JEDDAH: Earlier this month, Nada Al-Mashat was announced as the first Saudi woman to become an international karate judge in the history of the sport and also in the history of the Kingdom.
She is following in the footsteps of her mentor Mushrif Al-Shihri, who is president of the Saudi Karate Federation and was the first Saudi to become a world karate judge.
Her ambition and perseverance in the martial art for nearly a decade led her to earn the accolade, and she told Arab News she was “happy and proud” of the honour.
She praised Al-Shihri’s “incredible” support and expressed gratitude for his eagerness to develop Saudi karate judges through classes and tournaments, and for always being with them in all their achievements.
Al-Mashat, who turns 33 this year and has a medical degree, has always been ambitious for karate and fell in love with it while doing her masters in the UK in 2013.
She was keen to develop and improve her skills through training with karate experts.
“I started training with a karate group led by a 3rd Dan black belt Sensei trainer, and my skills improved quickly. In 2017, I decided to take private lessons with an 8th Dan black belt Sensei Dan, and it was a game changer in my performance and martial arts journey.
She participated in the first Saudi women’s karate tournament in 2019, which took place in Riyadh, and placed first in the kata category.
Al-Mashat told Arab News in 2020 that his interest in karate was inspired by Prince Sultan bin Salman’s space mission.
“The Prince’s space experience 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 carry my country’s name internationally,” Al-Mashat said at the time.
News of his appointment as a judge broke in the United Arab Emirates, where 16 Saudis earned the karate judge badge at an event in Fujairah hosted by the International Karate Federation from February 18-20.
In her historic feat for Saudi women, Al-Mashat passed the kata and kumite tests on the international referee course.
The Kingdom now has its highest number of international judges to date, according to the Saudi Karate Federation. He tweeted:
“We are proud of our international referees and judges for achieving yet another historic achievement in karate in the Kingdom. We are satisfied with the first Saudi “female judge” in the history of the game in Saudi Arabia.
“We are heading towards the realization of the strategy of the #Saudi Karate Federation: To develop the level of Saudi judges, increase their number and their participation locally and abroad.”
Since karate judges commonly use different Japanese expressions during a match to refer to things like rules and signs, Al-Mashat took the opportunity to explore the language. “Learning Japanese was and always will be a hobby. I always look forward to perfecting the pronunciation of Japanese karate terms.
“Karate gave me confidence, discipline, healthy lifestyle, good character and of course the chance to make new friends.
“Also, in karate, we always learn something new and exciting. It is a very effective means of self-defense with bare hands. Also, the tournaments gave me a pretty good level of confidence in my own abilities as a karateka and also as a judge.
She advised all ambitious Saudi athletes to set goals and work hard, telling them to remember that nothing was impossible.
Al-Mashat also expressed his gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman for their continued support for Saudi women in all fields.