JEDDAH: While combat sports are still deemed as masculine sports by some Saudis, they have started to become a regular pastime for women too. Halah Al-Hamrani, 41, opened a gym called FLAG, an acronym for the popular slogan “fight like a girl” that has been used in pop culture to insult girls, to help empower women.
“I am feminine in my own way, but I also like hitting things,” Al-Hamrani said.
She has participated in panel discussions across the Kingdom to show that it is possible for women to practice combat sports, feel strong and empowered and still be a woman.
As the country is moving toward its Vision 2030 reform plans, health and welfare is an important goal for Saudi Arabia, and girls have started to lead their lives toward fitness and strength.
“With the empowerment of women, people have started to enjoy and support women in these fields,” she said.
Nowadays, people understand that women do not necessarily need men to protect them.
According to Al-Hamrani, this mentality is helping people who promote combat sports. “It is making our job easier,” she added.
I promote combat sports for ladies, because they are very good exercises. It is highly skill-based and it works your mind and your body. For ladies, in general, it is a very empowering sport.
Halah Al-Hamrani, Owner of FLAG gym
“I promote combat sports for ladies, because they are very good exercises. It is highly skill-based and it works your mind and your body. For ladies, in general, it is a very empowering sport,” Al-Hamrani said.
She told Arab News that fighting sports require a lot of self-motivation, self-control and help support mental health.
“I find that it is the first requirement that woman should have toward a sport. It is the mental gains and power that you can develop.”
Boxing training proves an all-body workout, giving fighters lots of strength. The body of the boxer changes aesthetically — it becomes proportionate and toned.
“It’s important to learn self-defense. It helps to build the confidence,” said Reham Kamal, a coach at RK fitness and Al-Hamrani’s student.
Sports and fitness are also perceived by people as a method of becoming fit and looking good, according to Kamal.
“For me, in the beginning, it was only to have a nice body shape, then it became a lifestyle. I wanted to learn more about it. So, I decided to educate myself by taking courses and workshops. After that I decided to help others to reach their fitness goals by coaching them.
“Boxing for me is not just to learn self-defense, it also challenges me to learn a new skill every time and improve my focus. It helps to improve my physical and mental health,” Kamal added.
In Saudi Arabia, boxing is still frowned upon by some people.
“I have received many comments on social media from people that are not as open-minded toward the idea of women in combat sports. I have received comments like ‘she probably beats up her husband’ or ‘she is probably more of a man than a woman.’ There are many comments like that coming my way and it is obvious that they are uneducated,” Al-Hamrani said.
Embarking on her journey, Al-Hamrani received unconditional support from her friends and family.
“You are going to want your daughters and sisters to defend themselves if a bad situation ever occurred,” she said.