Hasani’s journey to obtain a black belt

Mahin Hasani (10) holds her trophy for first place in forms and wears medals for first and third place in sparring. The sparring medal was won through a point system; strikes to different areas of the body counted for varying amounts of points. (RASHID HASANI//USED WITH PERMISSION)
Mahin Hasani (10) does a belt test for the second degree purple belt. Hasani skipped many belts before the purple belt due to her prowess in karate and success in tournaments. (RASHID HASANI//USED WITH PERMISSION)
Mahin Hasani (10) introduces herself and bows to the judges before starting her forms. Karate practitioners are placed in front of a panel of judges to be graded on how faithfully they execute their forms. (RASHID HASANI//USED WITH PERMISSION)

In order to succeed in karate, one must have discipline, patience and courage to face any obstacle, no matter how big or small. Mahin Hasani (10) embarked on the journey to obtain the black belt facing strife and challenges.

Hasani started karate at five years old and continued until she was thirteen years old. She trained at USA Karate in Germantown.

“It was not one of those special things, like I wanted to defend myself or something like that.” Hasani said. “My parents had to drag me in there. It was more out of my control at the time.”

On a typical day for karate, they start off with stretches and some form of physical conditioning such as jogging around the mats. Then, they would  do forms, which were sets of moves students had to practice and memorize in order to move up in belts. Depending on the day, they could spar each other or do drills for self defense.

“One thing we did a lot was we would partner up and do takedowns.” Hasani said. “It was basically where one person tries to tackle the other person and they would have to stand their ground. If you got taken down, you would learn how to get out of that situation.”

Correct forms and posture are integral to martial arts training like karate. To define forms, they are detailed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs, and were judged in tournaments.

“With forms, it was a lot of memorization.” Hasani said. “You had to practice it over and over again until you got it down.” 

Karate can be physically and mentally taxing. With the constant physical conditioning and sharpening of the mind, it can be hard to keep up with. Not only that, but the unremitting time commitment to the craft can be a lot to handle as well.

“A lot of [the] time, I would go to three or four practices a week.” Hasani said. “Sometimes I had tournaments. The most it cost me was time.”

The karate Hasani did often did not have weight classes. Despite facing opponents bigger than her, Hasani remained undeterred. Hasani used their weight against them and showed impressive feats flipping them when sparring.

“I liked showing that even though I am a girl and smaller in size compared to most people, I made up for it.” Hasani said. “Obviously I had to work harder, so I liked showing off my hard work.”

The requirements to achieve a black belt are hard and many. The first requirement is a two part fitness test, which consists of one hundred pushups, situps, round kicks on both legs, front kicks and axe kicks. Each section had to be under five minutes. The second part was to run two miles in under twenty minutes. The next requirement is to spar their instructor. They also had to work as an instructor for those with lower belts.

“I was thirteen when I got the black belt.” Hasani said “Each belt test you had to make sure you knew all of your forms and performed well.”

Hasani was relentless with the grind for silverware. Hasani signed up for as many tournaments as she could and strived for success at each one.

“I have a lot of trophies, medals and ribbons from tournaments because I signed up for every tournament I could.” Hasani said. “I have a bunch of first place medals, I have a couple second places and I have a third place.”

Karate has benefited Hasani in many ways: it has built stamina, improved her reflexes, taught her discipline and gave her a tenacious attitude.

“If I was ever in a situation where I was behind points in sparring, I would put myself in the mindset to persevere,” Hasani said. “They also taught [me] a lot about integrity, respect and mental fortitude.”