All of us can fall. But you have to learn to get straight back up again.
Human is the embodiment of mobility. He moves quickly around us, mercurial and wiry, but also extremely supple. And he laughs a lot. His laughter brings an even warmer and more enjoyable glow to the sun shining down across Hamburg’s Stadtpark in the early morning.
He displaces the supposedly tough guy image of martial artists ad absurdum with his friendly, open manner. When you see him playing with his children it is hard to believe that Human has won a string of titles as a kickboxer in hard-hitting fights.
hvv switch: Why did you leave Iran?
Human: The war between Iran and Iraq raged for eight years, up until 1988. My uncle lived in Hamburg. That’s why my parents sent me and my younger brother Homayoun here before they were able to leave the country themselves. So that we would be free and safe.
hvv switch: What memories do you have of Hamburg back then?
Human: I was 13 years old when I arrived in Hamburg. It was different then to now. It didn’t seem so large and overgrown. There wasn’t as much traffic, but there were also lots of places you couldn’t reach as easily as you can these days. At the weekends the trains would stop running in the evenings. The first place I remember coming as a child was the Stadtpark. It was one huge area of grass and a great playground for us back then.
hvv switch: How did you find your way around Hamburg when you were 13 years old?
Human: Tehran is a big city too. Back then it had a population of 12 million, but now it has grown to 18 million. So I had no problem quickly finding my way around Hamburg too. I can remember very well that I had memorised the city’s rail map and was using it before I had learnt how to speak German. I grew up in Langenhorn and always took the train from there into the city centre.
hvv switch: What is home for you?
Human: Hamburg is now home for me. I spent my entire youth here, went to school here, and almost all my friends are here, as well as most of my family, of course.
hvv switch: Have you experienced Hamburg as a particularly cosmopolitan and welcoming city?
Human: Hamburg is a very cosmopolitan and free city, not least because of its port. There are people of all nationalities here. That’s why the city is so diverse.
hvv switch: How important is family to you? What is it you’re most keen to pass on to your children?
Human: Family is extremely important to me and making sure they’re safe is my top priority. It’s important that we stay healthy and that my children can move around safely, are able to express their opinions freely and get a good education.
hvv switch: What differences do you see between Iran and Germany in terms of education, for example?
Human: Our family is not religious and I was raised very freely by my parents. My father was very disciplined, but we still had a lot of freedom. That’s how I try to educate my kids too, also to be disciplined. This starts, for instance, at the dinner table: You don’t get up before the last person has finished eating. And that you respect your elders.
To me, freedom is above all about being able to speak my mind freely, and that you can move around freely and do what you want, within certain limits of course. The moment you lose that freedom, you become filled with anxiety and stress, having to always think beforehand about what you’re going to say and do.
hvv switch: How do you overcome prejudice and discrimination?
Human: I’m sad to report that I have experienced prejudice and I was often at a disadvantage. But bad people are simply like that. It has nothing to do with people’s origins, race or religion. When we had just arrived in Germany, the Langenhorn and Norderstedt districts were still quite “right wing”. We had to get off at the Ochsenzoll tube stop once, but there was this crowd there on the platform with their fighting dogs. So we stayed on the train for one more station and walked for 30 minutes through the forest, so that they wouldn’t chase after us. Even back in those early days I had some bad experiences.
hvv switch: Was that the reason why you started martial arts?
Human: No, absolutely not. My brother and I have always wrestled with each other and had little contests as kids. Martial arts was a passion of mine back in Iran as I loved the Jackie Chan movies so much. But Rocky was even better. I must have seen those films 100 times. So I started training in Germany together with my brother. After four or five months of training I was already winning my first fights. If we hadn’t had discipline we definitely wouldn’t have managed it!
hvv switch: You have to overcome fear and inhibitions as a martial artist. How do you go about doing that?
Human: Sooner or later it becomes routine. It’s like any other sport, whether it’s table tennis, football or volleyball. There are rules to be followed and you respect your opponent. After a fight you shake hands, hug, and you like each other again. It has nothing to do with hate and violence. It’s also important that you don’t just fight against your opponent, but against yourself too.
hvv switch: How relevant is fear in a fight?
Human: Everybody feels fear when they enter the ring. Anyone who claims anything different is lying. I’ve broken my nose three times, as well as my fingers, my foot, I’ve torn ligaments, and so on. Since having children, it has made me think even more about these dangers and I’ve not been as keen to go into fights. I didn’t want them to see me get injured.
hvv switch: What has martial arts given you?
Human: Martial arts is 50% body and 50% mind. Total concentration is extremely important during fights. When you stand in the ring, you hear and see nothing. Martial arts has made me more patient as a person. I am also a more balanced person. Martial arts is my absolute passion. That’s why our Tough Gym slogan is “The heart and soul of boxing!”
Martial arts has taught me that every defeat makes me stronger.
hvv switch: How ambitious are you? How important are titles or medals to you?
Human: I used to be extremely ambitious. No matter what kind of sport it was, I always wanted to be the best and achieve something. My coach never had to push me, I always just gave 100%, even when he wasn’t there.
hvv switch: What do you pass on to your students now, as a martial arts coach?
Human: I train my students not only in sport, but also in preparation for everyday life. There are a great many similarities. In life, just as when fighting, you sometimes have to take a lot. Everyone can fall down, but you have to learn to get up again quickly. You just have to keep going and learn to control and overcome your inner “weaker self”. Provided you don’t give up, at some point you will get good results. Life sometimes knocks you down very hard, but you still have to get up and carry on! I also tell them that not everyone likes them. Some spectators will come to a fight to see you win. But others come just to watch you lose.
hvv switch: How did you end up with this attitude?
Human: Certainly what’s happened in my own life has contributed to this attitude I have. My father always said, if you’re right, then fight for it. He also taught us how important discipline and respect are in life.
hvv switch: How do you combine work and family life?
Human: It’s difficult sometimes, of course. Juggling the Tough Gym and the kids, that can be a real struggle. But I’m someone who can’t just sit around. I’m always on the move. I’m a passionate father and athlete, as well as a workaholic.
hvv switch: How have your children impacted your priorities in life?
Human: I try to put as much time as possible aside to spend with my children. These are times, moments with the kids, that you simply can’t bring back. I don’t want to miss out on that. Since having children, I think differently. Whether it be in everyday life or in combat sports and training.
I don’t live just for myself anymore. My life serves my children and my family, first and foremost. My kids, my family give me strength. It’s from them that I get all my positive energy!
hvv switch: Were there any setbacks?
Human: Of course there have been setbacks, especially when it comes to my professional sport. During my last fight at the age of 41, I realised that my body simply wouldn’t “play along” anymore. I had lots of injuries and recovery took a very long time. In those moments you just have to admit to yourself: that time has passed and you need to take it easy now. There have also been setbacks in my private life. At 22 I went bankrupt, working in the restaurant business. But we pulled ourselves back up again, moved on and later had great success establishing the Tough Gym. When I experience times of defeat in my personal life, I think of the ring and say to myself: In that ring you take a whole lot more than this! So get up, Human! Keep going! Everything will be alright again!
hvv switch: Do you have a motto in life?
Human: My motto is: Never give up. Always get back up again! Focus on one goal, think about nothing else and keep going until you make it! Always think positively, that’s what I believe in!
hvv switch: Do you have any favourite places in Hamburg?
Human: I like going to cafés like Elbgold or Transmontana, which are places I often go. I like relaxing on the banks of the River Elbe or in the AlsterCliff looking out at the boats on the Alster Lake. I also like taking the kids to the newly-built roller skating rink in the Hafencity district. There are also two nice playgrounds there!
Hamburg is great for families; the atmosphere is very family-oriented. Things never get boring living here with family. The people who live here are very helpful and have a positive outlook. We feel extremely at home here. Whenever we travel somewhere else on holiday we always start missing Hamburg after a week. Sometimes you forget just how good we have it here. These days Hamburg is simply home for us!
hvv switch: What does freedom of movement mean to you?
Human: For me, freedom of movement is about being able to go for walks everywhere. No matter where you go, you always discover nice places along the way. There are beautiful spots all around Hamburg to suit every taste and every age. You can head to quiet areas, or to places where there’s lots going on. Nature is all around; Hamburg is a very green city.
hvv switch: What has moved you most in your life?
Human: My family is very important to me. The birth of my two daughters moved me greatly.
hvv switch: What do you hope for the future in terms of urban mobility?
Human: Thinking about my children, as well as all young people in general, I’d like to see more areas dedicated to leisure in the future.
Listen to our Workout Playlist, which Human and we've created for your training session: