Girls use mar­tial arts to foil bul­lies

The Phnom Penh Post - - SPORT - Sal­ima Lebel

ASMA Has­nawi and her daugh­ter Ri­ham spend more than 12 hours a week learn­ing ka­jukenbo, a mixed mar­tial art the mother says boosts her child’s con­fi­dence and thwarts bul­ly­ing.

In a small hall in Kuwait City, women and girls in black uni­forms gather to learn the ba­sics of self-de­fence.

On their left sleeves are the flags of Kuwait and the US state of Hawaii, where the hy­brid mar­tial art of ka­jukenbo was de­vel­oped in the 1940s.

The sport’s name was de­rived from the var­i­ous forms of mar­tial arts it in­cludes – karate (KA), judo and ju­jitsu ( JU), kenpo (KEN) and box­ing (BO).

Each form teaches tech­niques that can be used to fend off an at­tack, says Has­nawi, 33, who stands in class along­side her 12-year-old daugh­ter and other girls.

“I ini­tially wanted to ex­plore this sport, but I con­tin­ued to prac­tise it to be able to de­fend my­self,” she says.

Has­nawi still re­mem­bers be­ing bul­lied as a child – some­thing her daugh­ter has strug­gled with at school too.

But she says Ri­ham has “changed a lot” since they started prac­tis­ing ka­jukenbo, gain­ing pa­tience and strength through the sport.

“She has trans­formed. At school, she used to get re­ally an­gry and quickly ag­i­tated if some­one would say some­thing to her,” Has­nawi says.

“Now, it’s some­thing nor­mal that she can [healthily] deal with.”

There is no re­cent data in Kuwait on cases of vi­o­lence against women, who en­joy more free­doms than those in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.

A 2010 study found that one woman is as­saulted per day in Kuwait, ac­cord­ing to Ghada al-Ghanem, of the Women’s Cultural and So­cial So­ci­ety (WCSS).

The WCSS, whose goal is to help and en­cour­age women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Kuwaiti com­mu­nity, has dealt with a num­ber of as­sault cases and Ghanem be­lieves the ac­tual fig­ure may be higher.

‘Strength and hon­our’

Hung on the red and black walls of the Street War­rior Academy is a poster of two men prac­tis­ing the sport.

“Ka­jukenbo teaches your child the meth­ods and arts of self-de­fence,” it reads, com­pli­ment­ing the mot­tos of “strength and hon­our” and “street war­rior” on t he backs of t he girls’ uni­forms.

The stu­dents closely watch their in­struc­tor, Faisal al-Gharib, as he ex­plains how to counter an at­tack with the help of his son.

The girls then pair up to ta ke what they have prac­tise.

In an­other in­stance, the in­struc­tor’s son mim­ics an at­tack with a wooden knife on one of the more ex­pe­ri­enced pupils, who wears a black belt.

Al­ready fa­mil­iar with the exercise, the stu­dent ex­plains: “I pre­tend that I have sur­ren­dered . . . and then I grab his hand on my neck, push it down and move it away.”

More than 120 girls and women be­tween the ages of four and 50 par­tic­i­pate in the academy’s dif­fer­ent ka­jukenbo classes, which are held in a room with train­ing weapons lin­ing its walls.

Some 40 men and boys also cur­rently take part in ka­jukenbo classes at the club on dif­fer­ent days from the women. learnt and put it into

For Um Saleh, the sport has helped her twin 13-year-old daugh­ters be­come more in­de­pen­dent and de­ci­sive.

“It gave them some­thing to fo­cus on other than so­cial me­dia,” she says.

Gharib, t he in­struc­tor, es­tab­lished the academy in 2014 af ter lea rn­ing ka­jukenbo in the US. He says he wanted to teach the sport to women back home as a way to stay fit and to de­fend them­selves against any at­tack.

‘Boost­ing self-con­fi­dence’

As part of the train­ing, he presents his stu­dents with dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios, in­clud­ing as­saults and knife at­tacks.

“We fo­cus on self-de­fence skills and place the girls in con­di­tions sim­i­lar to those on the street so we can build their self-con­fi­dence and teach them ex­actly when and where to ex­pect the hit,” Gharib says.

The academy, which has a strict con­fi­den­tial­ity pol­icy, has be­come a safe haven for many girls and women that have been vic­tims of as­sault or bul­ly­ing.

It is one of dozens of sim­i­lar clubs and acad­e­mies that have opened in Kuwait as ka­jukenbo gains pop­u­lar­ity. Al­though in the rest of the Gulf, the sport re­mains rel­a­tively un­known.

“Be­ing a [vic­tim] of as­sault, whether in school or on the street, is what pushed some of these girls and women to pur­sue the sport,” says Fai al-Fa­hed, one of the in­struc­tors.

“Ul­ti­mately, girls are em­brac­ing this kind of mar­tial art and we see it boost­ing their self-con­fi­dence.”

Khal­ida Bashir says she was drawn to ka­jukenbo af­ter watch­ing clips of the sport online.

“I used to be afraid of ev­ery­thing, but this sport changed me,” she says.

“I have be­come more con­fi­dent and more pa­tient. Some say this is a man’s sport, but t hat is, in fact, not t r ue.”


Kuwaiti Asma Has­nawi (left), a ka­jukenbo hy­brid mar­tial art as­sis­tant-master, prac­tises with her daugh­ter Ri­ham in a club in Kuwait City on Oc­to­ber 22, 2018. Ka­jukenbo was born in Hawaii in the 1940s. The sport’s name was de­rived from the var­i­ous as­pects of mar­tial arts it in­cludes – karate (KA), judo and ju­jitsu (JU), kenpo (KEN) and box­ing (BO).

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