Afghanistan’s Female Kung Fu Fighters

A hilltop in Afghanistan isn’t the first place you’d expect to find a team of young women practicing a martial art with Buddhist roots. But coach Seema Azimi and her team of teenage athletes defy expectations.

Since 2015, Azimi and her father have been training girls ages 14 to 20 at Kabul’s Shaolin Wushu Club, the first in the nation to teach kung fu to women. Azimi founded the club several years ago after a three-year training in Isfahan, Iran, hoping to help women defend themselves from street harassment and to bring her countrywomen a step closer to equality.

Shaolin wushu, or Shaolin kung fu, is a Chinese martial art believed to have originated at China’s Chan Buddhist Shaolin Temple in the Yellow River Valley. Legend relates that the Indian monk Bodhidharma taught martial arts movements to the monks in the sixth century CE. The form is still practiced by the temple’s monks, and today’s kung fu practitioners include Azimi’s female fighters.

Azimi herself hopes to compete in international competitions someday, and who knows? Maybe she’ll even be the next Jet Li in a remake of the 1982 classic movie Shaolin Temple.

Mindfulness Goes Guinness

We guess they aren’t counting pujas! This spring, 272 people at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, England, set a record for the “biggest mindfulness session in the world,” surpassing the previous record of 250 participants, although as of July this had yet to be confirmed by officials from the Guinness World Records. Organized by the mental health charity Self Help as part of their mental health awareness week, the event featured an introduction to mindfulness meditation and guidance in a few basic practices. World record it may be; still, it barely compares to the Guinness record set by Dr. Deepak Chopra in 2014 for the largest online meditation lesson in history, in which 33,061 participants sat under the wellness guru’s guidance for 30 minutes.

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