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Helping women pack a punch

delhi Updated: Sep 02, 2012 01:24 IST
Manoj Sharma

He trains men - and these days, a lot of women - in street warfare of both physical and psychological kinds. His air-conditioned "combat studio" in Saket has dummy knives, pistols and dummy men for women to practise their punching skills. There are also punching bags hanging from the ceiling, besides rubber sticks, chest guards and kicking shields. The studio has mirrors on the walls and a picture of Jennifer Lopez in Enough - a movie in which the actress learns Krav Maga to take on her abusive husband - for inspiration. This is apart from a poster that reads "personal protection is not an option, it's a responsibility". The studio is run by Vicky Kapoor, a 48-year-old trainer of Krav Maga, which is an Israeli art of self-defence and combat tactics.

On weekends, women come to the studio between 6pm and 8pm with their fighting kit, comprising gum shields, boxing gloves, grappling gloves, head gears and chest guards. For two hours, the studio is the scene of fierce fighting between Kapoor's men (the trainers) and the women, all dressed in black.

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Kapoor's three-month course, which costs Rs 8,500, for women focuses on training in tackling surprise attacks on street with force, speed and follow through. It also includes a lesson on using objects such as hand bags, coins, cell phones, umbrellas, pens, bangles and even dupattas as weapons.

"Women may not compare with attackers in terms of physical strength. We teach them to strike where it hurts the most and then escape. But we also teach them hand-to-hand combat, which may be necessary in certain situations," says Kapoor. Krav Maga, he contends, is the most effective self-defence art for women because, unlike other martial arts, it is not rule-based. "It is about smart survival tactics that help them get better of men even twice their sizes. Even a sari-clad woman can strike a man at his most vulnerable spots," he says.

He points out that psychological aspects of tackling sexual offenders include anticipating danger on roads and handling unpredictable violence. Kapoor, the most sought-after Krav Maga trainer in the country, has trained around 1,600 women in the Israeli martial art.

Kapoor also claims that he has trained several women in customised self-defence over the years. "We trained women who were struggling to tackle their abusive live-in partners, whom they managed to drive out with the help of Krav Maga," he says.

The studio lessons are also practised on roads. "The idea is to give practical lessons in dealing with real-life situations," says Kapoor, whose GK-I studio is the most popular among women wanting to learn Krav Maga.

"The problem with women in Delhi is their focus tends to shift to looks. They treat the training as a weight-loss programme. Women in Mumbai and Chennai are more serious," says Kapoor, who was earlier a personal trainer to the rich and famous of the city: top doctors, industrialists and socialites.

Kapoor, who was born and raised in Srinagar, has worked in Mumbai and London as a personal trainer, where rich NRIs and British socialites formed his clientele. "I went to London to do a course in advance fitness programmes such as Pilates and kick boxing," he says.

Kapoor came to Delhi from London in 2001 on the invitation of a city-based businesswoman, who he assisted as a personal trainer in London. The deal, he says, was to start a chain of top-notch fitness centres in Delhi and other metros at a time there were not too many such facilities. But as luck would have it, the businesswoman died in an accident soon after he came to Delhi. "I was shattered and left high and dry. But thankfully, I had developed a network of clients with her help and so I decided to stay back in the city," he says.

"In 2003, while working as a personal trainer in Delhi, I went to Israel to learn Krav Maga. Three years later, I set up a combat studio to train both men and women," says Kapoor, who has set up seven combat studios in Delhi.

Kapoor, who has trained police and defence forces in combat tactics, is perhaps the only certified law-enforcement instructor. "As a rule, I have to travel aboard to upgrade and learn a new combat skill every year," says Kapoor, who has learnt martial arts and combat tactics in countries such Japan, China, Israel, Russia, Hungary and Argentina.