After the December 16 Delhi gang rape incident, there was increased hype about self-defence classes for women. There were scores of stories of women joining martial arts classes, buying pepper sprays and what not. Among them, the martial art that showed a spike in popularity was Krav Maga. But it appears that it was only a momentary spike.
It’s a bright Sunday morning and the spacious Krav Maga dojo at Royapettah is filled with 25 people trying their best to kick, punch, lunge and generally impress the Southeast Asia head of the International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF), Vikram Kapoor into giving them a certificate. A quick glance around the room reveals that there are only four women, one of them being a 13-year-old-girl.
Though Krav Maga is touted to be one of the best possible forms of martial arts to kick some harassment-butt, only a very small number of women take it up, according to S Sreeram, co-ordinator and instructor of the Chennai Chapter of IKMF. “We had so many corporates bringing their women employees to us for training. From March to May alone, we would have trained close to 3000 women in various self-defense workshops,” he says. 3000 women in three months doesn’t seem like a bad number. “Oh no, they were just workshops. The real problem begins when we call them for follow-up classes. Barely five per cent make it.”
Vikram, or Vicky as he refers to himself, chops that number down to two per cent. “In my experience, barely two per cent of women who have experienced a workshop come back for classes. Krav Maga is not an art that can be taught in two or three sessions. It needs constant practice,” he says.
The reason Krav Maga cannot be taught in just two or three sessions is because it is a hybrid art. “Krav Maga adapts. And we use techniques in tandem with the body’s basic motor skills. So if your instinct is to duck, we adapt the ducking motion into an attacking move,” says Sreeram.
One can fathom why one cannot learn the art in just a couple of workshops just by watching the participants grappling with each other. Poorva Chakravarthy, a communications professional, has been taking the class for two months now but the rigours of the martial form still surprise her. “Women are not raised to be physically aggressive. From a young age, people give girls dolls and dresses while boys are encouraged to play outside. So if women are suddenly expected to go all out and drop-kick somebody, it’s a little difficult,” she says.
Alongisde Poorva is Manulakshmi, a gynaecologist and her 13-year-old daughter Sara who have been taking these classes together. “My daughter now knows the basics of defending herself on the street and that, gives me peace of mind,” she says.
Manulakshmi is also indicative of another trend – one of 40+ women taking up the martial form because they know the dangers out there. “The number of older women who turn up for workshops may be less, butthey are among the fastest learners,” says Sreeram.
“Basically, we first need to change the mindset of women who think learning martial arts makes them unfeminine. Once that changes, everything else will fall into place,” says Vicky.