Self-defence outfit 'Mukka Maar' to go the pro way

After a year, Ishita Sharma is set to give her self-defence outfit a professional make-over

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Ishita Sharma

While being sexually harassed, actor and Kathak dancer Ishita Sharma noticed a crucial game-changer: if one is brave to lash out, the harasser’s responses change. Inspired by the documentary Daughters of Mother India, based on the aftermath of the 2012 Delhi rape case, Sharma felt the need to switch from being an  observer to action.

“One day, I saw a few men staring at girls dressed in burkhas and realized that sexual harassment is not about the way a woman dresses. I spent a long time planning the idea,” says Sharma.

A year ago, she and Alexander Fernandes, the owner of Tai Chi (a Martial Arts and Healing Research Centre in Mumbai) started training girls in martial arts on Versova beach in Mumbai.

Sharma and her team from Aamad, a performing arts institute, initially went door-to-door, requesting families to send their daughters to the class. “Families were reluctant to send their daughters saying their girls were not allowed outside the house. Some would even lie that they didn’t have daughters,” says Sharma.

Build, but will they come?

The next challenge was keeping the girls regular. The number has dropped to 30 from 75 students after a year. Sharma decided Mukka Maar needed a more formal tone, something the girls feel they belong to.

The actress has been looking for sponsors and will soon have uniforms and badges for her students. They will also earn a certificate in Martial Arts from the Life Institute of Tai Chi in Mumbai. “We aim to get this off the ground by next month,” says Sharma, who plans to treat Mukka Maar as a proper institution and not just a casual gathering. There will be exams after eight months of class and students will also be given time to prepare for them.

Sharma’s motive is not merely help a girl fight back but to also build confidence. “There are so many schools in Mumbai with more than 1,500 girl students,” she says. “It would be so much more beneficial if they were taught martial arts in school itself. Girls ought to see themselves as warriors.”

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