Those who have seen Rashid Naseem in action would endorse the fact that he has a strong head and powerful fists. This martial arts’ expert from Karachi wears glasses, but that hasn’t stopped him from swinging the nunchuks or smashing coconuts, watermelons, walnuts and soda cans with his bare head, hands or elbows to claim more than two dozen Guinness World Records.
It was back in 2003 that, while relaxing at his home and channel surfing, Naseem’s attention was caught by a programme on AXN where a martial artist was attempting a world record. It made him think he could also achieve the same feat.
Naseem, who started sparring at the age of nine after seeing his cousin practise karate, took nearly 11 years to break the first of his 32 Guinness World Records. During that 11-year span, Naseem kept practising for different records in his private space. He did not have enough resources to attempt any of the records officially. But he was certain he could do it once he got the chance.
It is no mean feat to break more than two dozen world records. Martial artist Rashid Naseem has done it through sheer determination and a steely resolve
“I used to attempt breaking records myself and then celebrate as if I had succeeded,” he recalls, sitting near a wooden martial arts dummy in the studio of his Pakistan Academy of Martial Arts in Shah Faisal Town.
“Even before I attempted any of the records officially, I used to tell people that I didn’t know when I would become a Guinness World Record holder… but if I stayed alive I would definitely become one.”
Naseem grabbed that opportunity during the Punjab Youth Festival in 2014. In just three days, he was the record-holder of four of them. It was only the beginning of a glorious journey. The next four years saw him attempting all sorts of records. Today, the 36-year-old holds the record of smashing the most number of coconuts, watermelons and walnuts with his head — 35, 49 and 254 respectively.
The initial days of training were tough for him. Being the son of a welder, he did not have enough resources to pay the trainer’s fee. Fortunately, his master was kind enough to allow him to take classes without any payment.
Moreover, his parents did not support his desire for learning martial arts as they believed it might hinder his education. Naseem, who received a master’s degree in Mass Communications from the University of Karachi in 2005, had to work very hard to convince his parents to let him train. “Usually, one of my parents opposed it. I used to try and convince my mother when my father resisted it and persuade my father when my mother stopped me from going for it,” he says.
Naseem’s friends too are wary of his extraordinary striking capabilities. They avoid physical pranks with him. Although, he is immensely powerful as an individual, being a three-time National Freestyle Karate Wrestling Champion (2003 to 2005) and having won various international combat events, he tends to avoid getting into any sort of fight. “Practising martial arts makes you a peaceful person. I do not want to get into any sort of fight. My friends also have a similar mindset, they avoid conflicts. But if someone gets in my face and pushes my limits, I can teach him a lesson.”
The fourth dan black belt master founded the Pakistan Academy of Martial Arts some 18 years ago to train budding martial artists. He wants to impart all his knowledge and experience to his students. And sure enough, his academy has produced capable fighters and record-breakers. “Eight of my students too are Guinness World Record holders in different categories. They have won national events. In fact, my student Asad Hanif has also won a gold medal in the Asian Championship, where he won five consecutive bouts. I am extremely proud of all my students’ feats,” he says.
Breaking records needs determination and focus; Naseem trains for months or even years to attain precision in that pursuit. The man has broken 32 records previously set by martial artists of different parts of the world. Now he wants to take his record tally to at least 50 and that too by the end of 2019. “I want to do it for Pakistan. I want people to remember me and my country whenever they discuss martial arts anywhere in the world.
“Everything I do is for my country. My love for Pakistan is the force that has enabled me to achieve whatever I have achieved up till now.”
Naseem is quite happy with the fame and respect he has received as a sportsman. He has performed all around the globe and wants his students to carry his legacy forward. “I want my students to hold Pakistan’s flag high on the international stage. I want them to serve martial arts and promote the sport in this country. It is my dream and I am working hard for it.”
The writer tweets @Arslanshkh
Published in Dawn, EOS, January 13th, 2019