It was 2012 before women were able to compete in every event on the Olympic programme, 2014 before they could play professional cricket in England, 2016 before they could play professional rugby, and in 2017 they were finally allowed to join Muirfield golf Club.

Women have always had to play catch up where sports have been concerned not just on a local level but on an international level. Thank goodness things are changing not just internationally but also locally.

Local Ju-Jitsu club, Onna in Bradford proves the case.  Onna (which means honour) Ju-Jitsu started in 2000, by Mumtaz Khan, (professionally known as Sensei Mumtaz) and have really started to change the playing field.

Mumtaz came across Ju-Jitsu by accident and pursued the sport after rigorous training, and attaining her Sandan (3rd) Yondan (4th) and Godan (5th) degree blackbelt and then set up her club which started with just two students. The club now has a regular membership of over 500 students built from networks within the community and local schools.

Whilst the club attracts people of all age groups, genders and backgrounds, you can’t help but notice how the club is hugely influenced by its female members, who are not only training, but competing and winning at national competitions.

The British Ju-Jitsu National Championships were held in April this year and Onna Ju-Jitsu Club came away with eight medals (three Gold, two Silver and three Bronze) with women sitting firmly at the top of those accolades.

One of the worthy medalists was Jabila Khan, who won gold in the continuous fighting category. Jabila is a teacher at St Bede’s and St Joseph’s College. She has been doing Ju-Jitsu for around twelve years. The 44-year-old teacher explains that she had always wanted to take on a martial art but finding one that fitted around her hectic lifestyle and family commitments was quite hard. She told Asian Sunday that there was also a fear of what her family and people think. However, when her son started Ju-Jitsu a few years later, she said she couldn’t stop herself and thought she couldn’t spend the rest of her life thinking about what other people would say and think.

Jabila said: “I worked and lived for my family and this was something just for me. I feel I can be myself openly when I am training and I felt good. Watching me train motivated my daughter who is now 14 years old to also start training. She is so committed and dedicated now to Ju-Jitsu that she gets quite upset if she has to miss any sessions for any reason.

“This year in my second attempt at competing at the nationals I achieved a gold medal which I was completely over the moon about. All that hard work had paid off.

“Working with Sensei Mumtaz has taught me so much but most of all she has helped me believe in myself and due to this my confidence has grown so much. She is truly an inspiration and a role

Nargis Zeb

model to me and other women who don’t think they can achieve at such high levels.”

Also competing in the same category, was Insurance broker Nargis Zeb, who won a silver.

“Nargis’s opening fight was one of the best fight’s I’ve ever seen.  It was so exciting to watch and all her hard work during squad training sessions paid off on the day.” Said Sensei Mumtaz

Nargis has been doing Ju-Jitsu for two and a half years. She tells us that she has always wanted to do a form of martial arts and when she tried Ju-Jitsu she fell in love with it.

The thirty-six-year-old moved to Bradford after marrying and didn’t really know anyone in the city. So, to network and make new friends, she chose to enroll on a Ju-Jitsu class.

“Taking part in a sport like Ju-Jitsu can help massively with confidence. You meet new people, you interact and work as a team, it teaches you to focus on the things you want and off the things don’t want.” Said Nargis

“I’m in my thirties and have achieved something so wonderful through Ju-Jitsu and so can everyone else.” She adds.

As Muslim women, both Nargis and Jabila feel that there is too much stereotyping in the media.

Nargis says, “Being part of this sport shows we (Muslim women) strive to achieve other things and sports is one of them”

Jabila identifies with this and said: “In today’s climate where Islam is shown in a negative light at every opportunity it is fantastic for the media to show some positive angles particularly poor old Muslim women doing a sport that isn’t typical for an Asian woman.

“As Muslim women, we can achieve everything that any other male or female, Muslim or Non-Muslim can. We need to stop thinking about what others will think of us and move forward with the times. We can be educated, hold down a job/career and look after our families. We can also look after our health and fitness and be good role models to our children. There is no end to what we can achieve if we don’t limit ourselves to the stereotypical image that has been upheld and demonstrated for so many generations.”

Sensei Mumtaz, says she is extremely proud of how well TeamONNA performed at the Championships representing Bradford and how well women are doing in this sport.

The next Inter – club championship is taking place this November where the club will be selecting students to develop for the next championships and we’re pretty sure there will be more badass winners.