As well as increasing physical fitness and mental health, martial arts can boost brain cognition too. Martial arts training can help you cope with failure, learn from mistakes, and handle the stresses of your business.

Malaysian Oscar winning actor Michelle Yeoh, Tom Hardy, Guy Ritchie and tech billionaire Mark Zuckerberg are all black belts in martial arts.

Mixed martial arts (MMA ) is the fastest growing sport in the world, selling out arenas across the globe – and rival broadcasters are chomping at the bit to sign up programmes.

As a Eurasian Actor, mother, media professional and a dedicated practitioner of the martial art of karate, Sarimah Ibrahim’s journey to achieving a black belt has been transformative.

With almost half a million followers on Instagram, the actor and mother shares insights into mental health, fight training and her work.

Sarimah said said:

“The lessons I’ve learned on the mat have transcended the boundaries of the dojo and provided invaluable insights which guide me in all aspects of my life.

“I started practicing at 9 years old, wanting to be able to fight off the school yard bullies who kept calling me a ‘half breed’ at the schools I attended growing up.

“Coming from an airline family background, my father’s work took us to many countries as expats and being half Irish half Malay I was never white or Asian enough to have solid place in social groups.

“This was frustrating and around the time when I decided to become a superhero of sorts!

“What does every superhero have? Strength and the ability to fight. Maybe that would make them like me?”

One of the most fundamental lessons Sarimah has learned in karate is the power of incremental progress. It is a slow and sometimes agonising journey from a white belt to an advanced one and it taught her that what seems impossible at first can become achievable through consistent effort and determination.

Karate has taught her the importance of emotional control. In the heat of contact sparring, it’s easy to let anger or frustration cloud your judgment. Sarimah said:

“I’ve learned to process my emotions rather than suppress them, ensuring they don’t dictate my actions or demeanour and help maintain composure.

“I discovered that success often requires adaptation and persistence. Just like martial artists adjust and refine their techniques in sparring, I’ve learned to be flexible and willing to modify my approach in various situations in life and at work.

“It’s not about finding a one-size-fits-all solution but about continuously refining and trying different strategies.

“Each time I fell down it offered me the opportunity to bounce back, with more knowledge and wisdom. Once kicked in the face twice as fast to block!”

Martial arts has also taught Sarimah the importance of focusing on her strengths rather than fixating on others’ abilities. This lesson has translated into her professional life as an actor, broadcaster and entrepreneur, reminding her not to engage in the damaging habit of constant comparison which is a minefield for mental health.

Sarimah said:

 “Karate has shown me the profound connection between the mind and the body. I learnt that we can select what information we let float pass us and what to choose to fixate on.

“The mental motivation that I receive from my teachers is a vivid illustration of how the mind dictates the body’s actions.

“This understanding helps me find motivation and inspiration even on the most challenging days”.

Breaking through the barriers of self-doubt and difficulty is a core aspect of martial arts training. The experience of persistently working toward breaking boards to earn a black belt has instilled in Sarimah the unwavering belief that tenacity is one of the fundamental keys to success.

It took several attempts and countless hours of practice, but she explained that the feeling of accomplishment and newfound confidence were immeasurable. Sarimah added:

“As an actor demonstrating a respect for cultural norms in the roles I experience but also allowing my own unique life and being to come through has been a key factor in my career success.

“As an Irish Muslim actor, for example, playing an undercover Police woman dressed like a prostitute required some serious self talk and belief in progression!”

The accomplished actor and brodcaster’s journey to being awarded a black belt taught Sarimah that commitment and unwavering belief in oneself are often more critical than innate ability. It’s not about being the strongest or most talented but about having the discipline, indomitable spirit, and perseverance to overcome challenges. She commented:

“These attributes are equally applicable to my professional life in the competitive world of media and entertainment. An actor gets a role if they fit it not because they can act. The ability to act is a given.”

Achieving a black belt in karate is not merely a testament to physical prowess; it is a symbol of internal growth, discipline, emotional control, and a core inner confidence.

Just as a black belt represents the highest level of skill and dedication in martial arts, it stands as a reminder that these qualities are the true ingredients of personal and professional achievement.

It is an act of balancing the inner and the outer, both are equally crucial to a person’s well-being and success and you can read more on the science of it here.