Meet Sohail Khan – How rustication from school introduced MP’s Golden Boy to Kudo
The 23-year-old is a 15-time National Champion in Kudo.
Sohail Khan, a formidable force in the realm of Kudo, is gearing up to showcase his unparalleled skills and extend his reign as the 15-time National Kudo Champion. Hailing from Madhya Pradesh, the 23-year-old athlete has earned the moniker of the Golden Boy, embodying excellence in the martial arts discipline.
This month, Sohail Khan is set to embark on a challenging journey through three consecutive tournaments in Surat, spanning a mere eight days. His journey kicks off with the prestigious 14th Kudo National Tournament 2023-24, scheduled from November 22 to 25, followed swiftly by the 4th Kudo Federation Cup on November 26.
The grand finale of his domestic season awaits at the 15th Akshay Kumar International Kudo Tournament, all taking place at the Veer Narmad South Gujarat University in Udhana, Surat.
In an exclusive interview with Khel Now, the Kudo Champion delved deeper into his personal and professional life:
From Karate to Taekwondo to Kudo
Sohail Khan has a wealth of experience in a variety of sports. Initially, he played karate, then expanded his skills by learning taekwondo, and now he is an epitome of expertise in kudo. “If I am doing Karate, I am missing full contact punches and throws. If I am doing Taekwondo, I am missing my punches, throws and ground fights.
“So, then I got to know about Kudo. My sir (Dr. Aijaz Khan) introduced the sport to us. So, I found it very special. I can try boxing punches, karate and taekwondo techniques, throws too, and ground fights too. I thought that this sport is made for me. Plus, it has safety precautions too,” he explained how Kudo ignited his interest.
Sohail Khan’s introduction to Kudo
Sohail was rusticated from school in the fifth standard for six months. This experience deeply hurt him as a child, and reflecting upon it, he said, “I was rusticated for around 6-8 months. I was in 5th class and did not have much understanding.
“I studied in Mahar Regiment Public school. It is a branch of army school, so the discipline was very strict. One of my best friends had made some mistake, so along with him I too got punished. He was rusticated, and with him I was also rusticated,” the young prodigy added.
After his rustication, Sohail says that he had nothing to lose, and at that moment his coach Dr. Aijaz Khan introduced him to Kudo. “I always say that after my father if I have seen anyone (as an idol) it’s my coach Dr. Aijaz Khan. Because other than sports, he has guided me in numerous life decisions. I don’t just have a sports bond with him, it’s more than that. I see him as my father figure.”
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International tournaments different than domestic ones
Sohail Khan has represented India at many global events, including the 6th Kudo World Championship in Tokyo, held in May this year. He made it to the quarterfinals but lost to Lithuania’s two-time silver medalist Vilius Tarasevicius. Throughout the bout, Sohail Khan exhibited his exceptional talent, dominating the contest.
The young prodigy highlighted, “The International tournament in Japan was totally different. The atmosphere, the change in climate, everything was totally different. More than 60 countries participated in the World Championship. The best of the best players competes there. The thing I learned is that I need to train more and work harder.”
Paying out of one’s own pockets
The determined kudo athletes from Mumbai covered their expenses to represent their country in the Japanese hybrid martial art event, earlier this year. While the Kudo International Federation India (KIFI) assisted in arranging the competition fees, the athletes took it upon themselves to fund their travel, accommodation, and meals.
Sohail shed light on the same and said, “When we first got selected for the international trials for the World Championship, we were very happy that we were going to represent India. We had many dreams that the Ministry of Youth Affairs would fund us.
“But we got the news that the federation is going to fund the tournament fees, rest all (travel, accommodation, meals, etc.) we had to fund ourselves. That was not a small amount of money. It was around 1.5 lakhs, more than that. And arranging that sum of money is not an easy task.
“I was training, running to the sponsors to help and do something, that I am going for an international tournament. I felt that if the government would have aided a bit more at that time, a little more support, then the tables might have turned around.
“Because, instead of focusing on training first, we had to search for sponsors. The Federation did try its best, but a little more help from the Ministry could have done good for us,” Sohail expressed his feelings.
Maintaining pressure and expectations
In the 2017 Kudo World Championship held in Mumbai, Sohail emerged as the world champion after a dominating display against France in the final with a thumping 8-0 win. But the Golden Boy shares the pressure and expectations he faced after the event.
“I recently felt the pressure in the World Championship. Because from the Indian squad, everybody was looking at me, that I will do good. There’s the hope of a medal. The expectation to win a medal. But definitely we will try something new in the upcoming championships.
“There is a lot of pressure. So many people, so many students, so many athletes are looking at you, expecting that they will get something different to see from you. To stand on their expectations is slightly difficult, but I try to give my hundred percent,” the 2017 Kudo World Championship gold winner said.
A specific opponent or challenge
When the kudo athlete was asked whether there is a specific opponent he is looking forward to as a challenge in the upcoming tournaments, he said, “I won’t say a specific opponent, but my last-to-last time opponent, he is from Manipur. He is a very good and tough opponent. But I have heard that he has changed his category. I enjoyed fighting him.”
When you hear about Sohail Khan’s daily routine, it is likely to be a surprise for most. Juggling his own training, university commitments, work, and self-defence training for women, he maintains a very positive mindset.
He explained, “Problems are part of life. One thing is time management. Sometimes, things are not scheduled, they instantly happen. If I couldn’t go to college today, I can utilise my own training. If I haven’t done training, that time I can use it for self defence class. Ultimately, everybody has 24 hours, and you need to manage your time accordingly.”
A significant mantra?
Sohail Khan, the young Kudo prodigy, has already clinched 15 consecutive championships. With domestic tournaments around the corner, Sohail Khan has revealed his preparations for the upcoming events. Although he has denied any significant mantra, but he said, “I just keep it simple, that this time I have to go and give my best. I just need to give my best shot in each of my fights.
“The training is going amazingly. I recently went to Delhi, to attend one of my international camps, to train better for this national championship and especially the upcoming Asian Championship trial. My main focus is to win the official national championship.”