Women from an old Buddhist sect are using martial arts to challenge gender roles in India. These nuns from Ladakh, practice martial arts, attend gender equality lessons and have even swapped their traditional maroon robes for the martial arts attire.
They decided to teach self-defence to women after hearing about the increasing number of rape and molestation cases in India.
“We walk the talk. If we act, people will think: ‘If nuns can act, why can’t we?” said 19-year-old Jigme Wangchuk Lhamo.
The nuns belong to the Drukpa lineage. It is the only order in the Buddhist monastic system to give nuns an equal status to monks. Traditionally, nuns are not allowed to exercise and are only expected to cook and clean.
His holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa changed this tradition ten years ago. He is the current leader of the 1000-year-old sect who encouraged the nuns to learn Kung Fu. He was inspired by his mother. Most of all he taught the nuns to take up professions such as becoming electricians and plumbers.
Most people say that nuns just sit and pray, says Jigme. However, these nuns started learning Kung Fu ten years ago.
We want to be equal which guru or Buddha said that girls are meant for the kitchen, says one of the nuns.
They nuns now travel around India and Nepal teaching girls self-defence.
Further, they have recently completed a course in Ladakh with 100 women aged 13 to 28. Not only did they follow a rigorous training schedule from 6 am to 9 pm they learnt techniques such as how to react in possible sexual assault scenarios and how to handle an attack from behind.
“I am often uncomfortable going to the market as there are boys standing around looking, whistling and cat-calling. I was always hesitant to say anything but now I feel much more confident to speak out and even protect myself if I have to,” said one of the students.
Kudos to these nuns who are changing conventional norms.