"Beware of teachers who flaunt association with martial arts schools. Ensure that your teacher has learned from a master, and his main focus is on self-defence techniques and not just exercises, stretching and toughening."
- Donald Melville
The Delhi gang-rape is a chilling reminder of how unsafe the streets of the country are for women. As the debate on self-defence courses for women gains momentum, Smitha R spoke to Donald Melville, a martial arts instructor who specialises in training the security forces, about self-defence skills and why such training is a must.
Martial arts instructor Donald Melville says self-defence techniques and its training are important for women to protect themselves w e give practical tips on defending the self. There are no fancy-style high-kicks that people associate with martial arts.
On impact of the training sessions
The biggest change is in the level of confidence in the women. But then this is true for all participants. Any such training improves your reflexes and makes you more alert. Quick reflexes and an alert mind are assets when you are trying to defend yourself; it also helps you in your routine life.
On what these sessions teach
We give practical tips on defending the self. There are no fancy-style high-kicks that people associate with martial arts. The primary focus is on avoiding a situation. When you sense an attack coming, you stabilise yourself and stay cool. If attacked, say, you are pushed, the first thing to do is side-step (pivot) and use the opponent’s force against him. We teach them techniques to escape a situation without making a show of it. When under attack, the idea is not to stand and fight your attacker but to stop the attack for a few precious minutes that will give you the time to escape.
Footwork is very important. It enables one to use the opponent’s force. Since the wrist of a new student or women is generally weak, a punch will sprain it, hence we emphasise on palm, elbow, fore arm and knee strikes. They are also taught where to strike, on pressure points only, so that the woman gets maximum effect of her strike and enough time to escape. Several of the tricks can be life-threatening for the attacker and hence they are taught with a caveat that they need to be used only when the woman finds herself in extremely dire situations.
Most vulnerable body parts
The chin, solar plexus, the spleen, liver, abdomen, groin, knee, the eye, ear, throat, etc
On how the attack affects
When you hit at the solar plexus, the attacker’s senses blacken out for a few seconds. This can give a woman some time to escape. Hitting at the knee is the most effective as that will rob the attacker of his ability to stand. But an eye poke can blind him permanently and hence is advised only under extremely rare situations. A hard hit on the chin may end up dislocating the neck leading to death — another trick that is to be used sparingly.
On the knee being both strong and vulnerable
The strength of the knee depends on how it is positioned. When in the normal standing position, the knee is extremely vulnerable. A hit can even dislocate it. But when in a bent position (stance), it is extremely strong, and in close fighting situations knee is the best and most effective option.
Advice for those interested in learning self-defence
The art of self defence is extremely easy. It is the instructor’s duty to simplify the art.
Learn from someone trained by a master. Don’t try to learn it from videos and books. Beware of teachers who flaunt associations with martial arts schools. Ensure that your teacher has learned from a master, and his main focus is on self-defence techniques and not just exercises, stretching and toughening. All this is good only at a very senior level, ie only if the student has years of practice and is totally involved in the art.