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Girls in Congo learning how to defend themselves through martial art

Learner in Pointe-Noire   -  
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Republic of the Congo

Some five years after its introduction to the Congo, the martial art hapkido is attracting many teenage girls to come train at a centre in the city of Pointe-Noire.

"Although there are several martial arts in our country, there's also hapkido. There are always differences, but anyone who has seen hapkido practice is interested in it,” said trainer Armel Matanzala.

For the group of young girls training at the Centre de Référence, the issue is above all one of security, given the rise in power of the so-called "black babies".

These are gangs who commit rape, murder, and many other crimes in the major Congolese cities, including Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire.

And girls are among their prime targets.

"I practice hapkido firstly to know how to defend myself, especially with the situations that are happening today, the attacks by black babies, and because girls have become easy targets,” said learner Séphora Zefo.

One of her classmates, Sophia Kangou, started training at the centre after being the victim of verbal and physical harassment by men on several occasions.

“Above all, I didn't know how to defend myself against them. But today I can say that hapkido has helped me a lot, because at least I know how to control the people who come to attack me."

Kangou said the self-defence she has learnt has already helped her out of trouble when she was harassed by a man at a bus stop.

"I don't know if he was courting me. But I didn't pay any attention to what he wanted. So he held my hand and grabbed me really hard,” she said.

Thanks to her training, she got into a defensive position that allowed her to detach his hand and get away.

From now on, anyone who dares to make trouble with these girls is bound to end up worse off.

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