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Thursday, August 05, 2021

Meet the ‘Kung Fu Nuns’ who can break bones and chant with equal ease

Appearances can be deceptive which is why Jigme Konchok Lhamo’s angelic smile should not be taken at face value.

Written by Debesh Banerjee | New Delhi |
Updated: November 27, 2014 11:59:44 am
They are trained in stunts such as breaking wooden planks and bricks They are trained in stunts such as breaking wooden planks and bricks

Appearances can be deceptive which is why Jigme Konchok Lhamo’s angelic smile should not be taken at face value. She walks calmly on to the stage with her hands folded in meditation, and breaks out into a wide stance in a flash. A Buddhist nun from Ladakh, Lhamo is adept at kung fu and breaking bones comes naturally to her. Her smartest trick is with the Chinese hand fan. On Monday evening, she performed stunts with her hand fan accompanied by six other girls from the nunnery at the closing of the Inner Path Festival in Delhi. “I usually like to perform with more girls but this was a smaller demonstration,” she says. At the Alliance Francaise, the girls performed with sticks, swords and hand fans to the background music of Buddhist hymns and chants.

The “Kung Fu Nuns”, a term coined by the international media, from the the Drukpa lineage of Buddhism, were initiated into Chinese martial arts by the Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa Jigme Pema Wangchen in 2011. Wangchen began teaching girls martial arts at various centres of the nunnery to prove that they were at par with monks. “Kung fu empowers us. It gives us confidence and makes us feel independent,” says Lhamo, who is from Keylong, Himachal Pradesh and shuttles between the nunneries in Ladakh and Himachal, where she learnt martial arts for five years.

At the nunnery, girls between the ages of 15 to 26 are taught kung fu, even as they cook, clean, meditate and study. “We wake up at 3 am every day. We devote two hours to learning kung fu,” says Lhamo. Their free time is spent watching martial arts films, usually Jackie Chan re-runs on TV. “He has the most authentic kung fu,” she says.

They have been on a 800 km pad yatra since November 1, from Varanasi to Lumbini, which involves walking 8 to 10km daily and cleaning up villages along their route.

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