AOTM 04 | IWUF Athlete of the Month for April: Egyptian Sanda Star Motaz Rady

Egyptian sanda athlete Motaz Rady, now 33, has long been one of Egypt’s top sanda champions. He won a gold medal at the 2015 World Wushu Championships in Jakarta, a bronze medal at the 2017 World Wushu Championships in Kazan, a silver medal at the 8th Sanda World Cup in Xian, and a bronze medal at the 9th Sanda World Cup in Hangzhou. He is a former member of the IWUF Athletes Committee, he has made IWUF online classroom presentations for sanda techniques, he has been an official at African Wushu Kungfu Federation events, and coached many athletes for the Egyptian sanda team. In the heavyweight 90+ Kg weight division, Motaz is an imposing figure in competition on the lei tai, but off it he is one of the most popular sanda sportsmen in wushu, respected for both his fighting prowess and his dedication to helping build and promote wushu in Egypt, Africa and around the world.


Sanda Beginnings


Motaz remembers how his sport fighting career began as a youth in his hometown, 6th of October, a satellite city of Giza, and part of the greater Cairo metropolitan area. “I discovered wushu/sanda in a private club,” he says, “which is the 6th of October Sports Club. I started practicing sanda in 2000, and it was interesting and fun despite its challenges.” He recalls that his first fight in competition was very difficult, because, “I did not know the sanda rules well and I made many mistakes. But, I developed my skills by paying close attention to many matches of older sanda athletes in Egypt. I learned to focus on the most accurate details of the game, and techniques of attack and defense, and that is what made me grow as an athlete. In addition, of course, to being mindful of following the coaches’ instructions. My coach, who started with me in my first training period, is Coach Amr Mamdouh. He stayed with me for nearly 15 years, training me well, and he taught me a lot and a lot about sanda. I owe him a lot of credit.”


Motaz trained with deep focus, competing in local and national sanda competitions, all the while honing his fighting skills and gaining experience on the leitai. As he matured he became powerful and strong, and eventually came to fight in the heavyweight 90+ Kg division. In 2015 Motaz made his international debut at the 13th World Wushu Championships in Jakarta, an event that would boost his sanda career to superstardom in Egypt and make him a top champion of the global sanda circuit.


An Epic Gold Medal at the World Championships


The journey to Jakarta would be an incredible story. Motaz says, “This tournament was the most important event in my history as an athlete, for many reasons. Because of course I got the gold medal in my weight class, which is the first and last gold medal in 90+ Kg in Egypt so far. And also because I won the only gold medal for Egypt at that WWC. But more importantly, I was recovering from a very bad injury – a double fracture in my right leg – that was enough to end my international sporting life before it even started.”


A year before Jakarta, Motaz was training to compete at the 2014 Sanda World Cup. But then his leg was badly fractured. He recalls, “At the moment of that injury, that was the most difficult moment I faced in my whole career, and it was the most difficult challenge because it happened to me only one week before the 2014 World Cup. So I was very sad and felt that my dream had gone too far away. In perspective, the normal time for this injury to fully recover from is two years. But because the preparations that preceded the World Championships were about 6 months before that, I began the training for it 3 months after the injury. Sometimes my feet were very swollen, so I covered them so that the coach doesn’t see them. He tells me to rest for a while, and I don’t want to rest. I just want to reach my dream.”

“But,” recalls Motaz, “the determination to reach my goal was the motive to go on. The most beautiful thing is that we made a training camp in China for a month in the city of Xi’an, which is the stronghold of sanda in the world. We trained with the first Chinese team, and this added a lot to me in my life as a wushu player and an athlete in general.”


“As for the final match,” Motaz describes, “I was fighting against a strong opponent who won a bronze in Malaysia 2013. He also won all his matches by knockout, so there was focus in my strategy that directed the techniques to pushing him off the platform in order to avoid some of his skills. The plan succeeded and the match was won. When I raised my hand in victory, I forgot all the moments of fatigue and pain. Happiness was overwhelming for the entire team, and it was a precious medal for me and my country.”

Motaz credits his coaches for their dedication in helping him recover from his injuries, and also for believing in him. “Coach Jamal Ghanem and Coach Ramadan Zaki were with me after the injury and did a great job with me at this time. The most important and prominent role goes to Coach Hussein Abdel Mawgoud, the coach of the national team, who bet on me and chose me despite my incomplete recovery from the injury. He even chose me while I was still suffering from difficulty in movement because of the injury, but he had great confidence in me, and also developed the strategy of fighting to suit me.”


When the referee raised Motaz’ hand at the end of the fight, the Egyptian team went crazy with jubilation and celebration. “There was a moment that was captured in photos after the final match,” recalls Motaz, “when my coach climbed onto the leitai after the victory, and I could only hug him in appreciation of his efforts with me.”

As for his team, Motaz says, “Egypt is one of the very strongest countries in the sport of wushu and is always prominent in competition. It recently won second place in the World Youth Championship in Indonesia. And I feel proud that I am part of the Egyptian team. It is really a wonderful team and there are many champions such as Islam Naguib, Ayman Jalal, Omar Mamdouh Mahmoud Atef, and many others. We always stand with one another and encourage each other. Without their support, I would not have achieved any success.”


An Egyptian Sanda Star

Motaz returned to Egypt a star after his triumph in Jakarta, looking ahead to his next sanda event. “The World Championship is the most beautiful and enjoyable competition,” he notes, “and it always qualifies me for many other competitions.” Next up was the 2016 Sanda World Cup in Xian, where he went on to win a silver medal. “The World Cup,” remarks Motaz, “despite its few matches, is more intense because the competition is with the four best in the world and they are all difficult matches.”


A year later Motaz won a gold medal in the 2017 African Championship in Morocco, and competed in two top sanda events — the 14th World Wushu Championships in Kazan and quickly following, the Sanda King competition 2017 in China. “The Championship in Kazan was very difficult,” says Motaz, “and the competition was tough with the top four of China, Iran, Bulgaria and Egypt. It was a very fierce competition. Even my first match with Spain was with a very strong player, but he was overcome by my not giving him any opportunity to attack.” Motaz emerged with a bronze medal after fighting in the grueling semifinal with China’s powerhouse and national champion Ye Xiang.

Only a few weeks later in October that year Motaz would meet Xiang again in the finals of the Sanda King competition in China, and come away with a coveted silver medal. Sanda King has become one of the most popular TV sport spectacles in China showcasing sanda legends and heroes. Motaz reflects on this unique event, saying “Sanda King competition was a different professional tournament with a very different atmosphere. I had a very strong opponent. The Chinese player was the absolute best.  The atmosphere was very challenging, and the Chinese audience filled the stadium. It was an honor for me to participate in the strongest of tournaments, and I hope to participate in it again.”


Wushu Sanda Leadership in Egypt and Beyond


Off the platform, Motaz has also been deeply engaged in promoting sanda and sport in Egypt, the continent of Africa, and around the world. From 2015-2019 he was an active member of the IWUF Athletes’ Committee. Of this he says, “It was a very important experience and a great honor for me to contribute anything to sanda players around the world. We were making very important decisions in order to develop sanda, especially in matters related to athletes. While the committee contributed to the development of global sanda, I think we still have a lot of ideas to present in the future to bring the sport forward.”


After wushu moved mostly online during the Covid 19 pandemic, Motaz gave a seriese of sand courses in the  IWUF Online Wushu Classroom  in 2020, on Basic Skills of Sanda & Their Applications in Competitions, on Zoom and WUSHU TV’s Youtube channel. “The responsibility of teaching and helping the world during a pandemic was a difficult and beautiful task,” he remarks. “At the same time I love teaching very much as well as training. The Federation gave excellent lectures that won everyone’s approval.”

Motaz love for teaching sanda is part of his passion for coaching and helping young fighters. He tells us, “I am the technical director of a team that I grew up on 20 years ago, the 6th of October Sports Club team. I try to do what I can for the place that has always given me a lot. I am the coach of the youth sanda team that won second place in the World Championships. Coaching is a great profession. It is interesting and challenging to try to present your experiences to young players, knowing all the details of what they feel. I was once like them, so I know what they think and what they suffer. In the current period, training continues now, and I have big plans for the future.”


Beyond coaching, Motaz has also played important roles in the organizational aspects of Egyptian and African wushu development and promotion. “As a coach for the National Youth Team I am also a member of the Players Affairs Committee of the African and Arab Wushu Federation, and Chairman of the Players Affairs Committee in the Egyptian Federation. And, I’m a member of the Technical Committee of the Egyptian and African Wushu Kungfu Federation . I also give lectures on Wushu Sanda in Egypt, Africa and other Arab countries.”

As Motaz reflects on how wushu/sanda has developed in Egypt and Africa since he began his career, he has a number of thoughts on ways it can develop in the future. “I have presented the topic in committee meetings, that we must work to spread sanda in the world, as it is the basis of all combat games around the globe. The development of the sport in Egypt and Africa was really helped by the presence of Wushu TV, which contributed to the ease of transmitting events and following up on everything new in wushu. As well, we are fortunate to have Sherif Mostafa, President of the Egyptian and African Federation of Wushu; this great man did a lot to spread the sport of wushu sanda in Egypt, to promote and develop it into Africa, and to conduct educational camps and courses in Africa. This contributed greatly to the development of wushu sanda here, as you can see. I have submitted a proposal to activate the role of committees in the International Wushu Federation, to try and create more professional sanda matches all over the world, and to encourage all federations to make such events to promote sanda events — and ideally get players money.”


Speaking of wushu and events, we asked Motaz his thoughts on wushu being an official sport in the Dakar 2026 Youth Olympic Games. He responded with enthusiasm, declaring, “I think it is the greatest step in the history of wushu. It is the beginning to adopt wushu in future in the Summer Olympic Games. This will contribute to spreading the sport and showing the whole world what wushu is and how great it is..”


Family and Future


At present, Motaz continues as head coach of sanda of the 6th of October Sports Club. He tells us that family has always played a large role in his sport success and happiness in being an athlete. “My family helped me a lot,” he states, “and starting from a young age, everything I needed was provided so I could pursue my sport career. My father supported me a lot, and my mother helped me, especially during my injury. After marriage, my wife was the biggest supporter, so I used to draw my strength from her and she shared with me the trouble and burdens of training, traveling and training camps. What a great wife I have, with whom I achieved many things, and is still always by my side.”


And will he keep fighting? Besides coaching at his club, and working with various national, continental and international sports federations, Motaz is currently looking to pursue a new horizon in the field of sports media, where he especially wants to help promote sanda. But sanda fans can remain optimistic that one of their favorite heavyweights will be back in action.  “I haven’t decided to retire from fighting yet and I’m still training. But there are a lot of plans ahead of me that I haven’t decided yet. I will see you soon at the next World Wushu Championships.” We eagerly look forward to the next accomplishments of Egypt’s great champion Motaz Rady, whether it’s on the leitai or off.

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