Asif Sultani
© Australia for UNHCR
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“Sport means everything to me.”

Martial Arts gives Asif Sultani a sense of community and safety. 

Asif Sultani is a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan and a martial artist. 

He lives in Maitland in the New South Wales Hunter region, but can be found at a gym in Heatherbrae most days of the week, training hard to fulfil his ambitions. 

“My dream is to become the best version of myself. I don’t want to be better than anyone else but I do want to become the best version of myself both in sports and in life,” Asif said. 

Asif was forced to flee Afghanistan when he was a child because of the ongoing war, conflict and ethnic persecution of Hazara people. His family sought asylum in Iran, where Asif first took up martial arts to protect himself, and discovered the power of his thoughts.  

Asif Sultani
© Australia for UNHCR
After fleeing conflict in Afghanistan, Asif Sultani searched for safety and belonging. He found both those things in martial arts.

“I thought that I was less than other people. I was getting bullied a lot. Over time I’ve learnt that I can overcome these things. I realised that someone’s opinion does not have to be your reality.” 

Asif came to Australia as an asylum seeker, where he obtained his blackbelt in karate. He was awarded an International Olympic Committee Refugee Scholarship to train and prepare for the Tokyo Olympics, but narrowly missed the selection criteria for the Refugee Olympic team as he was not able to compete internationally due to his visa restrictions. 

Today, Asif has a disability support business and is also a personal trainer and motivational speaker. He continues to train and compete in martial arts, now focusing on mixed martial arts. He says that sport has helped him find his place in Australian society. 

Asif Sultani
© Australia for UNHCR
Asif says that sport has helped him find his place in Australian society.

“I have a sense of belonging at the gym. No one looks down on anyone. In the gym we are all equal. 

“Sport helped me to find a sense of safety when I was a kid and had to flee my homeland because of war and conflict. I’ve been looking for safety for over 20 years and finally I’ve found that safety through martial arts and sports.” 

Asif meditates every day and says this helps improve his mental health and connect with his past.

“I value meditation and gratitude so much. They’re a big part of my life. It helps me to grow mentally. When I meditate, I like to travel into the past to think about who I was and where I came from, and how much I’ve grown since then. 

“I also travel into the future to think about who I want to become and where I want to be in five years’ time. I meditate on what I need to do to get there.” 

Watch Asif’s inspirational story now. 

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