|A martial arts training session in progress at Presidency University on Tuesday.
Picture by Sanjoy Ghosh
If last week was about wristlock, throat jab and zombie choke, it’s guillotine chokehold this week and small joint manipulations the week after.
A ringside view of a full season WWF Wrestlemania, eh? No, these are self-defence techniques being taught to girls at Presidency University to warn and ward off a stalker, a sneaky Romeo or a plain harasser.
In the wake of rising crimes against women when unheard voices are getting louder and the need to fight back stronger, the university has started regular classes on its campus to train girls as much as boys with moves and ideas on self-defence.
“I often get complaints from girls about feeling unsafe on the streets or being teased. They ask for suggestions on what they should do. Now, we can’t ask them to stop stepping out of their homes. I felt that if we could provide them with some training they would be more confident. I floated the idea during one of our meetings with the students and they all seemed very eager,” said Deboshruti Roychowdhury, the dean of student affairs at Presidency.
She took Pranaadhika Sinha Burman, the founder of 1 Million Against Child/Adult Sexual Abuse campaign, on board and she brought in her team of martial arts trainers.
The plan got rolling in July with an introductory session between the trainers and the students to understand the needs of the girls. The queries were as hardpressed as “What to do if attacked by a gang of four or five attackers?” Or as subtle as an “on-road everyday experience” like a stray whistle from a leering roadside Romeo.
The classes began last week and already 35 girls and boys have joined in.
Metro visited their second session on Tuesday evening as the trainees milled around the experts at the Derozio Hall foyer and listened with rapt attention to the basics in tackling a harasser. Later, the girls and the boys took turns in twos to spar.
If the boy crouched forward, the girl learnt how to choke his neck with a quick movement of her arms.
Everyone was eager to learn, though nobody has immediate plans to get into Bruce Lee’s shoes.
The team is concentrating on basic training to address practical problems that “a girl may face at a night club or a boy may confront while escorting a friend home”.
Dave Chakraborty, the chief trainer, explained: “We don’t teach just one kind of technique in self-defence but a mix of techniques that would be most effective for a small-built girl against a much bigger, heavier and stronger attacker.”
“Karate and kung fu classes are more about the art. They don’t always help us tackle a situation instantly. It’s about picking up handy defence techniques. That is why I joined this programme,” said Anusua Banerjee, a first-year student of mathematics.
For fellow student Ayusi Mondal, it’s the call of the times. “Every day we read about rape and harassment. I live in Sonarpur and I have been stalked on several occasions. It’s scary.”
Among the boys, Aritra Paul said he joined to protect female members of his family and friends. “What if I’m with a female friend or my mother and she is attacked. Boys need to learn how to react and fight back too.”
The trainees are fired up already and they have 20 more sessions to go “till we can kick some badass.”
- Practise self-defence skills whenever possible
- Stay alert in lonely lanes. If threatened, walk towards a well-lit or crowded place
- Keep safety apps on phone and emergency numbers
on speed dial
- Use ‘weapons’ in your handbag such as deo spray, pen, comb, keys or hairpin to fight back
- Stand tall and walk with confidence but avoid direct altercations with big groups
- Use verbal self- defence when someone is crossing the limit