Kung fu champion fighting for home recognition

AFP
Egypt's Moataz Radi, or "Mizo," competes successfullyin international championships, but yearns for recognition in his own country where football dominates.
AFP
AFP

Moataz Radi, the 2015 kung fu world champion, trains at a gym in Cairo’s western 6th of October district.

Egypt’s Moataz Radi, or “Mizo,” competes successfully with China’s top kung fu fighters in international championships, but yearns for recognition in his own country where football dominates.

As Egyptians obsessively follow the preparations of the national football team for the World Cup in Russia and every move of star striker Mohamed Salah, Mizo is preparing for the next world championship in a sport that lacks sponsors and supporters.

Despite his heavy build, 28-year-old Mizo, who is almost 2 meters tall, moves lightly during training at a modest gym in the 6th of October district in western Cairo. He is preparing to join the national team’s training camp ahead of the world championships later this year in China.

Kung fu, also known as wushu, is an unarmed Chinese martial art practiced through display or combat.

“Egyptians learned about kung fu from Bruce Lee and Jet Li, and they pictured kung fu players always in mid-air,” said Mizo, who was initially attracted to football before quitting because he wasn’t good enough.

In kung fu things were different.

Since 2006, Mizo has dominated the sport in Egypt for his weight class of above 90 kilograms and has also enjoyed success on the world stage.

“I won the world gold medal in 2015, silver in 2016, and bronze in 2017, and I am now training for the coming championship,” Mizo said, who is becoming a model for younger kung fu fighters.

“I hope to be like Captain Moataz, or even have the grit and will that he has,” said 21-year-old Abdel-Rahman Mahmoud.

In November 2014, Mizo broke his leg so badly that no one expected him to fully bounce back.

Yet the following year, he competed in his first world championship and won the gold medal.

“I saw in Moataz during the period of his injury perseverance that I have never seen in any fighter in the world,” said Ahmed Abdel Aziz, the kung fu manager at Mizo’s club.

During that time, Miz had three 3-hour training sessions a day, said his coach Ramadan Abdel Meguid.

Mizo was born in Cairo to a middle-income family and graduated from Cairo University where he studied literature.

“I’m the only Egyptian, even the only Arab and African, to win a kung fu world championship’s gold medal for the 90-plus-kilograms-weight class, and I found that my popularity in China is more than in my country,” said Mizo. “This sport runs in my blood.”

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