‘It makes me really feel like potentialities are limitless’: Meet the Muslim girls utilizing parkour to be at liberty

Within the anthology “It is Not About The Burqa,” editor Mariam Khan highlights the significance of centering Muslim girls on this dialogue, writing that they’re “greater than burqas, greater than hijabs, and greater than society has allowed us to be till now.”

“We’re not asking for permission any extra. We’re taking on area.”

As Muslim girls discover themselves marginalized by society, Khan speaks to the best way that they have to forge their very own narratives and create visibility in areas that weren’t constructed for them.

That is precisely what parkour athlete Sara Mudallal is doing.

By training the game, Mudallal hopes she will encourage extra girls to enter what she describes as a “male dominated” subject.

“It is sort of intimidating for ladies to typically are available and hang around and issues like that. However now, lately, extra girls have been displaying up, so it has been extra snug for ladies to return in and apply,” 26-year-old Mudallal tells Muricas Information Sport.

“It begins with one and you must get up for that, and you then deliver extra folks in.”

In many of the parkour jams she attends — the place parkour practitioners congregate and practice collectively — she says she’s usually the one hijabi athlete.

“I nonetheless am like the one one who wears the hijab, in fact […] we nonetheless have an extended technique to go together with that for ladies to really feel assured in themselves,” she says.

Standing out from the gang

Having grown up playing sports, Los Angeles native Sara Mudallal began practicing parkour when she was 20.

However Mudallal is used to standing out.

She grew up in Los Angeles, the place she was athlete of the yr in highschool — and garnered the identical title in center college three years in a row.

“I am very well-rounded. Like I can play soccer, I can play basketball, I can play soccer. I can play tennis. Besides golf — I do not know find out how to play golf,” she muses.

When she was 12, her mom enrolled her in karate lessons, the place she went on to earn a primary and second diploma black belt.

Originally of 2015, Mudallal determined to start out carrying a scarf. That very same yr, a pal launched her to parkour.

Having gained important decrease physique energy and core stability from karate, she says she was constructed for the game.

“My legs have been already fairly robust,” Mudallal says. “By way of taking a foul touchdown … I used to be protected.”

“I’ve all the time cherished climbing and leaping on issues and did not actually know that was a sport, did not actually understand it was a way.”

As a newbie, Mudallal says she was welcomed into the parkour and freerunning group with open arms.

“I don’t really feel that folks didn’t need me within the group,” she says. “I did not give them that likelihood to make me really feel that manner. It is about character, it is about how robust you might be. If you’re shy doing something due to what you are carrying, you must test your self with that, then why are you carrying it, you recognize?

“I did not actually care, if I used to be carrying or not carrying [a headscarf], my pursuits are nonetheless the identical. And I actually needed to do parkour, so I went in no matter what I appear to be on the skin.”

‘It is even tougher for the women’

Whereas sport has all the time given Mudallal the area to precise herself, Iranian parkour coach and former nationwide gymnast Fatemeh Akrami has recollections of feeling hampered as a younger athlete.

Rising up as a shy little one, Akrami’s mom signed her up for native gymnastics lessons when she was six, within the hopes of bringing her out of her shell.

“I used to be a brilliant shy woman, I did not even say hello to strangers. I used to be hiding behind my mom’s again as a result of I used to be so shy,” the 27-year-old Tehran native tells Muricas Information Sport.

Regardless of her preliminary apprehension, Akrami shortly excelled. She says she received her first medal at a nationwide competitors when she was 12 and joined the nationwide crew a yr later. Akrami went on to clinch two gold medals and one silver on the Islamic Solidarity Video games in Iran in 2007.

However whereas Akrami was having fun with success within the highlight, she was struggling behind the scenes.

She says that as a consequence of worldwide gymnastics costume code guidelines on the time, she wasn’t capable of compete on a worldwide stage in accordance with Iran’s necessary hijab regulation, which was enacted by the Islamic Republic in 1983.

For the reason that Islamic Revolution in 1979, the nation hasn’t dispatched a single feminine athlete to take part within the Olympics in swimming, wrestling or gymnastics — together with at this yr’s Tokyo Video games.

Fatemeh Akrami says that due to international gymnastics dress code rules at the time, she wasn't able to compete on a global stage in accordance with Iran's mandatory hijab law, which was enacted by the Islamic Republic in 1983.

“It is even tougher for the women in Iran,” Akrami says. “You practice like an Olympian, however you by no means get there, so it is laborious to maintain your self motivated.”

“I feel like in ten years I did not attend a funeral, a marriage, a celebration, none of them,” she provides.

Coping with the strain of competing in any excessive depth sport is difficult, however Akrami says that juggling the calls for of coaching whereas attending college was doubly exhausting.

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“Gymnastics is a really laborious sport. You must put loads of effort as a result of you must be mentally and bodily ready to be in a aggressive degree,” she says. “We have been experiencing loads of strain.”

“Within the weekdays, I used to go to highschool from 7:00 a.m. till 1p.m. After which from the college, my mom used to choose me up after which [go] straight to the gymnasium till 10:00 p.m,” she provides. “So within the Friday, which was the weekend […] there was no relaxation. So we needed to practice from 9:00 within the morning till 9:00 within the night.

“Coaching laborious offers you psychological strain since you get drained, you could have college, you could have homework, you could have coaching. Like typically, the coaching do not go effectively, you aren’t getting the talent proper. It takes too lengthy, typically you get injured.

“I do not bear in mind sleeping at evening with out having ache.”

A philosophy of freedom

After Akrami left her profession as an expert gymnast on the age of 18, she was in search of a contemporary begin.

She had simply begun college, when one in every of her friends inspired her to check out parkour.

“It was like, ‘OK, what’s subsequent?,'” Akrami says. “I all the time wanted one thing extra as a result of gymnastics is a really thrilling sport and […] every single day you want the adrenaline rush.

“He stopped in a park and instructed me, ‘Do you need to attempt among the parkour expertise?’ And I used to be like, ‘Yeah, let’s give it a attempt. I feel within the first thirty minutes, I acquired 5 or 6 […] expertise of parkour, and I personally was tremendous, tremendous stunned.”

Whereas Akrami used to really feel restricted by gymnastics, she says parkour offers her “self-confidence.”

“In gymnastics, every part is so disciplined, you must do every part simply as they are saying. No extra, no much less. However in parkour, you are able to do any transfer together with your physique,” she says. “The philosophy of parkour is all concerning the freedom.”

“You are able to do parkour wherever you need, everytime you need and with any costume you need. Like there isn’t any costume code. I can compete in a contest with my Islamic costume and that is tremendous.

“And you are able to do all the abilities with your individual physique, with your individual model, so it offers you loads of decisions. That is the sensation of freedom that parkour offers.”

Mudallal provides, “What’s cool about parkour is that each single individual strikes in a different way.”

“It makes me be at liberty. It makes me really feel like potentialities are limitless, and I can do something,” Mudallal says. “I fell in love with it as quickly as I began.”

Akrami says that practicing parkour gives her a "feeling of freedom."

Shattering stereotypes of stereotypes

Since Mudallal began training parkour, she has gone from energy to energy.

Since posting movies of her freerunning adventures on social media, she has amassed over 35,000 followers.

In July 2021, she attended the Purple Bull Artwork of Movement competitors in Greece — broadly thought of one of many highest-profile freerunning occasions within the sport.

“It is like for the primary time, I felt like, ‘Oh, my God, like that is destiny.’ Like that is being handed to me on a platter and I am not going to say no to shifting ahead,” Mudallal says.

“I simply determined to, like, transfer ahead with it and apply extra and take it severely extra, however take it severely in a manner the place I might nonetheless adore it and never be dragged to go do parkour as a result of it is like my job. No, I need to do it as a result of I like doing it,” she provides.

In 2018, Mudallal additionally grew to become the primary hijabi athlete to seem on the assault course TV present American Ninja Warrior.

“It was undoubtedly one thing,” she says. “First time experiencing a sport present […] understanding how TV and Hollywood […] how all that works.”

“By way of the hijab side, sure, that is like my title. I’m the primary hijabi to go on American Ninja Warrior, however it’s like I used to be actually strolling like another individual,” she provides. “They talked about it on TV, however it wasn’t very targeted on that.”

Regardless that Mudallal is finest recognized for being a hijabi parkour athlete, she says that being recognized by a singular label can really feel reductive.

“It is a title I’ve had for a really very long time. And shifting ahead, I do not need to be solely often known as that as a result of anyone might be a hijabi parkour athlete, however are they good at what they’re doing?” she says. “I need to present I am undoubtedly greater than that.

“It is lower than those that put on hijab who play these sports activities to interrupt them [stereotypes]. However it’s good to construct that consciousness that, ‘Hey, sit down, you recognize, like, cease creating that stereotype.’

“I hope at some point […] folks will see me previous the hijab.”

Even though Mudallal is best known for being a hijabi parkour athlete, she hopes people will see "past the hijab."

‘Do not let something cease you’

Mudallal says that for some Muslim ladies, making the choice to step exterior one’s consolation zone could be met with hostility from folks each inside and outdoors their group.

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Six years into her parkour journey, she says she nonetheless receives important feedback from folks on social media.

“By way of what folks say, I am very previous that, very previous that. As a result of think about if, like, I did cease parkour, I did pay attention [to] what folks say — I am the one who’s going to be depressing, like they’re simply going to maintain shifting on with their life,” Mudallal says.

“My phrase of recommendation to everybody who needs to maneuver ahead with that is cease asking, ‘Ought to I transfer ahead?’ Do it. It is a easy factor to say, however it’s a tough factor to do.

“Everybody else goes to maneuver ahead, however somebody’s all the time going to be stopping you for some purpose. So you must transfer previous that. You must recover from that wall.”

Akrami’s message to younger Muslim ladies? “Do not let something cease you.”

“Go for it. Try to you are going to accomplish it. I settle for the truth that it is likely to be tougher a little bit bit, however it’s not not possible.”

Fortunately, each athletes can fall again on the assist of their households.

Mudallal says, “What I’ve observed is […] typically by way of tradition, it is like Arab fathers are very restrictive of what they need their daughters doing. And what’s completely different about my father is that as a result of I am the oldest little one, he was all the time, ‘Sara, you are going to develop up and you are going to be unbiased, you are going to develop your individual enterprise, you recognize, you are going to make your individual cash.’

“My mother is identical factor, you recognize, ‘You bought to be robust, acquired to place your foot down, be assured.’ From the place I’m at present, they’re simply all the time, all the time, all the time supporting me.”

Reminiscing about her gymnastics profession, Akrami says she “gave up so many instances.”

“We by no means have been a really wealthy household, however they gave me all I wanted, all I needed […] financially, mentally, […] in order that was why I may stand all of the strain,” she provides. “They’re tremendous happy with the place I’m at present.”

Infinite potentialities

Mudallal says that by sharing her story, she wants to encourage more girls to pursue parkour.

Mudallal hopes that by sharing her story, she will encourage folks to understand the depth and nuance of her journey and create area for extra younger Muslim girls to step into the parkour trade.

“I hope to see extra ladies like me pursue it,” she says. “The significance of me doing parkour. It is simply an expression of […] what I preach, of my motion. What I’ve grown, what I’ve taken in, what I am displaying out.

“Parkour continues to be pretty a male dominated sport. And for ladies basically, they’re growing for positive, yr by yr and […] truly making a press release.”

Akrami additionally hopes to see extra ladies freerunning, which is why she grew to become a parkour coach when she was about 20.

“I used to be like, ‘OK, there are such a lot of ladies and they’re so keen about parkour. You must educate them what you recognize,'” Akrami says.

Up to now, she says she’s taught 100 ladies find out how to parkour and given licensed coaching to about 50 extra to grow to be parkour coaches themselves.

“After they get this talent, it offers me a greater feeling than after I do the talent,” Akrami says. “As a result of after they really feel issues, after they really feel the enjoyment, after they get excited, like, ‘OK, I acquired the abilities,’ they’re screaming and operating.”

By sharing her information, she hopes she will educate her college students life expertise, equivalent to resilience and willpower.

“I am actually glad to allow them to [students] know, at the very least, that they’ll do that. So lots of them are like, ‘No, we can’t practice. It’s not possible to coach in Iran, to coach parkour in Iran.’ At the least they understand that it is doable, you simply have not acquired there. However it’s doable,” Akrami says.

“It is superb how whenever you begin doing parkour, it offers you the imaginative and prescient that nothing is as laborious because it appears to be like, even in life,” she provides. “If you attempt it, whenever you succeed and you might be like, ‘Wow, did I actually try this? Did I actually bounce that far?’ Sure, you probably did it. It was trying tremendous laborious […] however you by no means know except you attempt it.”

Finally, parkour is rooted in a counterculture that provides individuals who could be sidelined by society a technique to heart their tales and make themselves as seen as doable.

Like Mudallal, Akrami shares her movies of her parkour methods on-line to “let different folks within the different nations and different continents of the Earth, to allow them to know that we exist.”

“It is like quite common, and it is a very fascinating sport that so many women are so passionate to start out and to do. And yeah, we exist, we practice parkour, and parkour has no limits and has no borders.”

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