founder and director of Wrestling for Humanity

United Kingdom

Licensed therapist; Student: The Open University (BSc in Psychology); Founder: ‘Wrestling for Humanity’; recipient of the ‘Points of Light’ national award from the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom for outstanding service to the community.

I am currently conducting research in association with Newman University (Birmingham, U.K.) on a project, which is titled: ‘Resilience + the State of Flow in Athletic Performance’.

This research is concerned with how peak athletic performance, which sports psychology has defined as the ‘state of flow’, can be adversely impacted by negative external and internal stressors that limit the capacity of wrestlers (and other athletes) to function optimally in training and competition environments. By applying the concept of ‘resilience’ from positive psychology, this investigation aims to research techniques that are designed to increase athletes’ abilities to identify and manage these stressors; consequently, allowing them to achieve optimal performance. Performance psychology is somewhat new to the growing science of wrestling; however, its benefits are well-researched and the well-known psychological toughness of wrestlers makes for a study that will likely advance knowledge on both sides.

I am an Iranian-born 4th generation wrestler. I was coached by my late father Amir Esmaeli (rival of the great Gholam Reza Takhti) and later Kevin Darkus and Granit Taropin (coach of Sergei Beloglasov). I represented Team Great Britain in several international tournaments and earned an Olympic prospect passport to compete in the Sydney 2000 games. Furthermore, I am the founder of ‘Wrestling for Humanity’: a charitable organisation that uses wrestling, psychology and movement to transform and improve the lives of people facing various forms of adversity (e.g., financial, visible and non-visible disabilities, mental health, drug abuse and criminal offending). Besides this, I provide performance coaching for several elite, international athletes with a focus on overcoming barriers to optimal performance. Finally, I danced professionally for 27 years and studied dance and culture at the University of Surrey, which I apply to my therapeutic work and wrestling coaching.