You usually don’t hear the words ‘kung fu’ and ‘nuns’ in the same sentence, but it’s an unlikely combination that’s doing the world a lot of good right now.

In the world of the Buddhist monastic system, the role of nuns is often one of a second-class caretaker: cook, clean and carry on with the nominal tasks seen as beneath the skill set of their male monk counterparts. Hundreds of nuns from a Buddhist sect called the Drupka (or Dragon) Order in Tibet are using martial arts to change that practice, and along the way they’re showing how kung fu has helped give them the strength and confidence they call upon daily in their ongoing fight to raise awareness of a variety of issues and causes.

Did You Know?

  1. In 2008 His Holiness, the Gyalwang Drukpa, decided that Buddhism needed to start giving nuns the respect and treatment afforded monks.
  2. After visiting Vietnam and witnessing nuns there being trained in martial arts, he decided to bring that idea back with him and use it to help the nuns within the Dragon Order.
  3. He disliked how Buddhist nuns were looked upon by society in general, and began giving them leadership roles within the sect. He also felt they would need the kung fu training to help defend themselves against those that might oppose his changes.
  4. There are currently 350 nuns ranging in age from 10 to 25 who now take part in thrice-daily martial arts training sessions.
  5. In 2016, 500 nuns cycled 2,485 miles (4000 km) from Kathmandu in Nepal to the city of Leh in northern India to help bring attention the issue of human trafficking.
  6. It was one of four such trips the nuns have done, and with it they hoped to make people aware of the human rights abuses directed at women still going on across south Asia.
  7. Due to recent severe environmental conditions such as earthquakes, the trafficking of women and female children has skyrocketed in the region.
  8. Women and children from poorer rural areas are being sold or rented to businesses, homes and brothels in urban areas.
  9. Besides demonstrating their kung fu prowess, the nuns (many of whom have black belts) preached a message of diversity and tolerance.
  10. Speaking to Reuters, one kung fu nun had this to say: “People think that because we are nuns, we are supposed to stay in the temples and pray all the time. But praying is not enough.”