Nadia Helmy Ahmed
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabian female athletes celebrated a landmark victory at the 2018 Arab Women Sports Tournament, walking away with five medals – four bronzes and one silver. This milestone achievement was made possible in part by the Kingdom’s increased focus on encouraging and supporting the increased participation of women in sports. From last year’s appointment of Princess Reema Bint Bandar as head the Saudi Federation for Community Sports (SFCS), the first woman in the Kingdom to take on such an important role, to creating an entire sports ecosystem for women, from athletes, to female ushers, and security guards, Saudi Arabia has been working diligently on improving women’s inclusiveness in sports.
This month, in line with the Kingdom’s efforts, the Legendary Heroes gym club in Jeddah is organizing the first women’s jiu-jitsu and kickboxing tournament in the country, with the participation of more than 40 contestants. According to Arab News, this event, which will take place on the 17th of November, will be a first-of-its-kind featuring a number of amateur games held under the auspices of the General Sports Authority.
Captain Mohammed Abbas, founder of Legendary Heroes, explained that the tournament paves the way for women to participate in self-defense sports such as jiu-jitsu, MMA, Kowat Al-Rami (“force of throw“), Muay Thai and kickboxing, saying, “As part of the extensive efforts exerted to enable women in the field of martial arts, we have established the Legendary Heroes female branch to enable them to learn various types of martial arts and understand their tactics.”
Contact and self-defense sports are still new activities for women in Saudi Arabia to partake in, only recently gaining importance with athletes such as Dona Mohammed Al Ghamdi, who took home the winning title at this year’s International Boxing Championship in Jordan. The 20-year-old athlete became the first Saudi woman to celebrate victory at the championship, beating competitors from various countries across the globe including Norway, Germany, Palestine, and the UAE, and she also became the only Saudi boxer to date to compete on an Arab and international level.