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

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.”


Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

A Syrian woman carrying a child walks by, in the Washukanni Camp for the internally displaced, near the predominantly Kurdish city of Hasakeh in northeastern Syria, on February 17, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2020

Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

  • Middle East expert believes Ankara and Tehran are locked in an information war

ANKARA: Turkish and Iranian media outlets are battling as deeply rooted tensions have resurfaced. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency has published an opinion piece that critically discussed tensions with Iran over Syria. It said: “Turkey’s vision of regional development and integration is pitched against Iran’s regional strategy prioritising geopolitical wins.
“Ignoring Ankara’s concerns in the fight against terrorism during Operation Peace Spring, Tehran is now setting its Shiite militias in the field in motion against Turkey, who is actively endeavoring to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
The analysis piece, titled “Idlib front, Iran’s weakening foreign operation capacity,” was penned by Hadi Khodabandeh Loui, a researcher at the Iran Research Center in Ankara.
Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.
An editorial piece that was published in Iran’s hardline newspaper Entekhab compared Turkey’s military moves in Syria to Israel’s bombings of pro-Assad forces. The piece warned Ankara about a potential aggressive reaction from Tehran to both threats.
Israeli warplanes fired missiles at targets near Syria’s capital, Damascus, in early February and they hit Syrian Army and Iran-backed militia positions, reportedly killing 23 people.
Being among the guarantor states of the Astana peace process for Syria, aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, Turkey and Iran have already witnessed the fragility of their relations in October 2019 when Iran criticized Turkey’s moves to establish military posts inside Syria, emphasizing the need to respect the integrity of Syria.
Then, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly accused Iran of betraying the consensus between the two countries following Tehran’s condemnation of Turkey’s operation in northern Syria against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

BACKGROUND

Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.

In March 2018, Iran’s Tehran Times defined Turkey’s cross-border military operation against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin as an “invasion.” It splashed with a headline that read: “Turkish troops occupy Syria’s Afrin.”
Over recent weeks, Ankara has voiced criticisms that the Assad regime, Iran-backed militia and Russia have violated the ceasefire in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib, with frequent attacks targeting Turkish troops.
Samuel Ramani, a Middle East analyst at the University of Oxford, thinks that Assad’s forces are winning decisively, and Turkey’s ability to resist them is greatly diminished.
“Assad’s forces have consolidated their control over west Aleppo, and are steadily advancing in Idlib. Turkey does not view the Iranian mediation offers in Syria as credible, especially as Iranian media outlets are justifying them by claiming that Turkey broke the terms of the Sochi agreement by harboring extremists. Turkey is insistent that Russia violated Sochi by supporting Assad’s offensive,” he told Arab News.
Regarding the media conflict, Ramani thinks that Turkey and Iran are locked in an information war over Syria, and are both trying to paint the other as an aggressor.
“It’s a way to rally public support in both countries around more confrontational posturing, in the event of a bigger military escalation that actually sees Turkish and Iranian forces in direct combat, not just Assad and Turkish proxies,” he said.