Sara Mokhtar Image Credit: Supplied

Jeddah: In an underground dojo, Saudi karate master Sara Mokhtar demonstrates advance katas (steps) of the Kyokushin karate style.

She follows with a choreographed fight sequence.

Kyokushin, a unique style of Japanese karate, focused on self-defense techniques.

The Jeddah-based karate master, 33, officially represents and runs the only Kyokushin karate dojo in Saudi Arabia teaching women and children.

“In Kyokushin karate, we learn how to get out of different grips without using any power no matter how big or strong our opponent is, and without causing any injury to the opponent,” Mokhtar says.

The school is called Sarate, a playful amalgamation of Sara and karate.

The Jeddah-based karate master, 33, officially represents and runs the only Kyokushin karate dojo in Saudi Arabia teaching women and children.

The school is called Sarate, a playful amalgamation of Sara and karate.

Karate in general is not commonly practiced in Saudi Arabia and there are only a handful of instructors.

But with the gradual liberalisation of society, there is a growing interest in arts and sports.

Mokhtar, a sports-enthusiast since childhood, forayed into karate 12 years ago when she had to move to Australia for 6 years to complete her post-graduate studies in pathology.

“I was nervous because it was the first time I was going to travel and live alone,” she says.

“That is when I decided to learn karate to defend myself before I traveled.”

After exhausting research, Mokhtar found a Filipino karate instructor in Jeddah, teaching another form of karate called Shotokun karate.

She trained with her for two years in Saudi Arabia but when she moved to Melbourne there were no classes teaching Shotokun.

Instead, she found a dojo teaching Kyokushin and started attended classes until she received her black belt.

Later she became a certified instructor in Kyokushin as well as other forms such as Aikido and Muai Thai.

After returning to Jeddah she decided to open her own dojo which has been in operation for two years.

“Karate is not only important for self-defense, but it also helps improve focus and patience whilst keeping you fit,” she tells Gulf News.

“You not only develop strength in the body but also in the mind and soul.”

Hasan Bahashmous, an eight-year-old Saudi-American, has been training at Sarate for the past two years.

His mother says she enrolled her son to learn how to defend himself from bullying in school but also as a way to release negative energy and stay fit.

Mokhtar hopes the skills she teaches her students will help prepare them for any situation where they could face abuse.

“I feel a sense of responsibility to those who aren’t able to defend themselves and I feel content knowing what I’m doing could help someone stand up to abuse.”

Mokhtar dismisses stereotypes that karate is a manly sport.

“Practicing karate doesn’t make a women any less feminine. Instead, it gives them more confidence which makes them feel better about themselves and more attractive,” she says.

Mokhtar has participated in several tournaments in Australia and Saudi Arabia, winning six trophies and two medals.

She recently participated in the 10th Arab Kyokushin Championship in Tunis and won a bronze medal for her country.