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      Volume 11 |Issue 20| May 18, 2012 |


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Life Style

I am Strong

Anika Hossain

We have often been praised for our resilience. For us, every day is a struggle. We live through political turmoil, social unrest and a complete lack of law and order and basic necessities. At the end of each day, we manage to block out all our troubles somehow and hope for a better tomorrow. While this is a much needed survival technique, it has its adverse effects. All that pent up frustration and unhappiness can either lead to long term psychological problems or these feelings may start to surface in other ways, through violence and aggression.

We see evidence of this all around us in the form of mob violence, gruesome murders, fatal road accidents, sexual harassment and it doesn't end there. There is evidence of violence inside our homes; we may not think of it as such, but abusing one's domestic help, one's spouse and children does amount to violence.

In these uncertain times, it's probably best to assume that anything can happen to anyone, at any time, in any place. Nine out of ten times, there is no punishment for the perpetrator of a crime. Under such circumstances, it's wise to take matters into our own hands and think of ways we can protect ourselves to the best of our abilities. Since we do not have self defense courses for street safety, we can turn to institutions teaching martial arts which can be equally useful.

In a volatile and dangerous society, self defense skills can be extremely valuable.
Photo: Mohammad Rakibul Hasan

In Bangladesh, the most popular forms of martial arts that are taught in institutions are karate, judo, kickboxing, kung fu and more recently, Taekwondo. “I started learning karate when I was in class 8,” says Adnan Fakir, a former karate instructor at the Black Belt Academy, located in Gulshan. “At the time, I was quite the introvert, but learning karate helped me open up. While karate is not about defending oneself out on the streets, self defense is incorporated in the institute where I learned karate. This form of martial arts is more about routine, discipline, meditation and self awareness.”

Aside from learning karate, Adnan also learned other skills such as public speaking and confidence building. “Students are often required to make presentations during the course of the lessons about certain moves they are asked to demonstrate to their classmates and instructors. This helps build confidence in one's abilities to interact with others and be stronger people,” observes Adnan.

Adnan informs us that, at the end of each lesson, there are discussions about self defense in daily life, “We talk about how to deal with dangerous situations such as muggings etc. We discuss maneuvres such as an arm grab or a dodge if it comes down to that, but usually we discourage any physical interaction with the perpetrators as much as possible. We also discuss verbal self defense such as saying no or reasoning with one's attacker if possible. Learning karate also makes one very alert and aware of their surroundings. It helps one sense danger and avoid certain situations. I have gained self confidence by learning this skill.”

We must remember that while it may seem easy when they show it in movies, a well aimed punch or a kick in a sensitive spot may not help us escape from an attacker in real life. They may be anticipating a counter attack and be prepared to thwart our attempts to retaliate. Therefore, in such situations, its best to use our commonsense and cooperate with the perpetrator when we can. During a mugging, it is best to sometimes just hand over your wallets, just to de-escalate the situation. It is also very important to remain calm and never lose your temper because this might give your attacker more ammunition to harm you. If the attacker is someone you know and once trusted, staying calm, saying and doing things that will not threaten them will give you some control over the situation.

If an attacker wants to physically assault you, instead of fighting back, first attempt to distract them and escape somehow, especially if they have weapons. If a situation arises where the attacker attempts to rape you, it is important to look at them straight in the eye and raise loud objections, cry out for help, and avoid being cornered. If all else fails and you realise you cannot escape them or fight them off, do not struggle or use threats as there will be a danger of the attacker causing you further harm.

Learning martial arts can not only make you physically strong, it can also make you disciplined, focused and alert at all times. Photo: Mohammad Rakibul Hasan

“I learned karate and kickboxing, because it helped me overcome many of my fears,” says Ayesha Anwar, “I used to read about young girls my age being kidnapped and raped and I was terrified to go anywhere on my own. I'm still scared to venture out at night or go out of town on my own, but if I have to, I know I can do something to protect myself. I even feel more confident when I'm out on the streets and I guess it shows because the groping and the catcalls happen less often.”

Taekwondo is perhaps the newest type of martial arts introduced in Bangladesh. Mamunur Rashid Selim, who is an instructor of various martial arts at Physique as well as the Bangladesh Taekwondo Academy says, “There is a difference between kung fu, karate and taekwondo. Kung fu is an artistic martial art with elaborate dance like movements and techniques. Karate is more mechanical and disciplined. In Karate, there is 50 percent leg activity and 50 per cent arm activity. Taekwondo is more dynamic and requires 80 per cent leg use. Legs are of course larger and stronger than the arms and if these can be used in a balanced and technical way, it is a huge advantage in other forms of martial arts as well. It is extremely advantageous for men and women in terms of gaining strength and flexibility,” informs Rashid.

In Rashid's experience, taekwondo is very useful in dealing with day to day dangers. “I have taught over 10,000 students during my career and can tell you from observation that learning this art helps people develop a few useful traits,” Rashid tells us. “People will be more physically fit and healthy and more confident knowing they can defend themselves against multiple attackers at a time, say in a situation where they are being mugged or physically assaulted. The more one practices, the more courage and strength one develops both physically and mentally. One can even sense danger and make better judgments as the mind is sharper and more disciplined,” he adds.

Rashid and his colleagues have been instructors to people all over the country and have observed that while people in rural areas generally show interest because they want to learn how to fight, in the cities, especially in Dhaka, youngsters are aware of the dangers they can be subjected to and want to learn how to protect themselves.

“Unfortunately, most of the time we cannot provide a proper environment for these people to learn,” says Rashid, “There are so many clubs and cultural centres around but no one is interested in promoting martial arts and self defense. My colleagues and I have realised that because of this, interest in martial arts in generally diminishing.”

“I took a course in self defense when I was in college,” says Sifat Hoque, “At the end of each class, we would sit in a circle and say one thing about ourselves that we had difficulty believing, such as say, one person thought she was unattractive, so she would shout out 'I am beautiful,' I would always say I am strong and by the end of the course I actually believed it.”

In a volatile and dangerous society like ours, being able to defend oneself is a valuable trait. Self defense classes can teach us how to break out of an attacker's grasp and how to surprise and distract them in different scenarios. They can also teach us to become more assertive, sharp, calm, confident, stress free, strong and ready to deal with any number of difficult situations. It would be wise to pool together our resources and make these lessons widely available and to promote them to people from every walk of life so we can live up to our reputation of being the most resilient people in the world.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2012