Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Ja female fighters eye World Cup glory

Published:Monday | August 11, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Ainsley Walters, Gleaner Writer

FEMALE martial artists may not be as renowned as their male counterparts internationally, especially on the silver screen where the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun-fat and American Chuck Norris have inspired generations of young boys, who are today adult stars of various disciplines.

However, Jamaica's martial arts groups have been creating stars, locally and internationally, from a generation of female fighters brought up through junior ranks to adult black-belt status.

Jamaica's women, led by Future Leaders instructor and female combined martial arts team captain, 29-year-old Sheckema Cunningham, are aiming to inspire young girls all over the island during the August 26-30 International Taekwon-Do Federation World Cup at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.

Alongside its McKay Security-sponsored High School League for boys, the Jamaica Taekwondo Association (JTA) has recognised that women are among the most vulnerable in society and in need of self-defence awareness.

As such, the JTA has conducted self-defence demonstrations at girls' schools yearly, or as frequently as requested by administrators.

tactics displayed

Schools are visited by tae-kwon-do students and instructors. During demonstrations, self-defence techniques, use of improvised weapons, safety tips, and other tactics are displayed.

School administrators said girls exposed to the demonstrations have expressed a sense of being more aware of their surroundings. The JTA said feedback from girls' schools also indicate students have come to realise they have the ability to defend themselves, no matter the size of any potential assailant.

University of the West Indies' Tashauna Grannum, age 20; Ashieka Dyer, 20; Subrina Richards, 17; and Maya McKay, 19, have all risen through the ranks of JTA and will be vying for medals on home soil at the ITF World Cup, alongside Cunningham and Rising Sun Karate's Marissa Jones, 23.

Cunningham, Dyer, Richards, Jones, and Grannum are members of Jamaica's female combined team and holders of individual and team titles, locally and internationally.

Cunningham is Jamaica's lone female sparring medallist at the ITF World Championships, winning a historic bronze in 2011.

Dyer, Richards, McKay, and Jones are multiple medallists at the United States Open and are looking to spark at home, especially Richards, who is in her final year as a junior.