July 12, 2010
The word out of central Nepal is so startling that it sounds almost mythical. Every day at 4 a.m. in the Kathmandu Valley, far from the birthplace of kung fu, 200 nuns of the Tibetan Buddhist Drukpa sect — a school not associated with the Chinese martial art — are said to assemble to throw punches. Weather permitting, the young women have been seen practicing on the roof of the Naro Assembly Hall of the Druk Gawa Khilwa Nunnery, set against forested mountain and the open sky. The nuns describe their hour-long routines: spreading apart their feet and planting them down decidedly in the so-called horse stance, bringing thumb together with forefinger to form a crane's beak with their hands, striking down and then back again, lunging forward and taking off with soaring kicks. "We all like it very much," 17-year-old Jigme Konchok Lhamo says in a phone interview. "Everyone does it, except those nuns who are very old." In other words, morning kung fu sessions are only open to nuns under 25.
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