The Telegraph
Tuesday , January 7 , 2014
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Girls pack safety punch

They are fearless and ooze confidence.

Meet the brave brigade of 20 girls — aged between nine and 21 years — of Hatma Basti in Ranchi, who are taking karate lessons to defend themselves if the need arises.

Besides studying at government schools and working as domestic helps, the girls also attend free martial arts classes at the sprawling grounds near Sidho Kanho Park every Monday and Saturday from 4.30pm to 6pm. They are undergoing intensive the training, conducted by International Martial Arts Academy, India, and sponsored by the Jharkhand chapter of NGO World Vision India, for the last 14 months.

The three-year course started towards the end of 2012 in the wake of the surge in crime against women across the country. Besides getting ready to protect themselves, some of them are also looking forward to carving a niche as karate champions.

Fourteen-year-old Kajal Kumari no longer feels scared when she ventures out. “Jab se hum karate seekh rahen hain, raat ko nikal ne mein darr nahi lagta hain. Pehle hum apni choti behen ko le jate the. Lekin aab nahi. (Since I started attending karate classes, I do not feel scared to go out at night. Earlier, I used to take my younger sister with me. But, no more),” said the seventh grader of Shiv Narayan Mandelia School.

Kajal, who works as a maid, is learning karate for one-and-a-half years.

Citing the instance of a 13-year-old girl who was gang-raped in Bariatu in December last year, Class X student Priya Bala (16) said: “Such incidents might happen to any one of us. We don’t wish to take any chance. Learning karate has been helpful.”

Asked how much life has changed after this training, 12-year-old Varsha Kumari quickly responded: “Mein jab apni dost ke ghar jati hoon aur agar late ho jata hain to khud chale ati hoon. Kisi ko bulana ka zarurat nahi padta hain (If I get late at a friend’s place, I come back home on my own. I don’t feel the need to ask anyone from my family to take me home).”

Technical director of International Martial Arts Academy, India, Sunil Kispotta teaches them a variety of tactics in self-defence.

So, what have they learnt till date?

A few basic tips include detecting danger through body language, techniques of kung fu and boxing. Some of them have also achieved a level of proficiency, feels Kispotta.

“Getting to know different martial art techniques boosted their confidence. Many feared venturing out at night, they don’t any longer,” he added.