“It’s my moral duty.” The taekwondo coach knocking out stereotypes in India

“It’s my moral duty.” The taekwondo coach knocking out stereotypes in India

Amita Marwah started the free slum taekwondo classes for underprivileged kids.

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The room reverberates with the eager shouts of children. Coach Amita Marwah watches intently as the students shift from strategic punches to effortless air-kicks. In India, it’s rare for a woman to teach a martial arts class. “Customs can be hard to change,” Marwah says. “But that does not mean they should not be challenged.” Breaking down social barriers, she’s defying patriarchal norms while uplifting youth through taekwondo. 

Since childhood, Marwah dreamed of practising martial arts. Her strong will took her down a road of success and she earned three black belts. This spurred Marwah’s determination to provide the same opportunity for others. Children in parts of India are seldom given the chance to learn due to financial constraints – so Marwah started teaching taekwondo for free. Many of her students attend both school and work, and take precious time-off to join her classes. Recognising their intense level of commitment, Marwah registered the Amita Marwah Activity Team, a non-profit that offers taekwondo and other activities for children in underprivileged communities. 

Today, over 400 students ranging from five to 24 years old attend Marwah’s classes. “As a human being, it’s my moral duty to make them independent for their future,” Marwah says. With specialised training, some of her students have gone on to compete in international matches. While Marwah still faces disapproval for her chosen lifestyle, she’s proving her naysayers wrong. “I will challenge anyone who says martial arts is not for women,” she says. “I ignore the people who criticise me.” Marwah has become a role model for others, encouraging them to follow their own path. “My advice is to be courageous and achieve your goals,” she says.

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