Sunday, August 31, 2008

A preemptive strike

This story is not about Aruna Shanbaug, and yet, I must tell you her story before I start...

Aruna is 60 years old. By all accounts, she spends her time staring at the ceiling but can’t see a thing. Her teeth are rotting away and her bones have twisted themselves into shapes of their own volition. Those who have known and loved her wish for her death, and yet her life clings on, to what hope, no one knows…

Aruna has been living her life on this municipal hospital bed for the last 35 years, semi-comatose, but whenever she hears a man’s voice, she screams, in fear, in agony and in memory of her last waking hour….

Thirty-five years ago, on a November evening, Aruna, then a 25 year old head-strong head turner, a nurse in a hospital in Mumbai, was on top of the world… she was going on leave, she was going to marry the man of her dreams. In the hospital basement which housed the dog-lab, she changed out of her uniform and was about to leave when she felt the cold steel of a dog chain around her neck… it was Sohanlal, a ward-boy sweeper she had rebuked earlier … Sohanlal assaulted her, tried to rape her… and since she was menstruating, sodomised her instead; strangled her with the dog chain and presuming her dead, left her crumpled and bleeding…

Today, Aruna’s body and spirit, ravaged and broken, lie on that lonely hospital bed while Sohanlal having served a seven year sentence, roams free. Some say he is working in a hospital in Delhi, but you wouldn’t know him if you saw him… he has a new name.

This story isn’t about Nishtha (name changed), and yet, I must tell you her story before I finish…

Not too long ago, Nishtha, in her 20s, was walking past a construction site in Delhi, on her way back home from a mall. Suddenly, a couple of guys followed her into a lane and pushed her against a brick wall… one of them held her neck, and her shoulder, pressing her face into the wall, while the other started fiddling with her clothes…

Five minutes and a few screams later, some labourers had gathered in the lane. With glazed eyes and a gash on her lower lip, Nishtha was panting, standing with her hands on her knees, and at her feet lay a man in his 30s, clutching his groin, writhing and groaning in pain. His face was bleeding from cuts under his right eye and his mouth, and his accomplice had run away… some say it was his screams that the labourers had heard. But could’ve been Nishtha’s screams, said the man who told me this story… “She’s very aggressive when she’s angry… you wouldn’t think a girl as slight as her was capable of such anger… such volume, such violence…”

Nishtha though is your everyday next door girl in every respect, save one. Every other day, for months, she’s been spending her evenings training in something called Krav Maga (read slip stream), but hey, this isn’t about her. This is about you, and about every woman you know and care about… This story is about the time I spent training in the same dojo which Nishtha often frequents (her peers told me about the legend that precedes her) and saw other women too, petite and bashful in repose, transformed into formidable amazons under duress.

Having spent some time studying various martial arts, I realise there are many that offer greater health benefits or cultural moorings, but there perhaps aren’t any that help you feel safer. Martial arts styles like Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai might be as deadly on the streets but they demand high levels of skill and aerobic fitness, virtues, you’ll admit, that are beyond the reach of most of the women we share our lives with. Krav Maga, on the other hand, trains the body, and far more importantly, the mind to handle attackers who are invariably bigger, stronger and fitter. Unlike other martial arts, Krav Maga is not a sport. The training focuses exclusively on real-life situations and on surviving that situation instead of scoring points. I know what you’re thinking, especially if you happen to be the elegant, gentle, feminine type (specifically referring to women here); ‘I don’t need this. I don’t use public transport. I have a driver. And there’s a guard outside, so what could possibly happen to me? Besides, I’m too much of a lady…’ Well, let me remind you ladies, Dhananjay Chatterjee, the man who raped and murdered 14 year old Hetal Parekh was the security guard of her housing complex. Ma’am, you’re safe only when ‘you’ can keep yourself safe.

Surveys of convicted rapists reveal that they look for a ‘soft target’, someone who wouldn’t be a lot of trouble. After three months of Krav Maga, I assure you, any girl would be ‘a lot of trouble’.

What good is it for the gentlemen amongst us, you ask? I asked my instructor the same question… He said “Remember IC 814; if I’d been on that plane with some of my students, I don’t know about us, but the hijackers wouldn’t have survived the hijacking (incidentally, sky marshals on various airlines have been trained in Krav Maga). Moral of the story – if you are a man, Krav Maga prepares you for heroism, and if you are a woman, it prepares you for life, without fear, and with dignity.

Lethal weapon

A relatively recent form of martial art, Krav (meaning combat) and Maga (meaning contact) is an Israeli form of martial expression. Developed first in the 1930’s in Hungary and Czechoslovakia by a man called Imi Lichtenfeld who first taught the hand to hand combat techniques (that borrow elements from other martial arts) to the Haganah (the underground Jewish army). Later with the establishment of the state of Israel, Imi became Chief Instructor of the art at the Israel Defense Forces School of Combat Fitness.

Developed and refined over time, Krav Maga today finds itself as the official defense and combat system of the Israel Defense Forces, the Israeli Police and other Israeli security and intelligence agencies. In fact every soldier in the Israeli army undergoes training in the discipline as part of his/her training. What is interesting to note is that Krav Maga only opened doors to the world as late as 1980 gradually gaining popularity outside of Israel, especially the US where the following year experts from Israel gave demonstrations at the FBI Field Office and the agency’s training centre in Quantico.

Today Krav Maga remains the favoured choice of security forces in many a country and individuals who like it for its practical application and for the fact that there are no set rules or specific clothes, uniforms or competitions.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for enlightening about the martial art form Krav Maga.But where one can learn this form in India- Delhi or Guwahati ?