self-defencevenancioEver since the Delhi rape case, women have realised the importance of self-defence to protect themselves from the evils lurking on the streets. Statistics show that most women in the country have at some point encountered verbal abuse from passersby or have been touched inappropriately at crowded places and did nothing about it. It is time that women learn to take things in their own hands and learn to protect themselves from such encounters. Venancio D’Souza, a master of cross training who trains people at his V’s Fitness in Bandra, Mumbai, chats with Surya Ragunaathan about how he teaches women to defend themselves in these situations and also shares some anecdotes of his former students who’ve put his training to good use. 

How can a woman who is lean and not fit defend herself physically? Do you provide any training for that?

If you have to defend you must be fit. What we do here is teach them skills which don’t just involve confronting and slapping the attacker but more intense and complex moves which can go a long way in protecting the victim from her attacker.

A friend of mine who learnt karate for years couldn’t apply any of it in a situation where a guy tried to act fresh with her. She said she was scared and couldn’t remember any karate moves at that point. How do you make sure that your students apply what they learn?

We have already done this kind of programme in Middle East. A lot of women and children took part in that. A woman was regular to classes and she also attended a 10-day workshop that I conduct for self-defence. She learnt kick-boxing too. One day, she was in a pub and a guy acted smart with her. With all she had learnt, she whacked him down with two moves. Another one of my students had a sparring session with a karate guy. The guy had picked on my student and she attacked him. I spoke to his karate teacher later who told me that the guy couldn’t speak for six months. His jaw had dislocated.

Push upsWhat if the guy who attacks her is stronger?

It doesn’t matter. My course will teach her what to do. I give them some instructions on how to be alert which is very important – the things to say when you are confronted and the things to do if you are being followed. The criminals pick on people who they think are weak, like girls or old people. Women who are walking unaware – many women are on the phone continuously when they walk or women who are wearing high heels as they won’t be able to run too fast. They can be easy targets.

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Do you put these situations in the class?

Yes, of course. I teach train them in 10 days. 99% of them know what to do in case of an attack.  I tell them, ‘your main aim is to survive. I am not teaching you how to fight. I am not teaching you fancy moves but only what you need to survive.’

People like me who are calm and shy cannot turn aggressive at once when they are confronted. Do you have any training for that?

Yes. We have special exercises. I segregate the brain into 3 parts. One is where you become aware of your surroundings and the situation you are in – you register information that someone is following you and you are induced with fear. The middle one does the filtering. What we do is we train the brain to bypass these two stages. Here we associate the moves with numbers like if punch is ‘2’, associate the same in your brain with the number so as to delete the unnecessary chunk and attack the other person quickly.

If you are going somewhere alone and you are being followed by someone, you will want to move to a known area. This programme trains you with skills where you can face your attacker and say things which can buy you time to reach the known area and then attack him or get attention of others to stop him.

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