Islamabad-Every girl doesn’t have to become a fighter, but every girl can see that, even if something is perceived as a guy’s thing, it doesn’t mean it isn’t for them — Ronda Rousey.

Back in the day when MMA legend Ronda Rousey debuted in the UFC, She became a poster child for women empowerment around the world and broke down surprising gender barriers, which existed since the start of the promotion in early 90’s.

Today Ronda is one of the most celebrated stars of MMA and since her entry into the MMA world; women fights have reached a new level with a new wave of women being signed to the UFC roster.

Ronda’s triumphs in the octagon are a proof that women are as powerful as men and they can do anything that they set their minds and hearts onto.

The recent popularity of the UFC has led to a number of MMA studios opening up around the city, and surprisingly women have been taking a keen interest in the sport, mostly as an alternative way of keeping themselves fit and empowering their bodies and minds through strength training.

A small MMA studio nestled beneath the Margalla hills in F8 Islamabad holds regular MMA classes for women which are jam packed with girls and women from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Recently, a female fighter from the same TDS Fight Club, Hajira Asaf Khan who is also the Secretary of Women’s Affairs at Federal Wushu Association participated in the 10th National Women’s Wushu Championship and made the capital proud by winning a bronze medal. She said, “Learning what strength your body holds and how much pain you can endure and overcome, is one of the most humbling and simultaneously empowering experiences for me. Training for competitive combat sports had always felt like bit of a novelty for me in the beginning because I didn’t see many women taking that path. But with time, I learnt that women from all over the country are making strides in combat sports as teachers, coaches and fighters. I have had the good fortune of meeting some of these and fighting others.”

She added, “It is unfortunate that the biggest MMA event in Pakistan has yet to include

 

 women events in their format. But I feel that the more women we visibly see competing, greater the chances of combat sports growing and expanding in the country even further. “

Mixed Martial Arts better known as MMA is a fighting style and more of a sport than a traditional martial art. Islamabad has recently produced a number of MMA champions from Team Fight Fortress like Uloomi Karim Shaheen who defeated his Indian opponent with unanimous decision in the highly anticipated World Series of Fighting (WSOF) in Philippines last year and Ahmed Mujtaba who has won many laurels for the country with an undefeated record of six wins as a professional and one as an amateur fighter.

Amber, a mother of two teenage girls and an MMA novice said, “I came across MMA when I was looking for a way to get off the treadmill in a boring gym. Pretty soon I realized that I was learning important self-defence skills, while automatically melting fat off my body! Every morning parading around my office sporting a new bruise from my MMA session was like a medal of honour. I believe that women are empowered by such an intense sport because they are learning to defend themselves not only physically, but also emotionally, something most of us are not taught to do as children especially in our country where women are discouraged to even go out in the sun to avoid getting tanned and shun potential wedding proposals let alone getting involved in such intense activities.”

In a recent study, it was noted that one in almost every five Pakistani women will become

 a victim of sexual assault during her life. That

 

 doesn’t include other crimes like kidnapping or catcalling which is why every woman should learn self-defence, the earlier the better. Self-defence doesn’t only include violent moves and knees to the groin. The initial lessons taught in such classes are mostly about awareness, of how you move, talk, and observe your surroundings, which is the first step to maintaining your safety. Self-defence skills not only cause an increase in your confidence but also your inner and outer strength.

Ayesha, a recently divorced mother of two teenage daughters says, “After my divorce I was going through a very difficult time. Kickboxing soon became an alternative to my anxiety pills and therapy sessions. Those workouts were the three days a week; I could fight back and take out all my frustration and anger. I didn’t have to be that fragile and frightened woman; I could show my real strength while learning to defend myself.”

She added, “Just after a few sessions, I started seeing and feeling the positive change in myself, inside out. Not only did I find the courage to stand up for myself, but today I am able to pursue a healthy and happy life without any fear, for myself or my children. Today I train to be the strongest I can be and to see how far I can go and how hard I can hit. I challenge myself every day in that octagon and the adrenaline rush just makes me feel like I can conquer the world. I am setting an example for both my daughters to get up and hit harder when life takes a jab at you and makes you fall on your knees. ”

Mixed Martial Arts in the country soared in 2007 when MMA fighter Bashir Ahmed founded the Mixed Martial Arts Pakistan. MMA Pakistan organises MMA events regularly around the country. It has been highly successful in being promoting MMA across Pakistan. It is a member of the ONEFC network, a member of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation and regularly receives substantial and numerous international media coverage and has attracted the biggest and best sponsors in Pakistan.

When asked about her experience as a female MMA coach at Fight Fortress Islamabad, Mariam Tariq said, “Getting into MMA has influenced my life in many positive ways. It has helped me grow mentally. I feel confident and safe while walking around the markets knowing the fact that I am strong and powerful enough to kick anyone’s ass.”

She added, “The most important thing that MMA has taught me is discipline and patience. Currently I have around 20-25 female MMA trainees. It is definitely empowering women in our society. As people are getting aware of this sport they’re showing more interest especially women. They really want to feel as strong and as powerful as men. Having the knowledge of self-defence makes them feel strong, confident and safe.” Maleeha, a law student and a recent MMA trainee said, “I am a radical feminist and I believe in women empowerment to the core, today it empowers me to a great extent knowing that I can take punch or a kick and get back up and hit back harder.”

Maleeha added, “MMA is making me not only physically stronger but also emotionally stronger each day. I hope to be a professional MMA fighter someday. As a girl I’ve been criticised and judged by many people including my own relatives, because in our society it’s ok for a man to fight, but not for me as a girl. But I continue to fight in spite of that, I want to show other women and young girls, including my 16-year-old sister, that it’s ok to be strong and it’s absolutely ok to fight for yourself. To all the Pakistani men and boys, I hope seeing female MMA fighters encourage them to respect us and not to underestimate our strength. To see us as athletes and equal in mental and physical strength and not someone they can abuse, control or try to intimidate through fear or physical aggression.”

She added, “My father thinks that I’m stronger than my male cousins and I’m pretty proud of that. MMA is not just about fitness, it’s a lifestyle. “