In unsafe Delhi, women learn to fight
Rekha Gulati (28) likes warming up. It’s always good to stretch the muscles before a fight. A man double her size approaches and goes straight for her collar. She gasps for breath but grabs the wrist of the man, twists his thumb, forcing him to bend slightly.Letting out a scream, she succeeds in slamming a kick between his legs. The man gets up and pats her on the back.
Don’t be surprised.
By hitting below the belt, Rekha Gulati just scored a point with her self-defence trainer.
“We trained her to tackle a surprise physical attack; today she can take on her tormentor,” says captain Jaipreet Joshi, who runs Fit Comb, a Gurgaon-based company that provides training in self-defence and crises management. Gulati’s “tormentor” was not a stranger but her husband, a drug addict.
A common occurrence in a city that accounted for 17 per cent of cases of ‘cruelty by husbands’ and 20 per cent of molestation cases in 2007. Though she separated from him eight months ago, she had been living in the persistent fear of being assaulted by him. Six moths ago, she joined Joshi’s self-defence classes.
Fit Comb is a combat studio that imparts customised self-defence training to clients. Thick mattress on the floor, big mirrors on the walls and a punching bag hanging from the ceiling speak for a normal Fit Comb setting. Every day in the studio - between 6 am and 8 am - a number of women come together to learn combat drills.
The setting is somewhat similar at Ultimate Tactical and Combat studio in Saket. It offers Krav Maga - an Israeli form of self-defence and combat tactics - training, engaging young women, clad in black, in hand-to-hand combats.
In Saket, portraits of the famed Israeli Krav Maga trainers and a poster that reads ‘personal protection is not an option, it’s a responsibility’, serve as sources of inspiration.
Another poster, of Jennifer Lopez in Enough - a film in which Lopez learns Krav Maga to take on her abusive husband - is also another motivator.
“Recently, we trained a woman who was struggling to tackle her abusive live-in partner,” says Vicky Kapoor, director, Ultimate Tactical, and the best known trainer of Krav Maga in the country.
“She finally managed to drive him out with the help of Krav Maga. We have trained 200 women as per their requirements in the last two years.”
Not surprising, considering the level of danger a woman faces in the national capital. Among 35 major cities in India, Delhi accounted for 31.2 per cent of total rape cases and 34.7 per cent cases of kidnapping and abduction of women in 2007.
Numbers don’t lie. Most women who practice at these studios have stories to share.
“Last year at a bus-stand near Gargi College, I was groped by a middle-aged man,” says Minakshi Bhardwaj, 22, a student of St Stephen’s College. “I cried for help, but no one came to my rescue. Today, I feel more confident on the streets.”
Mary Kurkalang, 31, who works in a publishing firm said, “Men have grabbed me from behind so many times on the streets. The training has really helped,” she says.
The studio lessons are also practiced on the streets. “The idea is to give practical lessons in dealing with various situations that they might face in real life,” says Kapoor, who normally receives 10 inquiries in a day from women who want to know how Krav Maga can help them defend themselves.
Women also get tips on how to use things like mobile phones, hand bags, pens, and even duppttas as weapons.
“Physical drill teaches women to use quick reflexes to attack assailants’ soft spots like throat, groin and nose,” says Shihan Nawal Datta, a martial arts trainer. This new breed of laptop-wielding trainers say many parents are encouraging daughters to join classes.
“My daughters are learning martial arts. One is even building muscles. Martial arts training has instilled discipline and confidence in them,” says Manjari Sharma, a teacher.
(*Some names have been changed to protect identity)