Samman and Susan Nasseri

The Karate fanatics tell Shelley Carter about their total commitment to the sport, what it’s like to be world champions and how they handle competing against one another

Sisters Samman and Susan Nasseri took up karate in 2011 and in just two years have become world beaters. Last month they were crowned world champions in Italy, returning home with a haul of medals. Susan, 20, secured two bronze and one gold medal while Samman, 18, won one bronze, two silver and a gold. “It was one of the best experiences we have ever had. Sure, it was filled with nerves and many late nights practising but in the end it was all worth it,” said Susan.

Susan actually tore her groin muscle a week before they flew out to Italy and was advised not to compete by her doctor – but she wasn’t prepared to miss the opportunity. Instead she rested and tried every suitable remedy she could find. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into our training sessions. We’re extremely proud of each other,” said Samman. Both girls study at Birmingham City University (BCU) which has been incredibly supportive and sponsored their World Championship efforts. Samman and Susan fit karate around their studies, but it’s clear which comes first. Both say that if they’re feeling overloaded, the last thing they would do would be miss training as it’s the very thing that de-stresses them.


The girls found karate when they were researching a hobby for their younger brothers. They hadn’t thought of taking part themselves until they saw the impact it had on their siblings. “Over a short period of three months we saw a big change in our brothers and thought we’d give it a go. Physically karate has improved our stamina, physique and strength and less obviously it has boosted our self-belief, determination, self-control and self-discipline,” said Susan. Both girls train at the Zen-Shin Martial Arts Academy in Birmingham and are students of the “inspirational” Kyoshi John Richards. “Our Sensei has dedicated all his life to teaching what he loves. We look up to him and hope that we are able to live a life like his,” said Samman.

Karate very quickly became more than a hobby, particularly for Susan who has always enjoyed karate and as her ‘belt got darker’ her understanding and commitment grew. She says, “I started to follow the ten commandments of karate and the student creed that we read every day before class. Today I see karate as part of my life and I just get the most amazing feeling when I train”. Karate came less naturally to Samman who found it more of a challenge and competing in front of a crowd wasn’t something she was comfortable with. But encouraged by her family and instructor she entered a competition which changed her view. “When I saw all those competitors who had dedicated their lives to training it really made me think twice. Since then I’ve competed regularly and can’t wait to train. It has become part of my life, part of our family and part of my future,” she says.


Because Samman and Susan are similar in age and weight they often have to compete against each other. “It is really difficult because we know each other’s moves, weaknesses and strengths but we can never take advantage of that because of our bond.” There have been a few injuries inflicted on one another though. “We have given each other nose bleeds, black eyes, bruised lips and dislocated fingers but we have always laughed,” Samman says. The same can’t be said of their parents who literally turn their backs and cannot watch. “We can tell it’s awkward for them because we can’t hear their usual chanting,” she adds.


Samman and Susan’s commitment to karate is astounding. Their ambitions are “to train and practise karate for the rest of our lives and, to eventually gain that 10th Dan black belt. They would also love to go to Japan and train there at a karate school for a few years. But now their aim is to concentrate “on training for perfection” and competing in many more championships to come. Regarding commitment and working hard the girls quote the proverb: “Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.”