Shaolin martial arts students follow their trainer, Sima Azimi, during a training session on a hilltop in Kabul on Jan. 25, 2017. | (AP Photos/Massoud Hossaini)

Sima Azimi, a 20-year-old from Jaghori in central Afghanistan, is trained in Shaolin Wushu Kung Fu, one of the oldest forms of Chinese martial arts, dating back to the 5th century. The modern version was developed for sport, rather than defense, and competitors are judged on their elegant handling of the various physical movements, like stretching, bending, flipping, and some knife and sword work. Azimi learned the sport in Iran, where she lived for three years, eventually winning a gold and a bronze medal in Kung Fu competitions there. In 2016, she returned to Afghanistan and started her own club for women in Kabul called the Shaolin Wushu club. But it was a tough sell.

"Some of my students' families had problems accepting their girls studying Wushu," Azimi told Reuters. "But I went to their homes and talked to their parents." Azimi now has a class of about 10 university and high school students who pay what they can afford. And what they lack in resources — they often practice outside if a dingy gym isn't available — Azimi makes up for in big goals. "My ambition is to see my students take part in international matches and win medals for their country," she said.

Below, take a look at Afghanistan's Kung Fu masters in training.

Hatifa Rezai (right), 19, adjusts her scarf before her exercises at the Shaolin Wushu club. | (REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail)

Shaolin martial arts students climb a hill as they arrive to practice in Kabul. | (REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail)

Sabera Bayanne, 20, practices in a local Kabul gym. | (REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail)

Sima Azimi and Shakila Muradi, 18, demonstrate their skills to other students on a hilltop in Kabul. | (REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail)

(AP Photos/Massoud Hossaini)

(REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail)

(AP Photos/Massoud Hossaini)

(REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail)