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Saudi Women Take Up Martial Arts - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Women have been flocking to a newly established Martial Arts center in the Saudi capital.

Dr. Sara, a Saudi doctor who recently took up Karate at the center, told Asharq Al Awsat, “In our society, girls are usually shy and introverted. However, they should be fit and healthy and be confident. Women shouldn’t necessarily learn Karate, but as long as there are no medical restrictions, I think this martial art is most suitable for women.”

Dr Sara adds, “I’m definitely much healthier than before and I have benefited a lot from my Philippine coach. I feel now that I am more fit physically, I am more at peace and I have more confidence. I have gained these traits through the sport and they are important for me as I am a doctor and my occupation requires physical effort.” She wished that she had learnt the sport from a young age. “I have no ambition to reach the Black Belt level, but I would like to reach a reasonable stage of fitness and confidence.”

Madawy Abdul Mohsen, who began her training in Karate three months ago, said, “The primitive methods that some women still think about using to defend themselves such as carrying a licensed gun or other similar methods is the wrong way to deal with threats and could lead women to commit crimes themselves. This is why I believe that learning Karate is a source of physical fitness, an exercise for the body and mind, as well as a good method of self defense.” She asserted that, “I’m now much stronger and more active during the day.” She said, “I hope to reach the level of Black Belt within the next three years and I am determined to reach this goal. I am hoping to one day become a Karate coach and open my own Karate club. Furthermore, if I have the chance to represent my own country, I would love to do so.”

Aseel, a university student who took up Karate one month ago said, “I have lost a lot of weight since beginning the sport. Now, I am fitter than ever!” She asserted, “Karate is an enjoyable and energetic sport for both the mind and body, also, it has given me more confidence.”

Aseel said, “Learning Karate is not learning how to be violent towards others, but rather it teaches us women how to be cautious. I’m not going to wait for something to happen to me and then start learning how to defend myself.” She added, “I would like to reach the black belt level and become a Karate coach. I wish that one day I could represent Saudi Arabia in Karate tournaments.”

May, a university student who has been training for 3 months now in the center, said, “I’ve wanted to learn Karate for five years now. My brother learns Karate and this is how I became so fond of this martial art.”

She added, “In the past, I used to avoid confrontations as I felt that I couldn’t defend myself, but now I am confident that I can. This does not mean that I would be aggressive towards others or use Karate against anyone and for any reason, but I am now able to defend myself and can mobilize all my energy in a single strike. Now my mind controls all my movements and I can use my strength in a healthy manner.” May would also like to become a Karate coach and represent Saudi Arabia in international tournaments.

Concerning the growing popularity of this sport, Zain Al Harby who works at the Martial Arts center stated, “Karate, even if it is relatively unknown in our society, has become an acceptable form of self defense. This is clear through the number of coaches that has increased in 3 months to 117 and come from different parts of society. Coaches in the center include; doctors, teachers, embassy officials as well as security coaches and others.” She asserted that Karate is suitable for women and she can practice at any time. “We ensure that the students eat an apple or a banana after training so they do not lose energy.” She added that the fees of joining the center are reasonable, costing 600Saudi Riyals (SR) (approximately 160 US Dollars) per month and 3360SR (approximately 900 US Dollars) annually.

On the other hand, Dr. Samar Weiss a gynecologist and obstetrician said, “Karate is like other sports that women cannot make do without owing to its benefits to the mind and body.” She asserted, “This sport, despite its roughness, doesn’t endanger femininity”. She totally disclaimed myths that girls could lose their virginity whilst practicing Karate. She emphasized that the sport is mentally and physically beneficial as long as it is practiced under the supervision of a highly qualified coach.