With the right leg bent forward and the left one stretched backward, these women lunged in air in a repetitive manner, striving very hard to attain perfection as they execute their impeccable kicks. Each of their movements is punctuated with energetic cries that serve as the piercing accompaniment to the resounding and booming drums.
These women are popularly known as the Kung Fu nuns of Nepal. These women are the only ones who were given the opportunity to practice and perform the dangerous martial art which was made and designed by the legendary Kung Fu master, Bruce Lee.
How did the kung fu nuns of Nepal started?
Generally speaking, women are touted to be the most inferior gender. This same mindset is observed in the Buddhist patriarchal monastic system. In the past, nuns had the responsibility to perform household duties and tedious chores. In 2008 however, the imminent leader of the Drukpa lineage (known to be one thousand years old), His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa made it possible to come up with a drastic change.
Drukpa took the liberty of encouraging and motivating the nuns to practice self-defense in the form of martial art. This was the mindset of Drukpa. He has the motive of promoting equality between men and women and empowering women in the process at the same time. This specific thought came across the mind of Drukpa when he took the time to visit Vietnam. In Vietnam, he had seen nuns that practice combat training.
Who trains the kung fu nuns of Nepal?
Every single day, about three hundred and fifty nuns with ages ranging from 10 to 25, participate in the three-part training session. This training session has to be joined in by every enlisted girl or woman to learn the different kinds of exercise routines. These routines are being taught to them by mentors who only visit them twice a year in Nepal from Vietnam.
Apart from the act of perfecting their physical postures, these women are also taught on the right and proper way of handling traditional weapons such as the big dao (halbers), small dao (sabre), nunchaku (two metal bars that are attached to a chain) and ki am (sword). Girls and women with exceptional mental and physical strength are even taught the technique of brick-breaking.
This particular stunt is usually performed and exhibited on special events or occasions like the birthday of His Holiness. By practicing Kung Fu, all of these women have the belief that they are practically safe. Their sense of self confidence is fully enhanced and developed in the process. Moreover, Kung Fu is something that keeps them physically and mentally alert, allowing them to concentrate better on whatever they intend to do.
Every Kung Fu nun of Nepal has to be constantly aware of her movement and should have the quick ability to assess whether it is right or wrong. When a movement is wrong it has to be corrected immediately. It is also necessary for each practicing Kung Fu nun to focus her attention on the sequence of movements that she has memorized as well as on each movement at the same time. Wandering of the mind is a big No when practicing Kung Fu. It is not right and it only creates wrong movement. Basically, their training is similar to the training and practice of meditation.
Who Initiated and Teaches the Kung Fu Nuns?
It was in the year 2008 when His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, the head and leader of the Drukpa School saw nuns doing the combat training when he visited his followers in northern Vietnam. This has given him the inspiration to encourage the nuns of Nepal to do similar training. This to build tremendous strength and self-confidence not only in their movements but towards other people outside their enclosed community as well.
Kung Fu has long been established in Nepal. It has moved south from China’s traditional martial arts centers which included the world-famous Shaolin Temple which was known to be founded by a separate Buddhist sect Chan or Zen, as most people in the West often call it.
His Holiness Drukpa returned to Kathmandu with not just the idea of introducing martial arts to girls and women. He introduced four experienced Drukpa nuns from Vietnam to serve as mentors or teachers. Drukpa was keen enough to keep the program all-female. He insisted that bringing in learned and well-trained monks as teachers would only create gender stereotypes.
The spiritual and physical empowerment of girls and women is extremely high on his list. Drukpa says that before the girls and women came to the school, many of them have become nuns in various parts of the Himalayan region while searching for independence. Unfortunately, the majority of these nuns ended up doing heavy and tedious household chores in the monasteries and even in the family homes of their gurus.
The Background of the Kung Fu Nuns’ Teachers
There are four Vietnamese Drukpa nuns who currently serve as teachers for the Kung Fu nuns of Nepal. These nuns only started their own training in martial arts in 1992 when the religious head of their locality initiated the said practice at the nunnery of Tay Thien. During those times, there were only three nuns but with the passing of time, there are already eighty of them who spend sunup sparring. In fact, many of these nuns in Vietnam are very much eager and excited to join their four sisters who now serve as Kung Fu teachers in Nepal.
Why did it start?
The concept of introducing martial arts training to the nuns of Nepal started out when His Holiness Drukpa saw the nuns in Vietnam doing the martial art training. This has inspired him to encourage the women, specifically the nuns in his country to do the same so as to develop and enhance their mental and physical strength as well as their self-confidence. Prior to this, martial arts training is also a great form of exercise which serves as an excellent supplement to the yoga classes of the nuns. However, this was also introduced to help with their Buddhist practice.
The nuns claim that their meditation gets easy with the Kung Fu. It is something that helps them to sit up straight and to learn the art of concentration at the same time. With the continual repetition of moves, their control and focus are being built and thought to be an essential asset to any discipline that requires intense concentration. All things which are useful for these young women are forgotten especially when they are expected to sit for hours in the same position. Sometimes, these women undertake retreats in which they can’t even speak for months at a time.
Is it obligatory for all female nuns in Nepal to practice Kung Fu?
The word out of the central part of Nepal is very startling and it sounds almost mythical. Every single day at around 4:00 in the morning, hundreds of nuns gather together and assemble in the Valley of Kathmandu to throw punches. Weather-permitting, these young girls and women are commonly seen practicing Kung Fu on the roof of the Naro Assembly Hall of the Druk Gawa Khilwa Nunnery, an institution that’s set against the forested mountains of Nepal and the open sky.
These nuns describe their hour-long routines: spreading their feet apart and planting them down on a decided manner in the so-called horse stance, bringing their two thumbs together with forefingers forming a beak of a crane with their hands, striking down and back again, lunging forward and executing flying and soaring kicks in the process. These routines are well-loved by all the nuns in the school and everyone simply take their time to do it with all their might and concentration.
However, there is an exemption though. Every nun performs all the routines mentioned above except those nuns who are already very old. In other words, this kind of Kung Fu session, also known as morning Kung Fu sessions are only open to nuns aged 25 years old and below. This gives everyone the idea that this kind of training and practice isn’t obligatory as there will always be an exemption. But if a girl or a woman complies with the age requirement set by the school and she is willing to learn the art of self-defense then she is welcome to enlist herself.
If you are looking forward to visit Nepal then you should know from the start that this country has a lot of things and places to offer. If your purpose of traveling to Nepal is to see and witness the country’s Fung Fu nuns then it is important to have some tips that you should learn in the first place to realize your trip in a more exciting, effective and memorable way.
So, when is the best time to visit Nepal for its Kung Fu nuns?
The best time of the year to visit this country is between October and December. This proves to be true because at this point of the year when the skies in the country are clear and the views are definitely spectacular. If you want to get rid of getting soaked in the rain while enjoying the beauty of Nepal, you can also book your trip anywhere from October to April when the weather remains dry and cold. But even when it’s cold especially at night, you will surely be rewarded with incredible panoramas and quiet trekking trails as there are fewer visitors during the night.
Late spring is a nice time to travel to Nepal as the rhododendrons burst into bloom. From the month of May, heat and humidity levels tend to build and escalate until the monsoon rains come in June with the clouds obscuring the glorious views of the Nepalese mountains. This country also celebrates festivals all year round so it is not surprising to see a pilgrimage or festival taking place in a particular spot in the country. Be sure to ask your travel agent for more details and information as the dates for these festivals often change from year to year.
Visiting the Kung Fu Nuns
Now if you intend to visit the Kung Fu nuns of Nepal in their traditional maroon robes in the style of karate uniforms and behold their smiling faces that conceal incredible energy and strength then this is the right time to do it. Apart from the one hundred and one reasons to visit Nepal, the Kung Fu nuns are indeed a sight to behold especially when you have a strong liking with women empowerment.
Once you reached Nepal you can go on your way as a solo backpacker. To be able to visit Nepal’s renowned Kung Fu nuns you have to go to the Druk Gawa Khilwa (DGK) Buddhist Nunnery at the top of the lofty Druk Amitabha Mountain near Kathmandu. Reaching the nunnery is indeed a challenge. You and the taxi driver should be able to find the right tiny road that leads and ascended the mountain. You should also pray that the rickety car wouldn’t expire halfway up.
Traveling to the top of the mountain for the Kung Fu nuns seemed quite likely. There is a daunting series of ever-tightening hairpin bends with increasing loose and perpendicular inclines. But once you reached the portals of these great Kung nuns you will definitely forget your tired body and worried mind. Once you get there you can have the opportunity to meet in person those nuns practicing Kung Fu. You can also take photographs of them. Your picture gives you something to remember on this exciting and exhilarating trip to an Asian country where girls and women are at their best, practicing and training Kung Fu.
There are indeed a lot of things to do when you visit Nepal but one thing is for sure. Your Nepal trip will never be complete without taking the time to see in person the interesting, stunning and world-famous Kung Fu nuns of Nepal.