In self-defence: Delhi women get trained to fight harassment

By Vaishali Bhambri, IANS,

New Delhi : Savita Kumari looks frail and docile. But her looks are deceptive – a man who tried to hold her hand in a crowded bus got a knocking that taught him a good lesson.

Support TwoCircles

“Earlier, I used to hesitate or feel uncomfortable in asking men who misbehaved with me in the bus. I couldn’t even tell them to move away. But now I am not at all scared,” said Kumari, 18, who stays in Paschim Vihar in west Delhi and took training last month from the Delhi Crime Against Women cell – a wing of Delhi Police.

“Now I am prepared and more confident,” Kumari, who wants to become a taxi driver, told IANS.

Kumari is not the only one taking classes in self-defence. With the rise in crime against women, the national capital is seeing a mushrooming of self-defence centres where mostly young women, professionals and even homemakers take training.

These institutes teach various forms of martial arts such as karate, judo, tai chi, kung fu, kick boxing, muay thai and aikido.

The fee in these institutes varies from Rs.1,500 to 5,000 depending on the number of sessions.

“There are more than 100 martial arts centres in Delhi,” said sensei (teacher/guru) Bharat Sharma, who is president of the Martial Arts Association of Delhi and treasurer of the All India Karate Do Federation.

“In the last five years, the number of martial art training academies has increased by 100 percent. In 2005, there were around 50 such centres,” he added.

In most of these centres, women are the main clients.

“Most of our clients are women,” said Sanjay Shakya, chief instructor of the Fraykido Martial Arts Association.

He said martial arts training for girls is a must in a place like Delhi.

According to Delhi Police, a total of 453 rape cases and 590 molestation cases were reported in 2008.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Against Women Cell) H.P.S Virk said: “These days young women are working, and many of them are doing night shifts. We are just training them to defend themselves. So they don’t feel like a victim or defenceless.”

Police started the course in 2002 and so far 64,498 women have taken training.

At the police-run camps, which are free of cost, young women and girls learn various self-defence techniques, including using a dupatta (stole) for protection.

“These training sessions train women in martial arts, enhances their confidence and enthuse leadership skills in them,” Virk added.

Agreed sensei Sandeep Desai.

Author of “The Small Book of Tai Chi”, the sensei said: “While martial arts may be studied for various reasons, the different forms have a single objective – to physically defeat the other person and defend oneself or others from physical threat. Where women are concerned, they are most vulnerable to threats. So for them this training is very essential.”

“In our nine centres across Delhi, we hold martial arts training sessions. Our students comprise mainly children between the age group of five to 15 years, and women,” said Sharma.

“Both working women and homemakers come to our centres to get training. Seeing the rising crime against women, it comes as no surprise,” he said.

Sharma, who also trains Black Cat Commandos and other paramilitary forces, said: “I have trained women who are victims of eve-teasing and it’s amazing to see the transformation in their personalities after they undergo training. Their body language and posture become so confident that a man will surely think twice before approaching them.”

These days even colleges, especially girls colleges, have defence training and martial arts in their sports curriculum.

Meenakshi Pahuja, sports coordinator at the Lady Shri Ram College for women, said: “Young girls are the most vulnerable to men’s vulgar and indecent behaviour.”

“College is the best place to train girls in self-defence as it is the place where they actually step out of the secure walls of their homes,” Pahuja told IANS.

Akriti Bahl, a third year student of Kamala Nehru College for women who took the martial arts classes, said she can see the change in herself.

“Now, I am mentally strong as I know I can defend myself. The feeling of being a victim is not there any more,” Bahl said.