Kung Fu Nuns in Nepal boost their health in the fight for women’s rights

People think of nuns as gentle women who quietly live a life to serve God and the community. 

However, the Druk Gawa Khilwa Abbey, Druk Amitabha Mountain, Nepal’s kung fu nuns, have broken the mould!

These followers of the Drukpa Tibetan Buddhism are better known as the Kung Fu Nuns. They began studying the martial art in 2008 to improve self-defense, inner strength, and meditation focus.

Kung Fu Nuns | Facebook

The Drukpa lineage, a Buddhist tradition that dates back to the Himalayas, is a thousand-year-old Buddhist tradition. Its founder, His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa was said to have witnessed the flight of nine dragons into space. 

The order’s spirituality is rooted in gender equality, physical fitness, and respect for the environment and all living things.

kung fu nuns practicing
Kung Fu Nuns | Facebook

It’s unusual to see nuns participate in intense physical activities, but Gyalwang Drukpa offered kung fu training to help empower and build the confidence of Buddhist nuns, who do not usually enjoy the same privileges given to monks.

kung fu nuns practicing
Kung Fu Nuns | Facebook

It is also clear that these nuns practice real Kung Fu!  They can use machetes and nunchucks to break bricks and kick high into the air. 

The nuns begin their brutal training at 3:00 AM. After meditation, they cycle, run, climb stairs and practice kung fu for three hour!

Kung Fu Nuns | Facebook

This unconventional training program has been a great help to the Drukpa nuns.  After the 2015 earthquake that struck Nepal, the nuns joined Live to Love, an international non profit organization. They initially set out on foot to aid the stricken villages.

Later, they coordinated truck and helicopter rescues, distributed food, medicine, and solar power facilities and rebuilt homes.

They also worked with Live to Love Eye Camps that provided free cataract surgeries and self defense classes for women to teach them how to fight sexual assault.

kung fu nuns helping the community
Kung Fu Nuns | Facebook

Each year, the group conducts an “Eco-Pad Yatra”, a pilgrimage on foot that extends more than 400 miles. The nuns clean up trash and educate locals about environmental issues during these yatras. 

Bicycle Yatras are also organized to raise awareness about human trafficking, global warming and green transportation.

These activities show the strength of the nuns as the treks and cycles they take across India and Nepal are difficult and in all weather conditions.

kung fu nuns training young girls
Kung Fu Nuns | Facebook

They are proud to be Kung Fu Nuns. But these women are so much more. They have regular and spiritual classes, work on various jobs, and are trained as doctors’ assistants or technicians in solar panel work. They also help with animal rescue and care, music and dance, and theater.

kung fu nuns traveling by feet
Kung Fu Nuns | Facebook

The Drukpa nuns grew from 30 to over 800 over the years due to the progressive beliefs of Gyalwang Drukpa.

According to Carrie Lee of Live to Love International, “Traditionally Buddhist nuns are treated very differently from monks. They cook and clean, but they are not allowed to exercise.

His Holiness, however, thought this was absurd and decided to break with the current trend. Among other things, he gave them leadership roles and even introduced kung fu classes for the nuns…”

kung fu nuns smiling
Kung Fu Nuns | Facebook

One of the nuns, Jigme Konchok Lhamo, reiterated, “People think that because we are nuns, we are supposed to stay in the temples and pray all the time.

Praying is not enough.  His Holiness teaches that prayer is not enough. We must go out and do the right thing. After all, actions speak louder than words.”

Kung Fu Nuns

During a Bicycle Yatra, Jigme Konchok Lhamo recalled, “They get shocked when we stop and tell them that not only are we girls, but we are also Buddhist nuns.  I think this helps change their attitudes about women and maybe value them as equals.”

Kung Fu Nuns are breaking down barriers. Hopefully, more people will accept their message of love and equality and physical and spiritual strength.

Below is their extraordinary and inspiring story: