Boxing as a reconnection tool – to ourselves and to society
Yama Saraj is a fighter, in every sense of the word. He’s a boxer from Afghanistan, a country with a strong love of boxing and fighting traditions like bouzkachi. He’s a drivenprofessional and entrepreneur, taking his ideas from The Netherlands to France; he was even part of the Fighters entrepreneurship program at Station F.
He’s also a refugee, which comes with its specific difficulties, but his go-getter mentality doesn’t let that status define him. He’s the brain behind SensAi Technologies.
At first glance, SensAi Technologies is “just” a connected punching bag with a training app. However, Yama’s vision for this startup goes far beyond the object itself and the technology that’s linked to it.
SensAi Technologies mixes martial arts and tech to fulfill users’ physical and mental health needs. Made out of upcycled tires, the bag serves as a personal development tool as much as a fitness one. Yama is particularly attached to getting the bag into the hands of those living in disadvantaged areas, for whom regular sports practice can be a way to lead a more balanced, opportunity-filled life. “You can generate data from a single punching bag on the punching power, the speed, the count. This data, you can use it to create and give key education elements, you can use it to train people, thus enhancing the training experience.” As he says in his own words, “Sports can be a great vehicle for developing social cohesion and for general socio-economic development.”
The SensAi Technologies project thus aims to make martial arts fun, engaging and brings the sport’s positive values into the limelight. This smart punching bag comes with a coaching appwhich measures user data such as how hard and how fast you hit, as well as your punching reaction time. This data will allow the app to give you customized training advice and provide a gamified experience that will encourage you to reach your mental and fitness goals. “‘Sensei’ in karaté means your master, your teacher, literally someone who’s been there beforeyou. I believe that everybody needs or can have their own personal coach, or a guru, or a master. This is what you want to democratize: the coaching aspect.”
His tools are ideal for corporate vitality programs and fitness centers but also offer many possibilities for individual users or sports and inclusion initiatives in need of original offerings for their beneficiaries. “Obviously, before you have a full working product, you need to talk to first-hand consumers, so I have been talking to the [French] Red Cross, and boxing clubs”.
Finding resources to get the project running hasn’t been easy. So far, Yama has sought the help of interns—8 of them in total—in order to build his current working prototype. “I am still struggling to make it into the market but it is promising, I made some substantial progress, without having much ressources. […] I am underfunded, and I have been bootstrapping this project.
In order to develop his business, he’s already benefited from the support of business and entrepreneurship programs for refugees, like the Fighters Program at Station F, CITM by PLACE and now FAIRE. He’s also caught the attention of some influential profiles in the sports world. “I have been supported by Sarah Ourahmane, the most awarded French boxer, and vice-president of the National Olympic Committee. And so far, I’[ve] received very good feedback ! ”
Thanks to these supporters, he’s been able to start building a community around his project, he’s learned to navigate the French business and start-up ecosystem in order to strike the right balance between economic viability and social impact in his business model. The SensAiTechnologies punching bag can already be pre-ordered by businesses, non-profits and individuals alike. “In a perfect scenario, Basic Fit or Fitness change would be our target, but also boxing clubs. […] But I already have one [launch] customer ! I am selling the punching bagfor 700 euros and I aim to have a subscription model per user per month around 10-15 euros.”
With SensAi Technologies, Yama targets a community with profiles as diverse as his own: the business-minded people who know healthy living is paramount to a good life balance, the socially conscious people who want to better themselves while also contributing to environmental and societal progress and the connectors who build bridges across cultures. “Dedication and passion led me here, and I am convinced that I can make a difference”.
To learn more about Yama’s project : https://www.sensai.app/blog/
“Published in partnership with Faire“