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Byline: Zafar Ahmed Khan

Watching the 54-year-old Shaolin Kung Fu grandmaster perform kata - imaginary fight - on Koh-i-Murdaar in Quetta takes me back to those Kung Fu movies I used to watch as a kid with my brothers.

We used to be completely in awe of the hero taking on so many opponents together, always to emerge the victor. Now, I am completely in awe of Grandmaster Mubarak Ali Shan.

A third generation shifu (master of Kung Fu), Mubarak Ali was about six or seven years old when he started training with his father. His father, had been passed on the martial art by own his father.

'My father, Qasim Ali, was a soldier in the Pakistan army,' Mubarak Ali tells Eos with pride. 'He was among the prisoners of war in 1971,' he says, adding that his father had also fought in the 1965 war against India.

And his grandfather, Khuda Ram, belonged to the British army's 106th Hazara Pioneers before Partition. He also received commando training from a British Gurkha Regiment. The family belongs to the Hazara community in Quetta.

There is great scope for martial arts, especially Kung Fu in Pakistan, if only the government would pay some heed, says Pakistan's grandmaster

Having accumulated a huge collection of medals and certificates for his brilliant performances in school, college and university, Mubarak Ali started practising Kung Fu professionally soon after graduation (he is a graduate of the University of Balochistan and also has a diploma in engineering).

Mubarak Ali remained national Kung Fu champion for 10 years, from 1990 to 2000.

In 1990, he went to Hong Kong to improve his style. 'At the time, the Shaolin form of Kung Fu, which is the original ancient form of Kung Fu, was mostly limited to China. When I met them, I asked the masters there to visit Pakistan and work with us to introduce their art in our country too, but they said that they were focusing on taking it to Europe as they were getting paid very well there,' he says. 'Still, they asked me to promote Kung Fu in Pakistan, and to teach my people whatever I had been taught by them, which I started doing with all my heart.'

Thanks to his work in this area, by 1996, Mubarak Ali was appointed the chief of Shaolin Kung Fu in South Asia by the main body based in Hong Kong. 'And more hard work with me, also extending to other countries in the next 10 years, saw me in the position of Asian Chief Controller. Today, it is due to all our efforts and hard work that the South Asian headquarters of Shaolin Kung Fu is located in Pakistan, although the art was invented in China,' he smiles.

Coming back to his journey, Mubarak Ali went to Hong Kong again, this time to participate in a Kung Fu championship there in 1992 and he even returned with a medal for Pakistan.

That year, he also went to Japan. Altogether he spent over six months getting martial arts training from Chinese trainers in the Shaolin form of Kung Fu, also known as Wushu Kung Fu, and in the Samurai art from Japanese trainers. 'Their techniques and ways of training are quite different from what I was used to, and I completely lost myself in the disciplines,' he says.

In 1993, he proceeded to Malaysia to represent Pakistan in the World Kung Fu Championship. He also went to Iraq to participate in a Kung Fu championship there in 1995. He has participated in many other championships, which have also added to his travelling experience. These include representing Pakistan in Macau and in Syria, half a dozen times in the Fajr Championships in Iran, featuring in the Shaolin Kung Fu Championship in Hyderabad Deccan in India and raising the Pakistan flag in several European countries, too, while returning with an assortment of medals as well. He was eight times national champion and 14 times international champion in Shaolin Kung Fu.

Besides, he was also awarded five honorary PhDs in Karate and Kung Fu. His other awards include peace certificates from several countries where he introduced the Shaolin form. 'Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, Iran and Indonesia have awarded me with Ambassador Awards for my services in their countries. I am also a recipient of the Pride of Pakistan award, which I was presented with this year in Islamabad on March 25, 2021,' he says.

Mubarak Ali says that Pakistan has great potential in the martial arts. 'We also have martial art practitioners, both male and female,' he says, adding that girls now are taking more interest, evidenced by their increasing participation in championships. 'They win championships and titles. Many of them also happen to be relatives from the Hazara community in Quetta. Besides Quetta, there are also a number of girls from Karachi, Mirpurkhas and Gilgit. They are so good that some of them are now national champions and even South Asian champions,' he points out.

'As the founder of the ShanWang Shaolin Wushu Kungfu Academy, I am also providing training to hundreds of girls and boys from my community in Quetta, every day on the eastern mountain. My purpose of providing them with this training in Shaolin Kung Fu is to provide confidence to our youth and to get them involved in healthy activities,' he says.

The Hazara community is often targeted by militants in Balochistan. They are living with serious life threats. 'We are promoting sports in Quetta to combat terrorism. We want to change the mindset of common people by promoting such sports. Martial arts and combat sports help ease frustrations,' he adds, taking the example of the mild martial art Tai Chi, which helps practitioners achieve inner peace and strength.

The ShanWang Shaolin Wushu Kungfu Academy also has 200 branches all over Pakistan, including centres in Swat, Malakand, the erstwhile Fata areas, Kohat, Larkana, Mirpukhas, Kambar Ali Khan, Jhang, Narowal, Jaranwala and Shorkot. In addition, there are also 36 branches of the grandmaster's centre operational internationally.

Mubarak Ali says that, most of the time, they do everything themselves and out of their own pocket, since there is a lack of support from the government. 'The ministry of sports in neighboring Iran reserves a big chunk in its budget for sports activities even in small villages but here, in our country, there is hardly one per cent spent on sports. It is even below insufficient,' he points out.

'The government of Pakistan and Ministry of Sports here should allocate big funds for the promotion of sports activity in not just our cities but small villages as well,' he says, 'because you never know where you have big talent hiding.'
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Author:Zafar Ahmed Khan
Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Aug 8, 2021

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