Finding harmony between faith and fighting — Before lifting the world title belt, Ruqsana Begum had to overcome conflicts with her family and religion to dominate in Muay Thai.

“I actually did feel very guilty, I had a lot of inner conflict for many years when I first began this sport,” explains Ruqsana Begum. “I felt I was maybe going against my religion and it really, really used to tear me apart.”

Raised in a traditional Muslim family of Bangladeshi origin in Ilford, Essex, Ruqsana long battled the contradiction between her strict upbringing and passion for Muay Thai kickboxing.

After keeping her training secret from her family for four years, in April 2016 she defeated Sweden’s Josefine Lindgren Knutsson to be crowned World Kickboxing Champion in the Atomweight (48–50 kg) class.

Ruqsana is the only British Muslim woman who is a national champion in her sport and has pushed for more Muslim women to get into combat sports, creating a sports hijab in 2015.

But to succeed in the ring, upbringing, background and religion don’t mean anything. “Talent alone is not enough, it’s all about sacrifice,” Ruqsana explains.

Ruqsana Begum: World Champion was produced and directed by Paula Haydock and James Callum.

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