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There was a time when I was far bolder than I am today. I was well known in my daily bus route to school for whacking a man who was harassing me. It wasn’t a hard one, but it embarrassed him enough to get off the bus. Years later, I find myself just gaping in shock when strangers brush past me intentionally and so did a girl friend when she was sexually harassed by a fellow press person on ride to a common assignment. We call it temporary paralysis, and most women (and even men) I know have been there at a point.

[] [Post] Two years ago, I enrolled into a kickboxing class conducted by a girl, a year my junior from college.  Bangalore at the point was just recovering from the threats of the Shree Ram Sene, girls were being attacked on the roads for wearing western clothes. It was all quite worrying and unsettling. And though I hadn’t had any such personal experiences other than the odd skirmish with an auto driver, I knew enough friends who had.

Inspired by the confidence and energy of the said junior from college, I signed up. The class included training to kick, tackle, release yourself if a man grabs your hands and all those things that one might only dream of doing when in a situation like that. I couldn’t go through with my kickboxing lessons dues to a shift in homes, but a recent story assignment took me to a Krav Maga class in Bangalore.

Franklin Joseph, the instructor was delighted at the sight of a female entrant in his all male class that afternoon. “Have you ever tried self defense class” he asked even before introducing himself. I gave him the Indian nod, not sure if two months of kickboxing qualified.

Without warning he grabbed my hand and asked me to release myself. Outraged and severely embarrassed in front of all those men, I twisted till my wrists hurts and looked for mercy. Letting go, he asked me grab his wrist. With all my strength I wrapped my fingers around his thick wrist which was free in less than a second.

“It’s not a strength thing, it is technique,” he proclaimed.

Truly enough in the next few minutes I was taught how to release my hands if my left hand is grabbed, and a different method for my right and also how to free myself if someone held me to a wall and held my neck.  Beaming and exhilarated, I felt like confidence central.

“But you have to be alert enough to anticipate an attack and remember the technique,” came the conditions apply bit. He was right, had this happened on a street, I would have just frozen. “So if I do remember how, I just run?” I asked. “Well if you wait to think about hitting him, he’ll get you again, so yes run or find help,” he advised.

Most girls who go to his class, detest hurting other people physically and hesitate to deliver a punch or kick someone in the groin. Most of them discontinue lessons and go back to hoping that it will never happen to them. “Sadly a lot of violence on women comes from their boyfriends, friends, husbands and even brothers,” he says adding with some sadness that there is no question of convincing them hit relatives who hurt them.

But what taking a class does do, is that it adds a sense of confidence. And this applies to men as well. Truly enough, I had begun my fifteen minute training session with tugging at my shirt and adjusting my hair on being asked to perform in front of 30 odd people, but that didn’t last for long.  I walked out of the interview promising myself to comeback.

It is another thing that Krav Maga is an intense Israeli combat technique that is physically demanding, so if I do go back I should be ready to throw some punches, do some squats and receive some injuries when training, but it is a thought that has been weighing on my mind.


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