Fatima Garsi: Shattering Stereotypes Through Sisterhood and Martial ArtsWritten by Muslims Actually
Fatima Garsi is a group and private coach in athletics, martial arts, and nutrition. She is the founder of Sister Fit, a fitness and martial arts program for women and girls in the GTA.
Muslim Link interviewed her about her multicultural background and how her love of martial arts helped her connect with the diversity of Muslim women in the GTA.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Kitchener. My father was a Kurdish Muslim Refugee and my mother is from Taiwan. She converted to Islam after she met my father.
As a child, I spent a lot time of time at my parent’s grocery store. It was the only Middle Eastern grocery store in the city and I was exposed to a lot of diverse cultures, cuisines, and languages.
Did you always know that Martial arts was your passion?
In my early twenties, I found myself looking for a sense of belonging. My mother suggested that I visit Taiwan and reconnect with my roots there. So I flew to Taiwan for a few years where I taught English and found an amazing Muay Thai and Arnis trainer. This is when martial arts became a passion of mine. When I returned from Taiwan, I ran a studio gym for martial arts for two years before I came to Toronto to grow and expand more in the industry.
We all have defining moments in our lives. Describe one of yours that put you on your current path.
A defining moment in my life was when I visited Kurdistan. My father grew up in Kurdistan and during my visit, I saw the way people were struggling to live day to day. They were living in small houses, 10 people to a house. I heard stories about all the people who had lost their lives in the wars. My experience in Kurdistan helped me realize the value of my time and motivated me to return home and do something more with my life.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the people around me, my family, my parents, and by the process of learning and giving back to others.
Why did you choose to work with women through your Sister Fit Program?
Women are more comfortable working with other women. There’s a sense of comfort, familiarity, and acceptance that women find with one another. I was in a new city and wanted to forge a meaningful connection with my community. I recognized a need in the Muslim community. Like anyone else, Muslim women want and need opportunities to express themselves through athletics. I knew the powerful impact that fitness and martial arts had in my own life and I knew the difference it could make in the lives of others. Working with Muslim women has shattered my own stereotypes about the community. Having been away from the community for so long, I was afraid that they would judge me, but I realized that like me, they are all struggling in their own way. They are lively, strong, and loving, which is amazing!
Why is self-defence good for women?
Training in self-defence is taking care of yourself. Self-defense is not just for women - it’s for everybody. It’s also not a one-time fix. It’s a lifestyle and is something that you need to constantly practice. When you learn self-defence and martial arts, there is a focus on the development of skills and not on your size or body image. I think this is an important and much needed approach for women.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I would like to continue to dedicate myself to developing my own skill set in martial arts while also growing my fitness and martial arts business. I envision Sister Fit as a powerful, sustainable, and quality-driven program that will open up opportunities to Muslim women nationwide.
Support Sister Fit by donating to their LaunchGood campaign online here
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