Wushu's New Poster Girl
Sima Azimi is Afghanistan’s first female Wushu trainer. She became interested in Wushu after watching martial arts movies as a kid and acquired her skills while living as a refugee in Iran.
Sanda (sometimes called sanshou) is a modern fighting method and sport influenced by traditional Chinese boxing, Chinese wrestling methods called Shuai jiao and other Chinese grappling techniques such as Chin Na. It has all the combat aspects of wushu. Sanda appears much like Kickboxing or Muay Thai, but includes many more grappling techniques. Sanda fighting competitions are often held alongside taolu or form competitions.
After learning the sport in Iran, Sima won medals in competition and says: “My ambition is to see my students take part in international matches and win medals for their country.” Despite the popularity of martial arts in Afghanistan, women’s sport is severely restricted. All of the women in the club are Hazara, a Dari-speaking, mainly Shia group. They have generally more liberal social traditions that allow them to practise sports outside the home. In addition to the regular dangers of life in Kabul, these women face intimidation and abuse. One member, Shakila Muradi, says: “There are many people harassing us, but we ignore them and follow our goals.”
Sima has been teaching in Kabul for about a year, training at the club’s gym with her father. This gym has a large poster of stuntman Hussain Sadiqi, a Hazara martial arts champion who fled to Australia to work in film.
Her father declares his pride in his daughter. “I am really happy that I helped, encouraged and supported Sima,” he says.