Parents, put the Barbies in the attic. Your daughters could better spend their time embracing the ancient Chinese art of Wushu.

Sima Azimi is the first female  Wushu trainer in Afghanistan. Her mission? To empower young women and equip them with self-defense skills needed to keep them safe on the streets of Kabul.

Donning her black uniform, 20-year-old Azimi spends hours each week training teens in the art of Wushu.

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Wushu originated at an ancient Shaolin Temple in China and is categorized into several different styles. Depending on the style, athletes fight with their hands, swords, staffs or spears, according to a Harvard University report on the ancient art.

After training in Iran for three years, Azimi returned to Afghanistan, where she established her martial arts training business. She tells New China TV that when she first opened her club, “no girl dared to come.” But now, two years later, over 20 young women practice the art every week.

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If they are aren’t training atop the snow-covered mountains of Kabul, these Afghan women make the best of their situation in a dilapidated club.

Azimi explains that she trains her students to defend themselves from harassment on their city streets. As an example, she tells the story of the time she fought off a mugger using her martial arts training.

But most of all, Azimi wants to open the doors to female athletes in Afghanistan. In addition to facing a lack of funding, these women are often unable to participate in national and international matches.

“My prime objective is to see equality ensured between women and men in Afghanistan,” she said. “And therefore I am calling upon all girls to break down the cultural barriers and join me in promoting Wushu to achieve the noble goal.”

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