Fear of attackers is prompting Kochi’s women to take up classes in martial arts. Several self-defence workshops with training in kickboxing, krav maga, and kung fu are being held in the city, and these find many takers too.

The classes are specially designed for women with no previous training in martial arts. Held over a few hours, these workshops focus on self-defence techniques to help a woman break the hold of a possibly heavier, stronger attacker.

“We were taught how to escape if somebody grabs hold of us from behind, or by our hair,” said Binnu Deleema, a young woman who attended a kickboxing workshop conducted by the Kerala Kickboxing Association in Kochi. A significant number of the participants in the workshop were housewives and college students. Girls of six years of age too were part of the workshop.

Sense of insecurity

The gang rape of a woman, now known to the country by the name Nirbhaya, in a moving bus in Delhi is foremost in the minds of those attending the workshops.

“There is a lot of insecurity among women after the Delhi rape. The girl was attacked in a routine situation, one any of us could be in,” said a woman who participated in a safety awareness class conducted by a private company for its women employees.

Martial arts experts also gave a demonstration on self-defence techniques at the workshop.

The sale of pepper sprays too has gone up in the city after the gang rape in Delhi. An armoury in the city has seen the demand for the sprays skyrocket in the last few months.

“Earlier, it would be many months before our stocks ran out. Pepper sprays are now flying off the shelves and we have to get new stock every few weeks,” said an employee of the armoury. Pepper sprays shaped like guns are also being sold to intimidate attackers.

Yet, there are many who believe that self-defence moves and pepper sprays cannot do much against attackers.

“I don’t use pepper sprays, but some of my friends carry one in their bags at all times. I don’t think you will be able to pull it out of your bag quickly enough if an attacker takes you by surprise,” said a woman in the city.

Anish Kurian is the father of a Class VII student here who attended a kickboxing workshop.

He doesn’t think his daughter picked up a lot of martial arts skills at the workshop. “But it gave her a lot of confidence. That can sometimes help you get out of a tough situation,” he says.

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