It’s so obvious when you watch the scene play out on a CCTV recording. It’s daytime, and there are a number of people on the street. A lady walks up to the kirana store to do her shopping. Two men drive past on a two-wheeler; they pass by a couple of times, but the third time’s the charm. They slow down near her, the pillion rider snatches her chain and they race away.
There are several factors at play here: the fact that no one noticed their suspicious behaviour for a good two minutes before the actual crime happened is the most alarming one. And in the case of the woman in Bangalore, who was kidnapped right outside her house, there were people who heard her screams, but didn’t venture to find out what happened. Clearly, in spite of living in an “enlightened” age, women still need to watch out every moment to ensure their safety.
Which is why, we still need programmes like self-defence classes. Although Chennai is considered safer than most other cities, it’s still imperative that women know how to defend themselves. For ages, karate was taught as an effective means. Then, newer techniques like mixed martial arts and krav maga came into the fray. The most recent, however is S-K.A.P.E — Shorei-Kan Assault Prevention and Evasion. Based on the Shorei-Kan karate techniques, it seeks to simplify the approach to protecting oneself.
Technical director Shihan S. Haribabu has over four decades of experience, and has lived and trained in Japan for 10 years. “Using these techniques, we have devised very simplified moves that are in relation to the body’s reflex action. This ensures that there is no need to remember complex movements and tactics,” he says. At one of their classes, he shows how effortlessly one can bring a more physically imposing person to his knees with a simple tweak of a finger, or a well-placed arm twist. It’s amazing how empowered one can feel when you know that your body is actually tuned to protect you; you only have to be aware of that potential and harness it.
Zhayynn James, a member of the S-K.A.P.E team, adds, “The primary focus is on awareness, perception and avoiding danger. Irrespective of the size or fitness level of the person under attack or threat, they should be able to stave off anyone.” Although they have moves that will help avoid anything from an unwanted approach at a party to a slap or even a knife attack, they also ensure that the participants are mentally prepared for such scenarios. “Panic is not the answer”, says Zhayynn.
Survival Instincts, another city-based service, focusses on attack simulations. They too have simple moves, and track your response time, helping you improve it to the most optimal time. They also have various levels of women’s safety programmes, depending on the danger level faced in that person’s everyday life. With these specialised programmes, it is imperative to go in for refresher classes every once in a while.
With Combat Kinetics, however, they combine fitness with self-defence. A representative of their team says, “We follow a hardcore 30--minute outdoor fitness regimen. This is followed by an hour of technical training in combat.” They use five major techniques: boxing, kickboxing, muay thai, jiu jitsu, and catch wrestling. Founded by Ajit Sigamani in 2010, they have grown from one class on a terrace to five classes across the city. Their goal, says the representative, is that this should become a way of life; ingrained into people to use when needed. One hopes that there will never be a need to resort to actually using these techniques in real life. But till that Utopian dream is achieved, it’s better to be prepared.