Martial arts champ fights for his future
Iranian Kung Fu master Yaser Zomorodi is in the fight of his life.
He is desperate to gain citizenship in Australia so he can rebuild his martial arts competition career and represent the country in the World Games this November.
But his real fight – having fallen foul of the corrupt and draconian justice system in his homeland – is to avoid being sent home where he would face an uncertain and possibly grim future.
A five time champion in Iran, Yaser has won national titles in Australia but can’t yet compete internationally.
Instead he volunteers his time teaching children self-defense in Dandenong, in south-east Melbourne.
Head Coach at Lifestyle Martial Arts, Bruce Corles, said Yaser’s background and language is a real asset to the gym, which is located in an area with a large population of refugees and migrants.
“The demographics of the area is such that we have a lot of Afghani people here, and when the young Afghani kids come they also speak the same language,” said Bruce.
Yaser is on a bridging visa that doesn’t allow him to work. He arrived in Australia in 2013 on a boat from Indonesia followed by 10 weeks in a detention centres on Christmas Island and in Perth.
He was released just before a change in government and the enactment of the so-called ‘turn the boats back’ policy.
Yaser said his life in Iran is a painful memory. He got into trouble with the authorities there simply for walking in public with his girlfriend.
He was also made to serve an almost extra year of national service in the army on the whim of his commander.
“In Iran everything you do is controlled. I was arrested a few times just for being in public with my girlfriend. The police targeted me because I was famous. I was a Kung Fu Wushu champion and in Iran that is an important thing for many people,” Yaser said.
He said the martial arts federation authorities – who are controlled by the government – also banned him from attending competitions after teams he trained beat government-sponsored rivals.
“The police have tried to destroy my reputation by arresting me over nothing already,” Yaser said.
“I don’t know what will happen to me if I have to go back there, it might be worse. I have nothing there, just my family.
“It was disappointing to have to leave my home but I had no choice,” he said.
Last month Yaser won gold at the Australian Kung Fu Wushu Championships. Head Coach Bruce Corles said Yaser’s skills are well beyond anything ever seen in Australia.
“The skills that he’s got – his competition was just so effortlessly won. He really impressed the selectors.”
Yaser says that his 20 years of martial arts training have taught him personal and life skills, which he values as much as competition trophies.
“I’ve learned that fighting is like living. If you want to succeed you have to live a balanced good life. You must be calm and with a clear mind about what is important,” he said.
“The sport has taught me attitudes to life and how you should behave.”
Yaser has qualified for the World Games in Indonesia this November, but without citizenship he’s not allowed to represent Australia.
His trainers are working with immigration lawyers to make sure he can compete come November.
Team manager Sarah Corles said it will be a great disappointment if he misses out.
“For Australia to miss out on these precious medals that we need so desperately it’s a real shame. We are working very hard with a group of people including immigration lawyers and local MPs to try to speed up the process and all fingers crossed we can try and get these professional athletes to represent us,” Sarah said.
She said that Wushu Kung Fu was on the verge of being added to the Olympics.
AMES Staff Writer