JEDDAH: Earlier this month, Nada Al-Mashat was announced as the first Saudi woman to become an international Karate judge in the sport’s history and also the Kingdom’s history.
She follows in the footsteps of her mentor Mushrif Al-Shihri, who is president of the Saudi Karate Federation and was the first Saudi man to become a world Karate judge.
Her ambition and persistence in the martial art for almost a decade led her to gain this accolade, and she told Arab News that she was “glad and proud” for the honor.
She praised the “amazing” support from Al-Shihri and expressed her gratitude for his eagerness to develop Saudi Karate judges through courses and tournaments, and for always being with them in all their achievements.
Al-Mashat, who turns 33 this year and has a bachelor’s degree in medicine, has always been ambitious about Karate and fell in love with it while she was doing a master’s in the UK in 2013.
She was keen to build and improve her skills through training with Karate experts.
“I started practicing with a Karate group led by a 3rd Dan black belt Sensei coach, and my skills were improving quickly. In 2017 I decided to take one-to-one private classes with an 8th Dan black belt Sensei, and that was a game-changer in my performance and martial arts journey.”
She took part in the first Saudi ladies’ Karate tournament in 2019, which took place in Riyadh, and came top in the kata category.
Al-Mashat told Arab News in 2020 that her interest in Karate had been inspired by Prince Sultan bin Salman’s space mission.
“The prince’s space experience has filled (me) with ambition and determination to do something for my country. I felt like I could make all my dreams come true. I chose karate to take the name of my country to the international level,” Al-Mashat said at the time.
The news about her becoming a judge was revealed in the UAE, where 16 Saudis earned the Karate judge badge at a Fujairah event organized by the International Karate Federation during Feb. 18 to 20.
In her historic achievement for Saudi women, Al-Mashat passed the kata and kumite tests on the international referees course.
The Kingdom now has its largest number of international judges to date, according to the Saudi Karate Federation. It tweeted:
“We are proud of our international referees and judges for achieving a new historical achievement in Karate in the Kingdom. We are happy with the first Saudi “female judge” in the history of the game in Saudi Arabia.
“We are moving toward achieving the strategy of the #Saudi Karate Federation: To develop the level of Saudi judges, to increase their numbers and participation locally and abroad.”
As Karate judges commonly use different Japanese phrases during a match to refer to things like rules and signs, Al-Mashat took the opportunity to explore the language. “Learning Japanese was and will always be a hobby. I always look forward to perfecting the pronunciations of Japanese Karate terms.
“Karate has given me confidence in myself, discipline, healthy lifestyle, good morals, and of course the chance to make new friends.
“Moreover, in Karate we’re always learning something new and exciting. It is a highly effective means of unarmed self-defense. Also, tournaments have given me quite a good level of confidence when it comes to my own ability as a karateka and also as a judge.”
She advised all ambitious Saudi sports practitioners to set their goals and to work hard, telling them to remember that nothing was impossible.
Al-Mashat also extended her gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman for their continued support to Saudi women in all fields.