Altair Guimarães

Kung Fu Nuns Strike Back at Rising Sex Attacks In India

As dawn breaks, the sun edges over the expansive jagged mountains of Ladakh - a remote Buddhist ex-kingdom in the Indian Himalayas bordering Tibet - to reveal a world where time appears to have stood still.

The chant of monks in a centuries-old monastery can be heard in the distance. Villagers slowly emerge from whitewashed stone cottages to tend to their wheat and barley fields, and ready their goats to search for pasture. Ladakh's age-old Tibetan Buddhist way of life appears almost untouched by modernity.

Until, that is, you hear the energetic yells of scores of young women, clad in sweatpants and trainers. Fanned out in front of a majestic white temple-like structure, they stretch, lunge, jump, kick and punch on the orders of nuns.

Meet the Kung Fu nuns — women from an age-old Buddhist sect who are using their martial arts expertise to challenge gender roles in this conservative culture and teach women self-defense, as reports of rapes rise in India. Between meditation sessions, they attend gender equality lessons and they follow their prayers with jabs and thrust kicks.

"We walk the talk. If we act, people will think if: 'If nuns can act, why can't we?'" said 19-year-old Jigme Wangchuk Lhamo, one of the Kung Fu trainers, as she rested after an intense two-hour session.

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