Stories Curated by Rebel Girls
Raised in France, Chaima Amara didn’t start out with a lot of opportunities but she believes discipline, strength and grace is what an athlete needs to succeed in their field. Discover how her challenging journey led to successes in her profession —Taekwondo.
Chaima Amara. Sports Dans La Ville, French. Born: 9 September, 1993. Illustration by Shirley Hottier.
Once upon a time, a girl named Chaima followed her older brother to his taekwondo practice. Though the class was all boys, the instructor encouraged her to join in. It wasn’t easy. Taekwondo involves punching and kicking, and 9-year-old Chaima was easily knocked to the mat by the older, much bigger boys. That day, she wenthome with bruises—and the determination to learn to fight back.
Chaima was a shy kid. Growing up in a poor, isolated suburb of northern France, she spent a lot of time at home in the quiet of her bedroom. But once she found taekwondo, she began to try other new sports like handball, gymnastics, and football. She discovered how fierce and competitive she could be. Chaima liked to win.
‘When I was little, I was shy, but thanks to sports, I became much braver.’
Taekwondo requires deep mental focus. ‘I forged a mind of steel’, says Chaima, ‘which to this day, allows me to find my place in any sport.’ It also teaches respect among opponents. Though they kick and punch, they are trained to never, ever hurt each other. Chaima soon learned that though a taekwondo match might look like a fight, it’s more like a dance. To succeed, an athlete needs to have discipline, strength, and grace.
And Chaima uses those things off the mat too, as a coach for Sports dans la Ville,a non-profit that helps young women access sports and employment opportunities. She sees sports as a bridge, and her role as a bridge builder.
‘Coaches can really impact the life of a child’, she says. ‘That’s why I give my full self to my students. I train with them, I fight for them, I am inspired by them.’