Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Girls use martial arts to foil bullies

Girls use martial arts to foil bullies

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
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). Yasser Al-Zayyat/afp

Girls use martial arts to foil bullies

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 the backs of the 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 take what they have learnt and put it into 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.

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, the instructor, established the academy in 2014 after learning 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 that is, in fact, not true.”

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom lacks up to 400MW in available electricity’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the general public, hoteliers and businesspeople with generators to use them as back-up as the Electricity Authority of Cambodia cannot generate enough electricity to meet needs due to low water levels in power station reservoirs. On Saturday evening

  • Sor Chandeth defends his criticism of Hun Sen

    Former senator Sor Chandeth has defended his choice of words when criticising Hun Sen, saying he was merely speaking metaphorically to attack the Prime Minister’s political life, not his actual person, as the latter seeks damages. [img] Chandeth spoke to The Post on Thursday,

  • South Korea’s Moon arrives in Kingdom for state visit

    South Korean president Moon Jae-in and his wife arrived in Phnom Penh on Thursday at the start of a three-day state visit to Cambodia to strengthen ties and further the friendship between the two countries. After arriving at the Phnom Penh International Airport in the

  • Youths band together to clean ‘filthy’ Boeung Trabek canal

    Inspired by their affection for the environment, a desire to have a clean and beautiful city, and wanting to send a message to people to stop littering, a group of some two dozen volunteer youths have taken to picking up trash day and night from