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On a snowy mountaintop to the west of Kabul, a group of Afghan girls practice the flowing movements of Wushu, a sport developed from ancient Chinese kung fu martial arts, stretching and bending and slashing the air with bright swords. (REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail)

'Body and soul'|'Body and soul'|'Body and soul'

A look at the Kung Fu women of Kabul, chipping away at gender norms

By WITW Staff on February 7, 2017

In Afghanistan, women are largely prohibited from taking part in sports. Some women recently are noticing the beginnings of cultural change, but it’s still far from the norm for women pursuing athletic endeavors to be widely accepted. That, however, has not deterred a group of young women and girls in Western Kabul from studying Wushu, based on the ancient Chinese martial art of Kung Fu. Self-defense is the obvious practical application for the study of Wushu, but Sima Azimi, the 20-year-old instructor who leads the Shaolin Wushu club, says there’s something deeper to the martial art. “It’s really effective for body and soul,” she told Reuters in a recent profile.

Azimi learned Kung Fu in Iran, where she was a top competitor and won a gold and bronze medal in competitions. “I am working with Afghan girls to strengthen their abilities and I love to see Afghan girls improve the way other girls have improved in the world,” she said. “My ambition is to see my students take part in international matches and win medals for their country.”

The girls, pushing cultural boundaries the way they are, are routinely subjected to abuse and harassment for the love of their sport. But that hardly discourages them from breaking down gender barriers. Reuters put together a Twitter moment of photos showing the girls training, and the series of images puts on full display the girls’ talents and dedication.

Read the full story at Reuters.


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