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FIGHTING BACK: KICKBOXER USES HIS FEET TO PROMOTE HIS PEOPLE'S MESSAGE

By Suren Musayelyan

ArmeniaNow Reporter

American-Armenian Shawn Yacoubian, 28, is fighting his way toward the top of the sport of kickboxing, with reasons that go beyond athletics.

Yacoubian, currently ranked 10 by the ISKA (International Sport Karate Association) and 7 by the IKF (International Kickboxing Federation), says that apart from his sporting ambitions he has also another important mission in his life prompted by his ethnicity and date of birth.

The descendant of genocide survivors who relocated to Pasadena, California, Shawn was born on April 24 and says that he has always used his date of birth as a means to convey the message of the genocide.

''I view my birth date as a blessing more than a 'curse','' he says. ''I understand how many Armenians were killed on this very day in 1915, but I look at the day of my birth as a new beginning and all the more reason why I aim to succeed in becoming a popular Armenian fighter.'' Yacoubian, whose parents are both from Syria (Damascus and Aleppo), says that even though he is a distant descendant of the people who suffered the horrors of the genocide and deportations and grew up in a totally different time and culture, he always feels the link between himself and his historical homeland.

''I have always held my culture high and am proud to be Armenian,'' he says. ''I make it a point to let the commentators know my background so they can incorporate it while commenting about me during fights.''

Shawn's early years of schooling began at an American Private school near his home in Pasadena. He then started attending an Armenian private school by the third grade and continued going to Armenian schools throughout his junior high years to the beginning of high school up until 9th grade.

He says his Armenian parents were a great influence on him in starting martial arts at the age of 15 and had supported him from day one even though, he says, in the eyes of many fighting is looked down on.

Now he has grown to be an active member of the Armenian community and says that fighting has helped him promote the Armenian cause throughout his career and not least because of his date of birth, something that he thinks has given the collective strength of the nation to his muscles.

''I see myself as an entertainer of sorts with which I use my stature to bring forth education of my birth date,'' he says. ''My date of birth, in my opinion, symbolizes a rebirth (with a fighting spirit) of a culture that was slain in hopes of extinction.''

Yacoubian says that although there have been numerous books and movies on the subject of the Armenian Genocide, yet it has not been recognized like the Jewish Holocaust and therefore, he says, he feels it is his duty to take part in protests along with other things to bring recognition to this 'silent' genocide.

''I feel for the many people who lost their lives in the genocide in the 1900's,'' Yacoubian says. ''I feel as it is my obligation and with my willingness I strive to teach others of the massacres.''

Both actively participate in events commemorating the Genocide every year. Last year, for example, they went to the memorial statute in Montebello and then marched to the Turkish Consulate along with other protestors.

This year among other things Shawn is one of the sponsors of a website commemorating the genocide events (www.GenocideEvents.com).

The Armenian fighter widely known across the Armenian Diaspora has never been to Armenia, but says he will be thrilled when that day comes. He says he gets a lot of support from Armenia and the rest of the world

''I am connected to the Armenian community through organizations in schools and others who have helped promote me through independent Armenian channels,'' he says.

The fighter has a busy schedule this year. He will be fighting on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbeans for a WKA Pan-American title in April/May and at the same time will be preparing for a WPKA fight in Japan in June. After that he hopes to return to fight on the K-1 show in Las Vegas.

In-between kickboxing fights this year Shawn will be competing in professional boxing as well ''to stay busy''.

Suren Musayelyan
ArmeniaNow Reporter
Suren Musayelyan, 29, has worked for ArmeniaNow as translator/reporter since October 25, 2004.
n 2002, he graduated from the Department of the Russian and English Languages and Literature at the V. Brusov State Linguistic University.
While studying he also worked at the Noyan Tapan Information and Analytical Center first as a translator and then as a weekly newspaper editor
n 2004, Suren Musayelyan completed a one-year PgDip/MA course in newspaper journalism at the Nottingham Trent University (UK) and also worked as a trainee reporter at the Nottingham Evening Post - the largest daily in Nottinghamshire

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