CHENNAI: When Krithika Jeyaram* started working at an IT firm, which entailed late working hours, her anxiety levels had mildly shot up. Particularly on days when she walked back home on a dark deserted road. Her only companion was her father, who would be talking to her on a phone ensuring she is safe. Now she walks on the same deserted road with a lot of caution and confidence. What changed? “I have always been scared of such situations, due to some prior personal experiences. I thought I’ll never be able to get over it.
I attended a self-defense workshop on a whim with no real conviction that things would change,” says Krithika. After the 1.5-hour workshop, she found herself much confident than before. Like Krithika, many women have attended short self-defense workshops organised at their workplaces, or as part of events. But how useful are these short sessions in real-life situations? “The motto is to learn how to distract the attacker and flee, and in worst case scenarios, how to fight,” says Dhanupriya Sureshkumar, a food technologist, who attended a free self-defense workshop, conducted by D4V, five months ago. The two-weekend workshop gave the participants an opportunity to speak about past experiences and learn from those mistakes.
“We learned how to prevent such situations from happening in the first place,” she says. Most self-defense workshops for women focus on two aspects — increasing mental strength and reactive ability, and teaching physical moves to defend oneself. A good balance of both is necessary for easy escape. Conducting self-defense classes for the past eight years, Sreeram S, founder and chief instructor, Krav Maga Tamil Nadu Chapter, states that they have a two-hour comprehensive format that focuses on the preventive aspects and self-defense, taught gradually.
“Women who are not exposed to physical violence will be put off if we immediately start teaching them kicks and punches. So we start with how to be aware and ways to understand the psychology of a predator. We then explain how to use objects around you, and finally physical kicks and punches,” he shares. Kyoshi Bala, a trainer proficient in Tai Chi, Karate, and Taekwondo, says, “In my 20-year experience, I realised that it is important to give mental strength too, which is what I focus on in my workshops. This also helps relieve work-related stress for a better work-life balance.”
Physical self-defense techniques that are taught include a variety of mixed martial art forms, focussing more on the defensive side than attack side. And most workshops also have a pseudo-attacker to practice live. “These live demonstrations are the most interesting part of the workshop because we could practice the key defensive movements that were taught,” says Dhanupriya, saying she still practices these punches during her running fitness routines every morning.
Though many women opt for longer training courses after these short workshops, specialising in one form of martial arts, there are many who don’t have the time and ability to do so. So in that case, will a two-hour workshop be sufficient? “The objective of the workshop is not to make women Bruce Lees in one hour but to make them feel that any untrained person can, at the least, escape from a situation. Like how first aid works — you need not become a doctor, but you can manage to take care of yourself till help arrives,” he shares.
For workshop details
Krav Maga Tamilnadu: www.kravmagatamilnadu. com./ 9340006600
Karate, Taekwondo and Tai Chi: Kyoshi Bala — 8124434475
Direction 4 Volunteers (D4V): 8148786883