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With one leg folded forward and the other one stretched out backward, they lunged in the air repeatedly, striving for perfection in a series of impeccable kicks. Cries of energy punctuated each movement, a shrill accompaniment to the booming drums.
These are the Kung-Fu nuns of Nepal. They are the only women to practice the dangerous Martial Art made famous by the Legend Bruce Lee. Women in general are considered the inferior gender and the same mindset prevailed in the patriarchal Buddhist monastic system as well. Nuns were to look after all the household duties and other tedious chores in the past. However, in the year 2008, the the leader of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa lineage, His Holiness The Gyalwang Drukpa, brought a drastic change .
Drukpa encouraged and motivated Nuns to practice self-defense. His only motive was to promote gender equality and empower women. The thought crossed his mind when he visited a monastery in Vietnam, where he saw nuns practicing combat training.
Every day, 350 nuns, aged between 10 and 25, take part in three intense training sessions where they practice the exercises taught to them by their teacher, who visits twice a year from Vietnam. Apart from perfecting their postures, they also learn to handle traditional weapons, such as the ki am(sword), small dao (sabre), big dao(halberd), tong (lance) and nunchaku (chain attached to two metal bars).
The ones with exceptional physical and mental strength are even taught brick breaking technique. The stunt is performed on special occasions like His Holiness’ Birthday. The nuns agreed that Kung Fu makes them feel safe, develop their self confidence and keeps them mentally and physically fit. It even allows them to concentrate better.
Jigme Konchok, a nun in her early 20s who has been practicing Kung Fu for more than five years, explained the process:
“I need to be constantly aware of my movement, know whether it is right or not, and correct it immediately if necessary. I must focus my attention on the sequence of movements that I have memorized and on each movement at once. If the mind wanders, then the movement is not right or the stick falls. It is the same in meditation.”