Last updated: October 3, 2022
3 min read

Stories Curated by Rebel Girls

Houda Loukili

Houda lived for and excelled at all sports, but her true passion was kickboxing. The first Dutch Youth Kickboxing Champion to wear a hijab, Houda wanted to change the world for the better and trained to become a pro. However, after a life-changing car accident at 21, she could no longer compete in the ring. Not one to give up on the sport she loves, Houda now coaches girls to be future champions.

Houda Loukili. Dutch. Born: 18 September, 1989. Illustration by Sarah Jones.

Houda lived for sports. Whether it was football, swimming, or judo, she excelled at every sport she tried. One day, a kickboxing instructor gave a demonstration at her school. The kicks and punches were so fast, they made 11-year-old Houda’s head spin! A few days later, she visited the kickboxing gym in her Dutch suburb. She was the only girl, but that didn’t stop her from entering the ring. Soon, she was practicing all the time — even when she was doing ordinary things like waiting in line at the bakery!

At 14, Houda decided to wear a hijab. She was grateful for her religion and spiritual community, and the hijab connected her to both. Though some people judged her for it, the hijab made her feel empowered. And just a year later, when she became the first Dutch Youth Kickboxing Champion to wear a hijab, it was a victory not just for Houda, but for all hijabis. “I wanted to change the world,” said Houda.

“I changed my plans, and I turned adversity into strength.”

At university, she studied sports management while training to become a pro kickboxer.

She carried her boxing gloves everywhere so she could practice whenever she wasn’t in class. Spinning, jabbing, and kicking in the ring, she felt calm and strong. This was what she was meant to do forever.

But at 21, she got into a terrible car accident. When the doctors said she’d never compete again, she asked herself, Now what?

Houda soon realized that kickboxing could still be at the center of her life — even if she wasn’t competing in the ring. Today, Houda coaches girls to build strength and confidence through sports. Her kickboxing dream lives on in the future champions she trains every day.

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