‘Packing a punch’: more girls in Saudi Arabia take up combat sports

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Halah Al-Hamrani, owner of FLAG gym. (Social media photo)
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As Saudi Arabia moves toward achieving its Vision 2030 reform targets, health and welfare is an important goal for Saudi Arabia, and girls have started to lead their lives toward fitness and strength. (Social media photo)
Updated 06 October 2019

‘Packing a punch’: more girls in Saudi Arabia take up combat sports

  • As combat sports activities become regular pastime for women, new skills help improve their physical and mental health

JEDDAH: While combat sports are still deemed as masculine sports by some Saudis, they have started to become a regular pastime for women too. Halah Al-Hamrani, 41, opened a gym called FLAG, an acronym for the popular slogan “fight like a girl” that has been used in pop culture to insult girls, to help empower women.
“I am feminine in my own way, but I also like hitting things,” Al-Hamrani said.
She has participated in panel discussions across the Kingdom to show that it is possible for women to practice combat sports, feel strong and empowered and still be a woman.
As the country is moving toward its Vision 2030 reform plans, health and welfare is an important goal for Saudi Arabia, and girls have started to lead their lives toward fitness and strength.
“With the empowerment of women, people have started to enjoy and support women in these fields,” she said.

Mental health
Nowadays, people understand that women do not necessarily need men to protect them.
According to Al-Hamrani, this mentality is helping people who promote combat sports. “It is making our job easier,” she added.

I promote combat sports for ladies, because they are very good exercises. It is highly skill-based and it works your mind and your body. For ladies, in general, it is a very empowering sport.

Halah Al-Hamrani, Owner of FLAG gym

“I promote combat sports for ladies, because they are very good exercises. It is highly skill-based and it works your mind and your body. For ladies, in general, it is a very empowering sport,” Al-Hamrani said.
She told Arab News that fighting sports require a lot of self-motivation, self-control and help support mental health.
“I find that it is the first requirement that woman should have toward a sport. It is the mental gains and power that you can develop.”
Boxing training proves an all-body workout, giving fighters lots of strength. The body of the boxer changes aesthetically — it becomes proportionate and toned.
“It’s important to learn self-defense. It helps to build the confidence,” said Reham Kamal, a coach at RK fitness and Al-Hamrani’s student.

Fitness
Sports and fitness are also perceived by people as a method of becoming fit and looking good, according to Kamal.
“For me, in the beginning, it was only to have a nice body shape, then it became a lifestyle. I wanted to learn more about it. So, I decided to educate myself by taking courses and workshops. After that I decided to help others to reach their fitness goals by coaching them.
“Boxing for me is not just to learn self-defense, it also challenges me to learn a new skill every time and improve my focus. It helps to improve my physical and mental health,” Kamal added.

Support
In Saudi Arabia, boxing is still frowned upon by some people.
“I have received many comments on social media from people that are not as open-minded toward the idea of women in combat sports. I have received comments like ‘she probably beats up her husband’ or ‘she is probably more of a man than a woman.’ There are many comments like that coming my way and it is obvious that they are uneducated,” Al-Hamrani said.
Embarking on her journey, Al-Hamrani received unconditional support from her friends and family.
“You are going to want your daughters and sisters to defend themselves if a bad situation ever occurred,” she said.


Saudi showjumpers ride for places in Tokyo Olympics team

Updated 16 December 2019

Saudi showjumpers ride for places in Tokyo Olympics team

  • International exposure key to Saudi riders’ success: Equestrian federation chief
  • Visitors enjoyed a fun and exciting atmosphere as riders gave their best performances on the field

RIYADH: Saudi showjumpers at this month’s Diriyah Equestrian Festival aren’t just riding to win — they are battling for places at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, the country’s equestrian chief said on Sunday.

“Saudi riders’ participation in international championships is very important,” said Prince Abdullah bin Fahd bin Abdullah, president of the Saudi Equestrian Federation.

“Coming in contact with international riders will provide them with what they need to achieve their ambitions, which we all know are very big. That is why Saudi riders always have remarkable presence on the international level — hard competitors to beat, like the young rider Waleed Al-Ghamdi, who came second in the first stage of the competition.

“We are waiting for the results of this championship to draft the program for the Tokyo Olympics. We have a good chance at winning but, in this sport one can never be sure until the end of the stage. We will always be sure of the self-confidence our riders have, which will be felt as they represent the Kingdom in any competition,” he added.

Prince Abdullah expressed his happiness at the start of the first stage of the International Show Jumping Championship as part of the Diriyah Equestrian Festival

“The success is due to God, the support the sport has from the wise leadership of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA)," he said

The festival — which concludes next weekend, Dec. 19-21 — is taking place at Al-Duhami Farm, the equestrian arena built by Saudi Olympic legend Ramzy Al-Duhami and his wife Sara Baban.

In addition to showjumping, the attractions include art and photography exhibitions, cultural activities and a range of cafes and restaurants.

Visitors enjoyed a fun and exciting atmosphere as riders gave their best performances on the field, showcasing their skills and talents.

Diriyah has always been a symbol of authenticity and culture, while entertainment came with its international sports activities characterized by their sophistication, strength and diversity.

Mohammed Al-Mudayfar, owner of the artistic incubator “Resin Art” taking part in the activities, said: “The exhibition aims at highlighting the Kingdom’s identity in line with the festival’s. By participating, I seek to revive the Kingdom’s culture and introduce it to the visitors.

'Resin Art' exhibition is part of the activities lined up during the two-week Diriyah Equestrian Festival. (Photo/Supplied)

“The exhibition includes 60 Saudi artworks. They received huge support so they can showcase them in a suitable manner, in line with this year’s fun and exciting activities,” he added, noting: “Featured handicrafts, paintings and sculptures are all up for sale.  

“We provide the necessary space and materials for any artist that wishes to showcase his work. Supporting young Saudis and talented ones in particular is a national duty that society should sense its importance especially when it is related to our heritage and traditions.”

The activities area had a part dedicated to kids that has educational and entertainment activities such as painting horse heads made of cork.

Another exhibition called “Objectives” managed by 24-year-old Lama Al-Thubaiti offered visitors a variety of jewelry and accessories that could be modified according to their requests. Al-Thubaiti works as a doctor for people with hearing disabilities and has been working to develop her brand for five years now.

“We are very happy with the visitors’ reaction and our presence here is remarkable as we get ready to open our headquarters soon,” she said.  

The activities area also featured a wide range of restaurants, Saudi and international cafes, a photography corner and cultural facilities such as Arabian and historic horse exhibition, engraving, henna and local artists.

Diriyah Equestrian Festival is taking place for the second year in a row to bring the international event to the Kingdom, reflect the traditional values of equestrianism according to European standards. The event will run for two weeks, providing participants with the chance to qualify to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the World Championship.