in life?
"If it was easy, everyone would do it."
Your favourite post-workout meal?
"Oats, banana, and nuts. I use cold water or milk. It tastes like ice-cream!”
Current favourite read?
"Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. With this one, I can understand my clients when they react negatively to workouts or their fitness journey.”
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