To stay fit and keep their kicks strong, dozens of taekwondo students ignore the temptation of water and power through their training up to six times a week throughout Ramadan.
The fighters – who include men and women aged between 4 and 25 – train at the Fujairah Martial Arts Club. Most are preparing to compete in a championship in Jordan next month.
“If the players stop practising during Ramadan they will lose their fitness and skills and will have to start their training from zero,” says coach Mahmoud Al Shami.
“We try to encourage them to attend the training as much as they can and we try to focus more on practising techniques and teaching them new ones using only 20 per cent of their physical effort as we can’t push them hard while they’re fasting,” he said. “Taekwondo needs speed, strength and endurance but fasting bodies lack fluids and protein, that affects their energy levels.”
Mr Al Shami allots about 15 minutes per class for the mental development of skills, a technique called positive comfort.
During those sessions, students are asked to imagine their moves and reactions and attempt to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
“This will allow them to improve their techniques and enhance them,” Mr Al Shami said.
The club also teaches classes after iftar that focus more
on the physical aspect and actual training.
Read more from 'Sports in Ramadan':
Students are advised to drink plenty of water and soup and to eat meals that are high in protein, but only if they are not attending a class immediately after breaking their fasts.
“They should not eat too much but should be hydrated enough two hours before the workout, otherwise they won’t be able to move or practise properly,” Mr Al Shami said.
The club has used these methods every Ramadan since 2015, the year it was established.
"Technical preparation and theoretical training is our method each and every Ramadan and it is the best strategy to keep them attending and practising while fasting," said Nader Abu Shawish, the club's technical director.
“Suhoor is also an important meal and should not be missed, as well as taking a 30 to 60-minute rest before coming to the training,” he says.
Mohammed Khaled, a 16-year-old Egyptian fighter, says taekwondo is one of his favourite sports and practising it on an empty stomach is not so bad.
“I joined in January 2017 and I’m used to it. Practising on an empty stomach is much easier – your body feels light and will move faster,” Mohammed said.
“We don’t do excessive moves or exercises but we need to practise techniques such as kicks and jumps to stay fit and be ready for the upcoming championships,” he said.
Another fighter said he did not feel tired or thirsty while training during Ramadan.
“I enjoy coming here every day and especially the part where we practise fighting, I take a small nap before I attend the training and I don’t feel tired at all or even thirsty,” said Saad Al Mismari, an 11-year-old Emirati.
“It teaches us how to be patient and focused and this is what we need while fasting.”
The club organises three sessions in Ramadan: two before iftar and one afterwards – each session includes two classes, which are held at Asem bin Thabit Secondary School in Fujairah.