January 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Tajikistan Martial Arts Sports Visitors Program

The Tajikistan Sports Visitors program took place during January 2015 in Washington, D.C. The program consisted of 14 female participants, including two instructors. It featured trips to several martial arts academies throughout the area and strong curriculum sessions aimed at developing self-confidence, strength, and compassion.

Upon their arrival to the United States, the Tajikistani group traveled directly to the U.S. State Department, where they spoke with Cathy Russell, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. The girls also participated in curriculum sessions with CSPS Director Dr. Sarah Hillyer, where the conversation provoked reflection on the larger issues affecting women in their society. Dr. Hillyer also encouraged the girls to evaluate their own roles in these issues, as well as the opportunities they have to make a difference.

Early in the trip, the group visited the Yamasaki Academy, where they were taught jiu-jitsu and capoeira moves by Fernando Yamasaki, a well-known UFC referee and former captain of the Brazil national wrestling team. The girls especially enjoyed capoeira, a form of dance-fighting they were initially unfamiliar with, but quickly learned to love. Grandmaster Ken Carlson, a seventh-degree black belt in taekwondo who has trained American congressman and sports teams, including the Washington Redskins, also worked with the girls inside the offices of the State Department.

Throughout their 10-day exchange, the group was also exposed to karate and Muay Thai kickboxing. The BETA Academy, Jhoon Rhee Tae Kwon Do, and Soolmaz Abooali were key partners in hosting fun, intensive classes for the girls in facilities throughout Washington D.C. area.

Away from the mats, the trip featured a visit to the United States Institute of Peace, where the group was challenged and encouraged by Director Kathleen Kuehnast of the Center for Gender & Peacebuilding on what it means to be a female engaged in the global peace-building process. The discussion was followed by a tour of the Tajikistan Embassy, where the visitors enjoyed a brief taste of home while also donning their colorful, traditional outfits.

On top of a tour of Jeb Stewart High school with Abooali, the group partnered with Martha’s Table staff to demonstrate a hands-on example of selfless giving by setting-up and distributing food to families in need throughout D.C. community before returning home to Tajikistan.