SANAA Khan is proof that appearances can be deceptive.

Slightly built yet evidently strong, the 19-year-old is only 5ft one yet she hasn’t let her size hold her back when it comes to pursuing her favourite sport.

Last year the kickboxer achieved her black belt - now she is forging her way to become a fighter after taking up boxing.

Growing up in Pudsey, Sanaa recalls it was her father, Nadeem, who initially introduced her to kickboxing, described as a form of martial arts incorporating traditional western boxing, karate and Tae Kwon Do leg strikes.

She was a 14-year-old student at high school and, according to Sanaa, it was something good to have on her CV.

“My Dad got me into kickboxing. He is my biggest supporter,” she says.

Sanaa appreciates while, traditionally, boxing is a male dominated sport, it is becoming more popular among females.

“I think it has become a bit more accepted,” says Sanaa, who was also keen to learn how to look after herself.

“Everyone should have that basic self defence,” she says.

Adding: “I think in life, you never really know what is going to come round the corner, or who you will bump into. You hear of these stories of people getting attacked and for a parent to know their child can protect themselves if they come into a situation like that I think that is the best thing.

Five years ago Sanaa joined Elemental Kickboxing Academy in Bramley.

“During my time at the club I started off going through the belts - I started off as a White belt and got my Black belt last year which was a massive achievement,” she explains.

“I was dedicated and it was something I had always aspired to do.”

Eager to pass on her expertise to others, Sanaa also undertook training courses to become a Martial Arts instructor and a personal trainer.

Sanaa is also keen to become a role model to other women who may want to pursue the sport, but she admits being a female in a predominantly male-dominated environment isn’t easy - particularly when it comes to competing.

She began competing three years ago but Sanaa explains while more females are coming into the sport, they are still few and far between and she regularly struggles to find women who are a similar size to her.

To compete Sanaa often has to take on contestants bigger than her - but she’s always ready for the challenge....

Dave Kenyon, head instructor at Elemental Kickboxing Academy, says he has seen Sanaa’s confidence grow since she started kickboxing.

“Sanaa is an absolute inspiration and a really good representative of the club and what can be achieved when you really put your mind to it,” says Dave.

Her achievements in kickboxing, and being able to pass on her skills to others wanting to learn the sport through her role as a part-time instructor at Elemental, led to her wanting to take her fighting career further and earlier this year Sanaa took up boxing.

“I got to Black Belt and wanted to explore a different kind of Martial Art - that is why I started boxing,” explains Sanaa, who joined the Lion Gym in Greengates, Bradford, and underwent an eight week training course through the organisation Ultra White Collar Boxing which supports Cancer Research.

After completing her training she participated in her debut fight and despite suffering a panic attack at the end of the second round she says she learnt a lot from her experience.

“It was a lot more intense which is what I loved about it,” says Sanaa.

She believes nerves impacted on her performance and is conscious it could happen again.

“I feel quite anxious it will happen again,” she says, expressing the importance of having a ‘very strong mind.’

“Looking back it was a massive learning curve. I have learned so much from the experience,” says Sanaa.

Being the only girl at the gym where she trains doesn’t deter her either.

“It has been good training with the guys. I feel confident to walk into a gym with no females and train,” she says.

Sanaa says the sport has increased her confidence too.

“My confidence has grown so much and it is continuing to grow just by putting yourself out there.”

Now Sanaa, who counts Leeds boxer Nicola Adams OBE among her role models for the sport, hopes to encourage and inspire other women to get involved

Nicola Adams was the only female boxer Sanaa had heard of while kickboxing and she was inspired when Nicola became the first woman to win an Olympic boxing gold medal in the London 2012 Olympics.

“Hopefully, one day I can be in their shoes and be a role model for someone else,” says Sanaa.

Keeping it in the family, Sanaa’s older brother, Qamer, 22, is also into boxing and her younger sister - 15-year-old Hannah - is following in her footsteps after taking up kickboxing. Sanaa also has an older sister, Aisha, who is studying nursing at university.

“In the gym I am achieving my goals and now I can use my training to help other people,” says Sanaa.

“I can have a positive influence on someone else’s life, to help them achieve their goals and I hope to continue to do so.”

Sanaa’s advice to other women who may want to take up sports such as Martial Arts is to give it a go.

Khalil Alam, head coach at The Lion Gym, says they are encouraging more women to get into boxing.

“It is under-represented and we are also trying to overcome the mindset of people,” he says, referring to the fact that they want to change the perception that boxing is still a male dominated sport.

Around 20 per cent of those attending the gym are female.

“It is getting there and we are starting to get more inquiries,” says Khalil.

To find out more about Elemental Kickboxing visit or; call 0113 205 7433 or email:

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