Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Nun-chucks: Himalayan kung fu sisters battle stereotypes

Nun-chucks: Himalayan kung fu sisters battle stereotypes

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Members of the Kung Fu Nuns group demonstrate their skills in New Delhi. SAJJAD HUSSAIN/aFP

Nun-chucks: Himalayan kung fu sisters battle stereotypes

They train with swords and fighting fans after their prayers and morning chants.

Meet the Himalayan kung fu nuns using their martial arts skills to challenge stereotypes about women’s roles in the region’s patriarchal societies.

“In the Himalayas, girls are never treated equally and girls are not given equal chances – that’s why we want to push the girls up,” practitioner Jigme Konchok Lhamo, 25, said.

“Kung fu has helped us in taking a stand on gender equality as we feel more confident. We feel strong physically and mentally.

“We are doing kung fu as an example for other girls.”

The nuns are from the 800-strong Druk Amitabha Mountain Nunnery in Nepal and belong to the centuries-old Drukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.

In 2008 as part of his mission to bring about gender equality in Buddhism, spiritual leader His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa encouraged them to learn kung fu and take on traditional norms that forbid women and girls from leaving the confines of the nunneries, leading prayers or being fully ordained.

Emboldened by their fighting prowess, the nuns travel across South Asia to teach self-defence classes and promote awareness about human trafficking in a region where violence against women is rarely reported.

They also embark on gruelling mountain walks and cycling campaigns to reach out to remote communities.

Most recently, they completed a three-month, 8,370km “bicycle yatra (journey) for peace” from Nepal to the mountains of Ladakh in northern India, where they passed through villages and spread their messages of gender equality and empowerment.

Lhamo – who was in New Delhi in early November after picking up an international award in New York for the nunnery’s efforts to inspire young girls – became a nun at just 12 despite strong disapproval from her family.

“There was a lot of criticism in the beginning. People didn’t really like it because we were breaking rules,” Lhamo said, after she and her fellow nuns put on a demonstration of their prowess.

They wielded tasselled swords and open, Chinese-style fighting fans – which are used for signalling commands during combat – emblazoned with dragons and phoenixes.

“But now when we go back to the same places we get a lot of good responses.

“They call us to schools. They put the girls in front and the boys at the back. They give girls equal chances to ask questions and talk to us.”


  • Body of woman killed in Bangkok returns

    The Cambodian embassy in Thailand is working to repatriate the body of a casino dealer who was shot dead in Bangkok on Monday night. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesman Kuy Kuong told The Post on Wednesday that officials are preparing paperwork to

  • Chikungunya hits 15 provinces, says gov’t

    Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said on Thursday that the chikungunya outbreak in the Kingdom has spread to 15 provinces. Some 1,700 people are now suspected to have the disease. Vandine urged people to prevent its further spread by eliminating shelters for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

  • Gov’t exempts visa A and B holders from Covid fees

    Airline passengers who are diplomats and officials of international organisations holding Type A and B visas for travel to Cambodia are exempted from paying Covid-19 testing fees, said the Ministry of Health in its latest adjustment of rules on Wednesday. Health Minister Mam Bun Heng

  • Police arrest 29 Chinese for kidnapping in capital

    Phnom Penh Military Police arrested 29 Chinese nationals on kidnapping charges on Wednesday. The suspects are said to have abducted three other Chinese nationals from a hotel in Chaktomuk commune, Daun Penh district. The operation took place on Wednesday and was led by two deputy commanders –

  • Bill covering dress code draws ire

    Ministry of Interior secretary of state Ouk Kim Lek responded on Tuesday to criticism concerning a draft law that would ban women from wearing overly revealing clothing, saying that input from all parties will be considered as the law moves through the promulgation process. Several

  • What’s the deal with Cambodia and China’s FTA?

    Cambodia’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China kicks off a series of FTAs in future but for now, critics wonder what else the parties could bring to the table apart from what it already has to date By the end of this year, Cambodia