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Yashika Read by Geetha Murali

Yashika grew up in a small village in India where it was very unsafe for her to walk to school alone. But by learning karate and speaking out for the rights of young women like herself, she has been able to kick fear’s butt!

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This story was produced and directed by Joy Smith, with sound design and mixing by Reel audiobooks. It was written by Room to Read and edited by Abby Sher. Fact-checking by Joe Rhatigan. Narration by the CEO of Room to Read, Geetha Murali. Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi. Thank you to the whole Rebel Girls team who make this podcast possible. Stay rebel!

Transcript

Yashika was waiting at the train station near her home in central India. She’d never left her small village before, especially not to travel by herself to the biggest city in the country.

But today was all about facing her fears and standing up for herself. She was on her way to the National Karate Championship and she was ready to kick all her worries away! 

After all, she was…Karate Girl!

I’m Geetha Murali. And this is Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.

A fairy tale podcast about the rebel women who inspire us.

On this episode, Yashika — karate champion, mentor and teacher.

Growing up in a poor, working class community in India, Yashika dealt with a lot of difficulties. Life at home was extremely difficult, especially after her father was injured in an accident and the family had to take care of him and find new ways of making income. 

One of the biggest hurdles for Yashika was getting to school. Without street lights, sidewalks, or school buses, the route was sometimes dangerous. A lot of girls dropped out of school because they were harassed so often while they were walking there. Yashika’s parents worried a lot and asked her to stop going. But Yashika was determined to get an education and knew there had to be a safe way to get to school! She learned in a life skills class how to advocate for herself, and asked the local leaders for support.

At the same time, Yashika had the opportunity to take a self-defense class for girls, where karate was being taught. Standing in front of the class was the teacher, a powerful and strong woman. Yashika found herself feeling powerful and strong just watching her. Witnessing a woman do karate, a craft rarely done by women in India, felt inspiring. Yashika thought to herself, if this teacher can do it, why can’t I? 

Learning karate helped Yashika both physically and mentally. Before karate, Yashika had a hard time processing her emotions, especially fear. But every time she practiced her stances, blocks, and kicks, she found new ways to find focus. She walked taller, stood prouder, and convinced her family to let her continue her studies. 

Unfortunately, as one solution was found, a new issue arose: the people in the town began to tease Yashika and her family. “Karate is a boy’s sport” they said. Again, her parents pressed her to quit. But Yashika remained calm and motivated, and kept on gtraining. 

“By doing karate I learn to never give up, no matter my challenges,” she said.  

Before she knew it, she won a karate tournament! Then another and another!

Which brings us back to that day at the train station. Yashika was just eighteen years old, but she’d already qualified for the National Karate Championship!

The only thing was, she had to travel by herself on a train to get to Mumbai. And this train had always scared her, because it wasn’t the safest. Yashika knew she had the courage inside her though. She had prepared for this very moment for years! 

As the train pulled into the station, she gathered herself and imagined she was about to step out onto the mat. She knew what to do. She climbed onto that train and took her seat with her head held high. And when she got to Mumbai, she walked into the arena with that same confidence. There, the girl who was once afraid of walking to school won a silver medal for her individual performance and, with her team, she won a gold.  

Today, “The Karate Girl,” as she is fondly called by her fans, is a beloved mentor for girls. She tells her students that dedication, focus, and hard work will make all of their dreams come true. She is proud to share her story because she knows everyone has difficulties to face and she believes karate is a great practice to keep the body and mind strong. And it can kick fear’s butt.

So remember Rebels, if you’re ever feeling afraid or overwhelmed, there are lots of ways to advocate for yourself and find your inner Karate Girl. As Yashika likes to say, there’s always a way to live life on your own terms.