Fuelled by passion, fighting for respect: World Kickboxing Champion Farinaz Lari

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You are too weak. You are too small. You don’t belong here. This is not how a good
Iranian woman behaves. You are a disgrace. I grew up in Tehran, Iran. I was always an athletic kid. I always loved martial arts, but my parents never allowed martial arts because it wasn’t right for girls. The culture is very conservative. Most parents in Iran think that for a woman to have a better life, they have to go to university
and study and find a job. When I turned 18, I went to work and then, with my first paycheck, I signed
up for a kickboxing class. The first session, I was like,
okay, so how do you fight? How do I learn how to fight? And then people said, you’ve
gotta get a male instructor because women don’t teach
fighting, only men do. So, that’s when I found Ali. I looked around, I searched,
I asked people around and they said, he’s
the best coach in Iran. I contacted him and he hung up on me. (laughs) He said he doesn’t train girls. The first time I hit one
of Ali’s bags in his class, I bruised my leg so bad and then he made us go 500
kicks on the bruised leg and I swear, I couldn’t take a shower. The water running on my shins would hurt. I was so weak, I couldn’t
even lift my arms after a session with him and then I realized how
far off regular training is to fight training. Never, ever I thought I
should stop in training. I always thought that I should keep going. You just have to learn how to deal with it and be okay with being hurt. If it was easy, everybody would do it. I have to be better. I just have to be better to a
point that nobody can stop me. Eventually, I made the
Iranian national team. It was a great honor. I love Iran, it’s my base, it’s where I’m from, it’s my heart, but I feel like athletes
can be treated better. There was always men first, then women. They would bring the woman to train with the lowest quality of
space compared to the men and then at the end of the day, they would suddenly decide that
they don’t like your attire and they’d just send you
home after eight weeks. (yelling) In 2014, I become a Canadian citizen and that’s when I wanted to switch teams. When your birth country
doesn’t agree with your switch, you can get suspended. They said it’s treason and they
suspended me for two years. (punching) During my suspension, I was very angry. It’s too crushing. I was just on my prime years, I was just waiting around
for my suspension to be over, so that’s when it was
so frustrating for me. But I put all of that
energy into training. I was constantly exercising,
constantly sparring, constantly, you know,
trying to up my game. (yelling and punching) I always wanna prove people wrong. You have to be intense and that intensity is what drives you to be the best version of yourself. I’m now with the national team of Canada. I want people to, when they hear my story, know that they don’t have to
have a special circumstance. They can create their own opportunities and as long as they put
their hearts into it and put the work behind
it, they can achieve it. (sighing) (sighing)

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