Persistence plays a pivotal role in life. It is defined as continuing to move on with whatever goal has been planned originally even though an external event or first losses may have slowed down, or temporarily halt a person while the person is on the way towards achieving their goals. It requires a person to continue keeping their attitude positive no matter what happened.
Singapore martial arts sensation Amir Khan had to hold on to his persistence as he found out at an early age that life was never a straightforward pathway.
The 23-year-old prospect from Singapore is a self-described introvert as he was once embarrassed by his peers due to the involuntary tics and twitches that were caused by having the neurological disorder Tourette’s Syndrome.
Although Khan has learned to control his ticks now, life was very different for him when he was younger.
“Growing up, I used to have spasms. I used to shake my head a lot. I would blink my eyes and make facial expressions. When I was younger, it was really bad. When I was in school, the other kids would pick on me and imitate me. It was tough growing up with it,” he recalled.
Khan took up martial arts to gain confidence after a difficult time at school, when his Tourette’s Syndrome was at its worst.
“After I did martial arts, partly because I look better and mentally I feel better as well, I have more confidence,” he said. “I didn’t really enjoy my school days. After a while, I gained more confidence and it subsided. I felt more confident and I wasn’t embarrassed about myself.”
With a supportive family behind him, Khan never felt his condition prevented him from achieving his goals.
Khan started his martial arts journey at the age of 13, having the impulse to learn Muay Thai and quickly falling in love with it.
Widely regarded as “The art of eight limbs,” Khan discovered that Muay Thai helped him to focus and eventually overcome his disorder.
“I believe martial arts has helped me through my Tourette’s. Whenever I felt like I could not control my Tourette’s, then I would go to the gym and I would sweat it out. I felt relaxed and better after each session,” he stated.
“In martial arts, you cannot really take your eyes off your opponent when you are sparring with him. You have got to really focus, or else you will get hurt, so it definitely taught me how to focus, and I was able to bring it over into real-life situations,” he added.
Muay Thai began to flow through Khan’s blood, and soon at the tender age of 14, he competed in his first amateur contest.
After a few more bouts, he spent two months training in Thailand, which led him to consider turning professional.
After mastering Muay Thai that demands steady hands and Zen-like concentration despite having Tourette’s Syndrome, Khan transitioned to the constantly evolving world of mixed martial arts, winning his first four amateur bouts from 2012 to 2014 in the U.S. state of Louisiana.
Khan honed his skills there for nearly four years before returning to Singapore, aspiring to make himself a household name.
Four years later, Khan is considered one of the most promising young talents to represent Singapore on the international stage of martial arts like ONE Championship.
Holding a professional record of 9-2, Khan is currently riding high on a six-match winning streak with his victories coming by way of exciting finish.
In his recent trip to the ONE Championship cage last November, Khan figured in his most impressive performance yet, overwhelming lightweight veteran Adrian “The Hunter” Pang with a showcase of impeccable striking and great takedown defense.
Khan will once again strut his wares on the global stage as he takes on Russian wrecking machine Timofey Nastyukhin at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD, which takes place at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar on 23 February.
While Khan admitted his decision to choose a path less travelled has earned him the derision of his naysayers, he is determined to prove them wrong by carving a successful career in the sport.
“I try to stay positive, but then sometimes people will talk and negative thoughts go into your head,” he stressed. “Some of them are sarcastic and mock me for taking the sport so seriously. They question if I can make a living out of it, and ask what happens when I’m old and have no other skills.
“So I tell them to watch me. In ten years, let’s see who’s successful. I have my long-term goals in the sport and I’ll remain focused on achieving them. That’s the best way to prove my critics wrong,” he said.
Among Khan’s goals is to inspire others to pursue their dreams and passion wholeheartedly. In order to champion that cause, he knows that he will first have to show that he can reach the top and win a ONE Championship world title.
“My current goal is to be a world champion on a big global promotion like ONE Championship. What I hope to do is inspire people to chase what they love. I want my martial arts career to be proof that if you have the passion for something, and if you’re good at it, you’ll be able to make a living out of it,” he ended.