Kuwaiti girls use martial arts to counter bullies and violence

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Kajukenbo’s name was derived from the various aspects of martial arts it includes: karate (KA), judo and jujitsu (JU), kenpo (KEN) and boxing (BO). (AFP)
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Each form teaches techniques that can be used to fend off an attack. (AFP)
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The sport called Kajukenbo was born in Hawaii in the 1940s. (AFP)
Updated 10 January 2019
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Kuwaiti girls use martial arts to counter bullies and violence

  • In a small hall in Kuwait City, women and girls in black uniforms gather to learn the basics of self-defense
  • A 2010 study found that a woman is assaulted a day in Kuwait, according to Ghada Al-Ghanem, of the Women’s Cultural and Social Society (WCSS)

KUWAIT CITY: Asma Hasnawi and her daughter Riham spend more than 12 hours a week learning kajukenbo, a mixed martial art the mother says boosts her child’s confidence and thwarts bullying.
In a small hall in Kuwait City, women and girls in black uniforms gather to learn the basics of self-defense.
On their left sleeves are the flags of Kuwait and the US state of Hawaii, where the hybrid martial art of kajukenbo was developed in the 1940s.
The sport’s name was derived from the various forms of martial arts it includes: karate (KA), judo and jujitsu (JU), kenpo (KEN) and boxing (BO).
Each form teaches techniques that can be used to fend off an attack, says Hasnawi, 33, who stands in class alongside her 12-year-old daughter and other girls.
“I initially wanted to explore this sport, but I continued to practice it to be able to defend myself,” she tells AFP.
Hasnawi still remembers being bullied as a child — something her daughter has struggled with at school too.
But she says Riham has “changed a lot” since they started practicing kajukenbo, gaining patience and strength through the sport.
“She has transformed. At school, she used to get really angry and quickly agitated if someone would say something to her,” Hasnawi says.
“Now, it’s something normal that she can (healthily) deal with.”
There is no recent data in Kuwait on cases of violence against women, who enjoy more freedoms than those in neighboring countries.
A 2010 study found that a woman is assaulted a day in Kuwait, according to Ghada Al-Ghanem, of the Women’s Cultural and Social Society (WCSS).
The WCSS, whose goal is to help and encourage women’s participation in the Kuwaiti community, has dealt with a number of assault cases and Ghanem believes the actual figure may be higher.
Hung on the red and black walls of the Street Warrior Academy is a poster of two men practicing the sport.
“Kajukenbo teaches your child the methods and arts of self-defense,” it reads, complimenting the mottos of “strength and honor” and “street warrior” on the backs of the girls’ uniforms.
The students closely watch their instructor, Faisal Al-Gharib, as he explains how to counter an attack with the help of his son.
The girls then pair up to take what they have learnt and put it into practice.
In another instance, the instructor’s son mimics an attack with a wooden knife on one of the more experienced pupils, who wears a black belt.
Already familiar with the exercise, the student explains: “I pretend that I have surrendered... and then I grab his hand on my neck, push it down and move it away.”
More than 120 girls and women between the ages of four and 50 participate in the academy’s different kajukenbo classes, which are held in a room with training weapons lining its walls.
Some 40 men and boys also currently take part in kajukenbo classes at the club on different days from the women.
For Um Saleh, the sport has helped her twin 13-year-old daughters become more independent and decisive.
“It gave them something to focus on other than social media,” she says.
Gharib, the instructor, established the academy in 2014 after learning kajukenbo in the United States. He says he wanted to teach the sport to women back home as a way to stay fit and to defend themselves against any attack.
As part of the training, he presents his students with different scenarios, including assaults and knife attacks.
“We focus on self-defense skills and place the girls in conditions similar to those on the street so we can build their self-confidence and teach them exactly when and where to expect the hit,” Gharib says.
The academy, which has a strict confidentiality policy, has become a safe haven for many girls and women that have been victims of assault or bullying.
It is one of dozens of similar clubs and academies that have opened in Kuwait as kajukenbo gains popularity. Although in the rest of the Gulf, the sport remains relatively unknown.
“Being a (victim) of assault, whether in school or on the street, is what pushed some of these girls and women to pursue the sport,” says Fai Al-Fahed, one of the instructors.
“Ultimately, girls are embracing this kind of martial art and we see it boosting their self-confidence.”
Khalida Bashir says she was drawn to kajukenbo after watching clips of the sport online.
“I used to be afraid of everything, but this sport changed me,” she tells AFP.
“I have become more confident and more patient. Some say this is a man’s sport, but that is, in fact, not true.”


Iran's foreign minister walks back from remark on missile talks

Updated 17 July 2019
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Iran's foreign minister walks back from remark on missile talks

  • Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with NBC News that if the US wants to talk about Iran's missiles, it needs "first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region"
  • A compromise deal remains the best way to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday

TEHRAN: Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday that his country has no choice but to manufacture missiles for defense purposes — comments that reflect more backtracking after a remark by the top diplomat suggesting the missiles could be up for negotiations.
Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with NBC News that aired earlier this week that if the US wants to talk about Iran's missiles, it needs "first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region."
Iran has long rejected negotiations over its ballistic missile program, which remains under the control of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard that answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The foreign minister's remarks suggested a possible opening for talks as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington.
But the Iranian mission to the United Nations promptly called Zarif's suggestion purely "hypothetical" and said the Iranian missiles were "absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period."
In Tehran, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, tweeted late on Tuesday that Zarif's comments meant to challenge Washington and "threw the ball into the US court while challenging America's arm sales" to its Mideast allies.
Zarif himself on Wednesday backpedaled on the missiles issue, saying Iran has no choice but to manufacture the missiles for its own defense.
He cited the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and tweeted that, "For 8 YEARS, Saddam (Hussein) showered our cities with missiles & bombs provided by East & West. Meanwhile, NO ONE sold Iran any means of defense. We had no choice but building our own. Now they complain."
"Instead of skirting the issue, US must end arms sales to Saddam's reincarnations," Zarif also said.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have sharply escalated since President Donald Trump unilaterally last year withdrew America from the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.
America has also rushed thousands of additional troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Mideast amid unspecified threats from Iran.
Mysterious oil tanker blasts near the Strait of Hormuz, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran's shooting down of a U.S. military drone in the past months further raised fears of a wider conflict engulfing a region crucial to global energy supplies.

A compromise deal remains the best way to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.

The UN nuclear watchdog has confirmed that Iran earlier this month violated the 2015 accord, and Iran's supreme leader on Tuesday said Tehran would keep removing restraints on its nuclear activity in the deal.

In her last major speech before stepping down next week, May said the nuclear deal must be protected "whatever its challenges".

"Whether we like it or not a compromise deal remains the best way to get the outcome we all still ultimately seek – to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to preserve the stability of the region," May said.

Recently, British authorities intercepted the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, and seized it with the help of British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar.
They believed it to be violating European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria. Spanish authorities said the seizure came at the request of the United States.
This is not the only issue between Iran and Britain.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran following her arrest in April 2016 on charges of plotting against the Iranian government, has been transferred to a hospital mental health facility, her husband said Wednesday.
Her family denies the allegations against her.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said in Britain that his wife has been moved to the mental health ward of Iman Khomeini hospital under the control of the Revolutionary Guard.
"Hopefully her transfer to hospital means that she is getting treatment and care, despite my distrust of just what pressures can happen behind closed doors. It is unnerving when we don't know what is going on," he said.
Iran does not recognize dual nationality.
British officials have urged Iranian officials to let her have contact with her family.