Sima Azimi (C), 20, a trainer at the Shaolin Wushu club, poses with her students after an exercise on a hilltop in Kabul, Afghanistan January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

KABUL On a snowy mountaintop to the west of Kabul, a group of Afghan girls practice the flowing movements of Wushu, a sport developed from ancient Chinese kung fu martial arts, stretching and bending and slashing the air with bright swords.
In a country where women’s sport is severely restricted, the Shaolin Wushu club in a part of Kabul that is home to the capital’s Hazara ethnic community, is a rare exception.
Sima Azimi, the 20-year-old leading the practice session, says Wushu teaches self-defense, but just as important, “it’s really effective for body and soul”.
She learned the sport in Iran, where she won a gold and bronze medal in competition, and she has been teaching in Kabul for about a year, encouraged by her father, with whom she trains at the club’s gym.
“I am working with Afghan girls to strengthen their abilities and I love to see Afghan girls improve the way …