Kicking past the obstructions


KICK ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT Yousif Ogaily ‘24 faces off at the 2023 State Championships for kickboxing. “I really enjoy the heat of competition,” said Ogaily. “I am able to show what I can do and what I have been working towards for the last 6 years.”

Arjun Prabhakar '23, Associate Editor, Online

While most people know Yousif Ogaily ‘24 as a classmate, student, or friend, not many know of his formidable kickboxing skills. When people think about kickboxing they think about violence and combat, but that’s not all. For Yousif Ogaily ‘24 it is about  learning to remain calm in stressful situations and only using violence when absolutely necessary. 

Ogaily began martial arts when he was in fifth grade. Early in life, he faced challenges due to racism, a problem that became unavoidable in his later elementary school years. 

“I went to a predominantly white elementary school and got into a couple fights due to racist comments made towards me,” said Ogaily.

Ogaily didn’t want to be someone who could be walked over, he wanted to be able to hold his own ground and stand up for himself.

“I remember Yousif complaining about how some people asked him if he was a part of ISIS and the other racist comments,” said Ogaily’s sister Yasmeen Ogaily ‘23. “They were teasing him and asked if he was going to bomb the school.” 

With these types of interaction becoming more frequent, and a growing islamophobic atmosphere in the nation, Ogaily’s parents decided to enroll him in martial arts classes.

“When Yousif was in fifth grade, the 2016 election was taking place,” said Ogaily’s mom Huda Ogaily. “A lot of things were said on the news and many kids believe what they see and what their parents say. We felt like Yousif needed to learn to defend himself and become more disciplined. [In turn], this would help him become more confident in himself.”

One of Ogaily’s friends was enrolled at PKSA karate so they decided to start there. However his martial arts training taught him more than just being able to defend himself, it taught him how to train his mind and become more disciplined. 

“To my surprise I didn’t have to use any of the fighting skills to defend myself because after starting martial arts I learned to control myself and not get into anymore fights,” said Ogaily. “It also helped me, for the most part, to ignore the racist comments.”

His parents expected his experience with martial arts to be a short term activity but Ogaily fell in love with it.

“We thought he was just going to start at the martial arts school and climb the ladder step by step, going through all the color belts, you know: starting at white and going to yellow, then orange, green, red, and finally black,” said Huda Ogaily.

In martial arts, most people only progress to black belt.

“We thought he would stop after reaching black belt like most other kids, but when he got to black belt is when he really started,” said Huda Ogaily.

After reaching the black belt level, many kickboxers find themselves plateauing as it becomes increasingly difficult to rise in the ranks. 

“It is hard to progress through the different color belts, but even more so after reaching black belt,” said Huda Ogaily. “It takes far more tests to advance each level and a few years to pass these tests. The tests can take ten hours and some of them are written tests, not just action based. 

The tests themselves are significantly more challenging, often varying in length and complexity. 

“The tests can take ten hours and some of them are written tests, not just action based, ” said Huda Ogaily. “They are more difficult and can be more specified. For example, they can be more focused on kickboxing because when they teach them at the martial arts school they teach them how to defend themselves, like the motion of it.” 

The training becomes far more focused on the individual aspect of the sport, rather than the group settings.

“After he reaches black belt, if he’s going to keep progressing to first, second, or third degree of black belt, they focus more on one-on-one training and putting the skills into action.”

This focused training led him to train in kickboxing. After a year of training at the black belt level Ogaily decided to start competing. 

“He wanted to compete, but with kickboxing you have to compete through a team,” said Huda Ogaily. So he tried out for team PKSA.”

Team PKSA is very difficult to make as the team has schools in almost every state yet selects only 24 people to compete nationally.

“It was a very difficult process making the team, but in the end, I made it,” said Ogaily.

He just made the national team in December of 2022, but has accomplished a lot on the State level.

“I got third at the State Championship my freshman year, second last year, and then I won this year,” said Ogaily. “I am going to be competing in the US Open in July. The US Open is a whole different level of competition. It’s against the best kickboxers across all states, not just in Michigan so I am hoping to place in the top 3.”

Through kickboxing, Ogaily has not only learned more about how to dominate the sport, but also more about his own personality.

“The whole process of martial arts, not just kickboxing, has helped him develop confidence in himself when faced with difficult situations,” said Huda Ogaily. “It’s not about going and fighting people, it’s about him being more calm when he reacts to situations and learning discipline, respect, and defending other people. When defending himself and other people he’s learned it doesn’t have to be with actions, it can be with words.”