Halah al Hamrani’s FLAGBoxing is a One of a Kind Gym in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has been giving some great news to the world by liberating women from various confined spaces. Lots of royal decrees have been issued, allowing women to drive and curbing the powers of the police. The image that most of us have towards Saudi Arabia is quite limiting. Privacy is something sacred to the Saudis, that’s what most of us think. But the reality that they do have and enjoy their liberties.
Can you imagine an underground gym run by a woman and only for women in Saudi Arabia? Flag Boxing is one such gym at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
FLAG is an acronym for “Fight Like A Girl.” Halah al Hamrani, a 41-year-old trainer and owner of Flag Boxing gym, fights for women’s right to exercise. As reported in The Independent, al Hamrani was born to a Saudi father and American mother. She grew up encouraged by her parents to take part in gymnastics, football, martial arts inside the residential compounds. She had gained a black belt in jujitsu by the age of 18.
“I was bought up to believe girls could do anything. Sports are especially important I think because we haven’t exactly broken that gender divide in the West yet either. Growing up, I was very lucky to have parents like that,” says al Hamrani.
After graduating from the University of California, al Hamrani was confused and returned to Saudi Arabia. She then eventually channelized her boxing talent and began teaching to a few friends in a spare room in her house. This then got extended to friends of friends and their friends. Then al Hamrani’s client base increased and finally led her to open a women-only fitness and combat studio. Flag Boxing is one of it’s kind in the country. It holds calisthenics, kickboxing, muy thai and crossfit classes, focusing on strength and conditioning. Al Hamrani has trained up two other instructors since 2016 and estimates there are now around 150 regular visitors.
“Being able to defend yourself is good for you mentally as well as physically. It’s incredibly empowering. When women come here, I want them to feel that. Sometimes it’s for the first time in their lives,” says al Hamrani.
Flag Boxing has about 2,22,000 followers on their Instagram page. Good amount of inspiration and motivation is sent out through their vibrant videos. Having a good turnout of visitors is a testimony that such an initiative is a success. “I see such huge differences very quickly in students when they come here. They go home as changed women. Eventually, it’s how they carry themselves, how they talk. Their confidence grows,” she says. “Sometimes I feel like a therapist.”
Al Hamrani is also helping to shape the new curriculum introduced by Princess Reema bint Bandar, head of the department for women at the General Authority for sports. Reema is implementing compulsory physical education for girls at school and dreams of creating Saudi female athletes that can compete internationally. Al Hamrani also hopes to open other female gyms across the country.
“We are all going through a huge period of change. I won’t be done with this work until I send someone to the Olympics,” says Al Hamrani.
Reshma Ganeshbabu is an intern with SheThePeople.TV