Fire in her heart

“What’s beautiful tough? To me it’s a beautiful woman with a fire inside her. Nobody can stop her. She doesn’t want to burn anybody. She just wants to show light. Every time I hear it I see this woman with fire in her heart.”

Meet Farinaz Lari, the first Iranian woman to ever win the World Kickboxing Championships. Currently the number one ranked K-1 female fighter in the world, Farinaz’s journey began in 2007 when she was introduced to kickboxing at a local fitness facility in Iran. She immediately fell in love with the sport and was determined to make a name for herself through competition.

She began by Googling Iran’s top kickboxing coach with a stellar reputation for producing champions. There was just one problem: Ali Khanjari didn’t believe in training women. “Women are not serious.” he rudely told her over the phone. She persisted and eventually he let her try out. The rest as they say, is history. Not only did he become her coach, mentor and number one supporter, he also became her husband. Together they turned the sport of women’s kickboxing on its cauliflowered ear.

RYU was fortunate enough to catch up with Farinaz between rounds for a little corner advice while she prepares to defend her world title coming up next month in Seattle.

What does it mean to be a world champion?
It’s the legacy. It’s not the win. The wins and the fights will all be forgotten. Eventually somebody newer, younger, more beautiful, and more talented will come and take your place and nobody will remember who you were. So what’s more important than winning are the lives you change within the time you have. It’s the people we train, the love that we give them, and the lifestyle we try to inspire that can set a trend. And it’s this trend that will endure. That’s what I really want to do. I want to set a trend. Not just for Iranian women, but for ALL women to know that they can be anything they want to be. There’s no limitations anymore.

What motivates you?
I moved here 6 years ago from Iran. When I started kickboxing there was no support. Especially as a woman from a 3rd world country. Even my parents didn’t understand. But it just made me want it more. I wanted to prove to them I could be something in a sport. Not just by becoming a world champion, but by making a career out of it. I wanted to prove to everyone who thought it was not possible.

Why do you train?
Everyone asks me why do you wake up at 5? Why do you train at 6? The truth is I just love it. I love the feeling of being healthy and alive. In all honesty, I’m so grateful to have the strength and ability to wake up every morning and exercise. As a personal trainer, I get to work with people with Parkinson’s, with MS. Some days their energy levels are good. They can walk down the street and everything is fine. Then the very next day something switches and they can’t even get out of bed. Or go to the washroom by themselves. That motivates me in ways people can’t really understand. I am truly grateful and appreciative of having a healthy body that allows me to do everything I love to do.

As a competitor, how do you overcome self-doubt?
I don’t. I need those doubts. If I continually believe that I’m the best then I won’t be the best. I’ll be beaten. I think having those doubts makes me want to push harder. If I think I’m good at what I’m doing then I won’t push it.

Do you have any last words of advice?
Don’t wait around for others to find you. Nobody comes looking for talent. You have to go out and show it and then prove your talents are worth something. Worth following. Worth investing in. Whatever you do, be independent. Show the world that you are worth it. That’s how you get results.

Farinaz Lari is a personal trainer who made history as the first Iranian woman to win the World Kickboxing Championships. She is currently ranked number one in the 52kg division of K-1 and holds the Canadian Female Flyweight title for Muay Thai Canada. At the time of this interview she is preparing for a world title match in Seattle on November 19.