Muzammal Nawaz was born in Liverpool England to parents of South Asian heritage. The Nawaz family moved to Canada and his father enrolled him in karate at the age of 7 to deal with a bullying problem.
‘I was pigeon toed, chubby and brown. I felt like I was a hopeless cause. I did not think anything could help me!’
As his love for the martial arts increased so did his confidence. He often speaks about his childhood experiences when working with young people.
‘Find something that you are passionate about. Building confidence is about discovering what you are good at, and being proud of that person. People want to be around you because you want to be around yourself!’
Muzammal and Sister Zarqa
Muzammal earned his black belts in both Japanese Karate and Chinese Kenpo. He loved the values and traditions found in the Martial Arts.
He began entering Karate tournaments under the tutelage and mentorship of his first instructors Alex and John Atkinson. He would enter in forms, weapons and sparring.
After a few years of competing across Canada and the USA he became the Canadian Lightweight Champion. Muzammal loved competing in all styles and divisions in martial arts tournaments. in 1988 he was recruited onto the Canadian Tae Kwon Do team and competed at the World Championship in England winning a Silver Medal for Canada.
Muzammal enrolled into McMaster University with a Chancellors Academic Scholarship. His love for learning was only matched with his love for Martial Arts. During his undergraduate studies his sport interests began to shift towards boxing and kickboxing.
Martial Arts - The Begining
His start in the ring was rocky. In fact he lost his first 10 amateur bouts, something that would have discouraged most budding athletes.
‘My boxing was terrible. I had to make that a priority and at least win one fight otherwise I would have no friends!’
Muzammal joined the Bramalea boxing club and trained there while studying. He finally got that first win at the Diamond Gloves boxing tournament in Toronto.
He never looked back and went on to have over 150 amateur bouts winning medals in 8 World Amateur Kickboxing Championship between 1989-1999 (Austria, Germany, England, France, Lebanon, Greece, Denmark, Malta).
After graduating University Muzammal began a career with the Red Cross developing international youth leadership programs. His work took him across Canada, Europe, South East Asia and Africa. In his ‘spare time’ he started a Masters Degree in Education at the University of Toronto.
‘I was always a student first. My success in sport was linked to my success in school. I planned my schedule to train, go to classes, study and have a part time job. It was about priorities.’
Muzammal transitioned from an amateur athlete to a professional while still in university. He also began coaching a small team of athletes affectionately known as Team Abu Zayd (TAZ) after his first son.
He would train alongside his team in grueling training sessions early in the mornings or late at night. Coaching and competing became intertwined with his small band of athletes that travelled across North America.
The team became a dominant force with 5 World Kickboxing Champions and over a dozen national and international titleholders on the team.
‘Excellence is a mindset. Anyone can learn how to punch and kick. But to have the attributes of a champion means that you live, eat and sleep excellence.’
An athlete and a Coach
In 2002 Muzammal faced Melvin ‘The Beast’ Robinson for the PRO World Middleweight Championship in New York. A split decision win changed the course of his life.
Muzammal decided to focus the next few years on fighting as a professional. He limited his work as a consultant in the NGO sector but still continued to coach his small competitive team.
Muzammal would travel across the globe to face the top middleweights in every organization. He amassed a PRO record of 38-6-2. He shared the ring with Champions such as Ramin Abin (Germany), Gary Bonefant (USA), Vahid Rosni (Iran), Mote Hollomo (South Africa), and Anthony Bartinelli (USA).
'Travelling to fight hometown fighters as the opponent was a regular occurance in my career. I was rarely the favorite! I had to look inwards to find my self-confidence. It was these experiencs that helped develop my resilience.'
Like many athletes he faced some tremendous challenges. He badly injured his left shoulder and after three surgeries was left with no rotator cuff.
His solution … become southpaw!
He suffered a march-fracture in his left foot that required implants of pins and plates and a limited ability to kick with that leg.
His solutions … become a better boxer, and kick more with the other leg!
His family and friends were devastated when he was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease – Good Pasteur Syndrome. Chemotherapy saved his life, but left his body ravaged and weak.
His solution … use circuit training with lots of rest stations.
‘Challenges can be seen as obstacles or opportunities. I would always take each problem and spin it in a way that I would come out on top. It is about being creative, optimistic and having faith!’
Beating all Odds
During his career Muzammal worked with experts in the fields of sport psychology, training and program development.
He worked closely with the highly respected Olympic coach Peter Jensen who was his sport psychologist during the final stages of his pro career. Muzammal attributes his knowledge of the mental aspects of competition to Jenson.
Muzammal also recruited the expertise of world-class strength and conditioning expert Joe Arko to design and monitor his training. He attributes his success, and the success of his pupils to constant learning and growth.
York Universtiy professor Gus Kandilias was the head of his medical team that kept his health as a priority. Muzammal also learned a great deal from Gus in caring for his athletes as a coach.
He also kept strong relationships with his past and current team of athletes and coaches who always assisted in his fight preparations. His close friend Amer Mustafa was a stable and constant voice in each of his championship corners.
‘Athletes must always work in teams. The success of the athlete is the accomplishment of the team. To achieve greatness we must learn to work together. This is a life skill that sport can impart. To make this work, we must foster the culture of teamwork and allowing each person to feel empowered in their role.’
Muzammal was always interested in the development of amateur sport. In 2003 he worked with a number of martial arts clubs to establish the first Canadian kickboxing association – the Council of Amateur Sport Kickboxing (CASK). He was able to combine his experience working with government and NGOs with his educational background to help create unparalleled programs to benefit athletes, coaches and the industry.
CASK developed Canada’s first coaching certification courses, implemented training programs for officials, created a renowned sports injury management system, gained acceptance for kickboxing into the Winter/Summer Games and developed a national team athlete training program.
The work of CASK earned Ministry of Sport recognition, as well as membership with WAKO, the International Kickboxing Federation. To date CASK has membership of over 75 clubs, well over 3000 registered athletes and sanctions and supports competitions nationwide.
Having a national sport system is essential for our sport. I love seeing our young athletes pursing their passion and knowing that the sport is safe and can give a positive life long experience.
Building a Foundation for Amateur Sport
Muzammal travelled to New York to face World Light Middleweight Champion Shannon Hudson of the USA. The 29-year-old Hudson had beaten him in their last encounter a year ago. Muzammal only had one goal in his mind for the rematch - redemption. They fought for the WAKO PRO title. At the age of 44 Muzammal won by a unanimous decision victory.
Muzammal finally retired in 2012 having won 5 World Middleweight Professional Titles in different world associations (WKA, WPKA, IKF, WFK, KICK).
‘I loved training. I loved the strategic side of the game. I loved pushing my body to the limits. But most of all I loved overcoming my own fear.
Finding courage has always been a lifetime journey. The ring became my friend because it forced me to confront fears and find my resolve. Fighting was part of my journey.’
Muzammal was always coaching a number of top amateur athletes during his career. He also coaches professional boxers and MMA athletes. Some of his athletes fought on top show and leagues across the globe.
His approach with professionals was to create a solid foundation of basics to build excellence. Muzammal has been sought out for sport psychology advice and in creating fight strategies for top-level opponents. He also works with MMA fight teams creating synergy within the coaching staff of this diverse sport.
‘I love working with professional athletes who are part of a team that wants to work together. No one coach has all of the answers. Coaches, trainers, therapists must all work cooperatively and use a common language. The language of success is positive, collaborative, precise, and inspirational.’
MMA Fight - Abu Dhabi Warriors
Muzammal started to find his passion for coaching overtaking his interest for competing. He had opened up the Bay Area Athletic Club part time in 2008 but it eventually took over his once busy career in the NGO sector.
In any one day you can see Muzammal training national caliber and professional athletes, mentoring young leaders, develop club programs or teaching a class of new members. The Bay Area Athletic Club has become a community of teachers and learners all committed to building character, excellence and wellness.
‘I believe coaches have a responsibility to not just teach but to create a positive space for people to be empowered and create their own legacy.’
BAY AREA ATHLETIC CLUB