NPR profiles the 800 Himalayan Buddhist nuns of Amitabha Drukpa Nunnery in Kathmandu Valley. The nuns have taken up the practice of kung fu.
The practice came out of their leader's desire to promote more gender equity in their faith. Via NPR:
For centuries, women in the Himalayas who sought to practice spirituality equally with men have risked being ostracized. They are forbidden from leading prayers, singing or being fully ordained. Tasked with the chores of cooking and cleaning, nuns are told if they're "well behaved" they can come back in their next lifetime as monks — and only then can they become enlightened.
About ten years ago, [sect leader] Gyalwang Drukpa set out to change that. Inspired by his mother, who worked to break down gender stereotypes, he put the nuns in leadership roles. He encouraged the nuns to take part in religious rituals traditionally reserved for their male counterparts and gave them the highest level of teachings, called Mahamudra. Monks in his sect then had to ingratiate themselves to the nuns (or more accurately, formally request the teachings from the nuns). This shifted the power dynamic.
Image: YouTube / BBC