Ruqsana Begum is one fierce lady.
No, but really.
Begum is a British Muay Thai champion who has won medals at both European and world competitions. Her passion for Muay Thai, a form of kickboxing where fighters can use kicks, punches, elbows and knees to strike at their opponents, has opened a pathway into a career she had never considered while she was growing up.
The Muslim woman now wants other women of her faith to feel just as strong and powerful as she does while doing sports.
After spotting Muslim women wearing sports hijabs at the Olympics, Begum decided to launch her own line of hijabs made of breathable Lycra for Muslim women interested in getting active.
"Traditional hijabs can get sweaty, they're not breathable, and sometimes people use a safety pin to fasten them, which is quite dangerous and not the most functional thing," Begum told The Huffington Post."If there are sports hijabs for elite athletes, why shouldn't there be some for regular people, school girls, parents, mothers, young girls who want to train and compete?"
Begum, a second-generation British Bangladeshi, told The Huffington Post that she discovered the sport when she was about 18 years old, during a period when she was going through rough time in her personal life. She remembers seeing a poster at her East London high school advertising kickboxing. On a whim, she decided to try it out and immediately fell in love with the sport.
"It gave me an outlet and challenged me mentally and physically," she told HuffPost. "It taught me life skills, the importance of working hard, being determined, being focused."
"Initially, I was afraid they wouldn't accept me doing the sport, especially since I was a female in a very male-dominated sport," she said.
After some time, she took her father down to her gym and introduced them to her coach. In the end, her parents came to accept that Muay Thai was an important part of her life.
"I was going through a tough time in my life and in the end, my parents just wanted to see me happy," Begum told HuffPost.
Along with training for competitions, Begum also spends time coaching young Muslim women who are interested in kickboxing. She's hoping that her line of sports hijabs will encourage more Muslim women to get in the ring.
"I remember how difficult it was for me to start a sport at a young age. This is something that would have made a difference, if I had something like this to reassure my parents," Begum said.
The athlete hopes to launch her sports line this summer.
Watch the video below to see Ruqsana in action.