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Saudi Arabian Women Are Learning How to ‘Fight Like a Girl’

Recently, we’ve been in the midst of a storm of badass women emerging from the shadows of societal expectations and declaring their badassery for all to see.

Women have been stepping up and showing their strength to empower other women and girls to do the same. This wave of women’s empowerment is crashing down all over the globe and is leaving no city or country untouched.

“Fight Like a Girl” is the motto of FlagBoxing, a gym in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia owned by 41-year-old Halah Alhamrani.

Alhamrani is a certified boxer from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) in the United States. She has spent the last 15 years training women and girls in her home country of Saudi Arabia.

She was born to a Saudi Arabian father and an American mother. Throughout her childhood, her parents encouraged her to participate in a variety of physical activities such as gymnastics, football, and martial arts.

“I was brought up to believe girls could do anything,” she told the Independent. “Sports are especially important I think because we haven’t exactly broken that gender divide in the West yet either. Growing up, I was very lucky to have parents like that.”

She began practicing martial arts at the age of 12. “Starting with karate then moving on to different arts. I have a black belt in jujitsu,” Alhamrani told About Her. After graduating from high school, she moved to San Diego where she further developed her skills in boxing.

“When moving to the US, I wanted to learn how to throw a proper punch, something you don’t find in martial arts. I’ve been training myself in boxing and kickboxing for a long time, starting with Muay Thai… It’s the only form of kickboxing that involves knees and elbows,” she said.

“Being able to defend yourself is good for you mentally as well as physically,” she says. “It’s incredibly empowering. When women come here, I want them to feel that. Sometimes it’s for the first time in their lives,” she said.

FlagBoxing’s clients range from 14 to 60 years old, and, according to Alhamrani, are her biggest sources of inspiration.

“I always get inspired by people around me,” she told Gulf News.

According to the Independent, who sent reporters to visit the gym, FlagBoxing is technically an unlicensed business. The glass walls are opaque and there is no sign outside to indicate what the building is. Alhamrani has relied primarily on word-of-mouth to promote her business. Remarkably, FlagBoxing has been able to amass over 150 regular visitors.

Despite Alhamrani’s success, the social climate in Saudi Arabia is still a major barrier that she and other women must face. Many women have had to stop coming to classes at FlagBoxing due to disapproval by fathers and husbands.

“This keeps me sane,” Shaima, a 29-year-old client, told the Independent. “I would go crazy without this release.

Alhamrani is proud of the results she has seen, “I see such huge differences very quickly in students when they come here… they go home changed women.”

Stay up to date with FlagBoxing by following the gym on Instagram and be sure to sign up for NYMM’s Newsletter to read more stories about badass women like Halah Alhamrani.

Featured Image by andreas160578 on Pixabay

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