Let’s Stand Up and Defend Ourselves!
Observing grandiose action scenes in movies like Kill Bill or martial arts in Kung-Fu series is enough to inspire anyone to suddenly take up a martial art, but there is much more to knowing self-defense than the aesthetic appeal. In the simplest form of definition, the protection of one's person or property against some injury attempted by another is defined as self- defence.
Self-defence, especially for girls, is of paramount importance today and we cannot deny the need for the same. Women, usually referred as the weaker sex, are considered easy targets in a country like India where the cases of gender violence are on a steep rise.
Need for self - defence
Eve- teasing, molestation and other forms of violations like acid attacks, rape, kidnapping and murder are the most common forms of crime against women in India. The mindset of the people, including the victim, her family and the spectator, is to just let it go and move forward. Some mishaps even lead to overprotection of girls and more restrictions are imposed on girls’ freedom but what we fail to realize is that these instances of harassment can flare up into bigger heinous crimes against women. It is for this reason that the importance of learning self-defence techniques for women cannot be neglected any more.
A typical Indian girl is raised chaperoned and over-protected and rarely does she learn how to protect herself or react in a situation, if attacked; hence there is a need for self- defence course to ensure her own safety because crime can happen to anyone at any time. It is a harsh reality and the sooner a girl is prepared to deal with it, the better it is. A predator can come in at any time when one is alone and vulnerable and most likely, it will come from the one you least expected.
Self- defence not just guarantees a girl’s safety but also builds her confidence. A girl can feel strong, empowered and can set the example of being strong and standing up for her and others by being able to defend herself- emotionally, verbally, physically and spiritually. It also teaches one to respond instead of reacting to situations that goes a long way in building great careers and handling family responsibilities.
Has self – defence become synonymous with martial – arts?
There are many myths associated with women’s safety and self-defence techniques and it is with awareness and education that these myths could be busted.
Myth 1: I am too weak/fragile/old/ to learn self- defence.
Busted: Self- defence is more about alertness and mental manipulation which requires thinking capacity rather than muscles. A woman who is confident in her ability to fight abuse can fight back both mentally and physically. Self-defence techniques teach you how.
Myth 2: It will never happen to me because I do not tread outside after evening and I dress modestly.
Busted: Most sexual assault crimes happen within the confines of safe abodes and mostly by perpetrators who are known to the victims. Also, most mishaps happen because an attacker thinks that the potential victim is vulnerable and not because she was dressed provocatively.
Myth 3: Men are physically stronger, I cannot overpower a man.
Busted: Self-defence is primarily about being aware of warning signs, recognizing hazardous situations so that one can avoid such situations and believing that a girl is as capable as any man to fight back. Stressful situations evoke a fight, flight or freeze response. Self-defence skills prepare you to fight rather than freeze.
What are we doing about it?
Crimes against women are never about weaker sex but about establishing power. We, as a patriarchal society, have always witnessed men growing up and controlling women in their households. Women seeking greater freedom and equality as their contemporaries are seen as rebels and hence are suppressed. While societal change is a lengthier and more rampant issue to be tackled, several institutes like DARE (Defence against rape and eve teasers) by Institute of Martial Science in Mumbai, Smile Foundation and Blank Noise work towards women self-defence awareness and host workshops, road events and demonstrations to increase awareness about street violence.
The order issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) making self-defence classes for girls mandatory has been welcomed by all, including parents, students and schools. D T Sudharshan Rao, joint secretary, academics and training, CBSE says, “Some recent incidents have further accentuated the need to ensure safety of girls. This is an issue which requires immediate attention.” CBSE has also suggested that schools allocate weekly sessions and schools have been advised to teach self-defence to girls.
Some self- defence programs, worthy of a mention
Learning martial arts can definitely help in empowering women but there are many other techniques which can help a girl stay active, vigilant and safe. Krav Maga is a similar technique which focuses on training women mentally first to avoid any direct encounter and then how to escape or handle it. Aikido is a Japanese martial art beneficial to women because it does not require women to be stronger than male attackers in order to defend themselves.
A special self- defence program called Shakti has been launched by EduSports, an organization into providing holistic education to school children. Shakti practices a comprehensive approach to prepare girls, aged ten years and above to handle any untowardly situations. Under this program, girls are prepared to handle risky situations physically, mentally and emotionally. The understanding of proper body control, cognitive awareness, observation and learning is emphasized in the program.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care
Self- defence is a training philosophy that every girl should imbibe in her day- to- day life like studies and sports. It is a tool box which is not only to defend one but to instill confidence and to apply daily discipline to one’s life. A girl may not learn everything about taking care of herself just by reading a few tips or by attending a few weekend classes, but they will help her rethink what she has been taught so far because there is no substitute to self- defence training.
Tejaswi S. Self-defence and Its Importance for Women in India (2015). Available from: http://www.mapsofindia.com/my-india/social-issues/importance-of-self-defence-for-women-in-india [Accessed 3 Oct, 2016]
Angie MT. Women's Self-Defence Institue. Available from: http://www.self-defence-mind-body-spirit.com/5-reasons-for-women-to-take-a-self-defence-course.html [Accessed 4 Oct, 2016]
kravmagaindia.in. Available from: http://www.kravmagaindia.in/programmes/women-self-defence-krav-maga [Accessed 4 Oct, 2016]
Lydia S. (2016) How India's women are using martial arts to fight back against sexual violence. Available from: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/how-indias-women-are-using-martial-arts-fight-back-against-sexual-violence-1541199 [Accessed 5 Oct, 2016]
TNN. Girls in school to learn self-defence. (2015) http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/coimbatore/Girls-in-school-to-learn-self-defence/articleshow/48908887.cms [Accessed 5 Oct, 2016]
Self Defence For Indian Women. Available from: http://www.womensweb.in/articles/self-defence-tips-women/ [Accessed 6 Oct, 2016]
Don't Walk this Way- How Your Steps Tell Psychopaths who to Attack. (2015). Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/dont-walk-this-way-how-yo_b_6509478 [Accessed 5 Oct, 2016]
Kimberly C. Joseph A C. (2013) Psychopathy and Victim Selection: The Use of Gait as a Cue to Vulnerability. Available from: http://jiv.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/02/18/0886260512475315.abstract [Accessed 3 Oct, 2016]
Mike. M (2014) The Best Martial Arts for Women's Self Defence. Available from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/81112-martial-arts-women-self-defence/ [Accessed 6 Oct, 2016]