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Ruqsana Begum          

Professional kickboxer; the British female Atomweight Muay Thai boxing champion, captain of the British Muay Thai Team, and only Muslim woman who is a national champion in her sport.

Begum was born and brought up in Seven Kings, Ilford, Essex, England to a family of Bangladeshi origin. She is the second eldest of four children and lives at home with her family. She comes from a traditional, religious family and grew up in a strict Muslim household. After studying at UzSWLU in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 2006, Begum graduated with a degree in Architecture from the University of Westminster. She was a trainee architect and was made redundant after the company she worked for made cuts. She is a part-qualified architect.

In 2002, at the age of 18, Begum took up a kickboxing class after college. She initially did it as a hobby in secret due to concerns that her family may not approve. In 2006, soon after she graduated from university, she told her family that she was practising Muay Thai, after she had kept it a secret from her family for almost five years. In 2008, she started fighting professionally.

On 6 September 2012, Begum was nominated as British Muay Thai Team Captain and won bronze at the International Federation of Muaythai Amateur (IFMA) World Championships in Saint Petersburg, Russia. On 9 September 2012, she beat Ranini Cundasawmy from Mauritius in the quarter-final, before losing her semi-final match, on 11 September 2012, against the European champion, Chyslova Liudmila, from Belarus who proceeded to win silver.

Begum trains under Bill Judd, and currently fights out of the KO Gym in Bethnal Green, London. She trains six times a week for two hours each day, and during the build-up to a fight she trains twice a day. She is signed up by RDX Equipment and her main sponsor is DCD Property Company.

On top of her own professional commitments, Begum is a personal trainer and instructor. She also works as an instructor one night a week giving free after-school Muay Thai classes every Monday at the Lions Den Gym in Chadwell Heath, London for the children in the East End. She also coaches ladies-only classes every Sunday.

Since 2009, she has worked part-time, two days a week, as a science technician at Swanlea School in Whitechapel, London.

She is a boxing and Muay Thai coach for Fight for Peace, a charity which uses boxing as a prevention and rehabilitation model to confront the problem of child and youth participation in crime, gangs and gun violence within disadvantaged communities. She is an ambassador for Sporting Equals, a charity who help people from ethnic minorities to access sport, whoever you are and at all levels.

In 2015, Begum created a sports hijab for non-athletes for combat fighting sports and to help more Muslim women get into combat sports. She was first inspired to create the product when she saw sprinter Ruqaya Al-Ghasra struggle to wear a headscarf at the 2006 Asian Games.[33] She thought up the idea during the London 2012 Olympics when she learnt of an American athlete who was told her Islamic headscarf did not meet health and safety requirements. The hijab is a fitted, breathable version of the traditional scarf worn to conceal Muslim women's hair and chests. It uses a breathable fabrics which is designed to fit comfortably around the head.


Muslim muay Thai fighter launches her own line of sports hijabs

"I'm fighting for a world title and launching my product at the same time, so this is huge for me now," said Begum, the British champion of female Atomweight muay Thai boxing.

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