How my students learned to fight.

A Well Aimed Kick

by Sheela Jaywant

Mahesh Kamat demonstrates the Cross Legged Snake Palm move

My Gift to My Students

Even after generations of women have worked as doctors, ed nurses, advice air-hostesses and pilots, case Goans have apprehensions when their girls take up jobs in hotels.

The hospitality students whom I taught non-credit courses repeatedly asked me, as I had worked shifts in a hotel long years ago, how safe it was. When I said it was as safe as in any other industry with the possible exceptions of the Armed Forces and truck driving, they weren’t convinced. When the numbers of rape cases featured on television increased, their collective, smug faces said, “We told you so”.

At the end of the semester, I decided to gift them a class on ‘self defence’. Facebook came to my rescue in my search for an expert in the use of limbs and extremities as weapons. A martial arts’ master from Vasco, Mahesh Kamat, agreed to spend two hours on a working day demonstrating to my ‘bacchas’ how to deal with unsafe situations. I was as concerned about the boys as the girls: I subsequently discovered that Mahesh believed that the girls needed more concentrated coaching. I didn’t mind.

Attitude, anticipation, strength and endurance can’t be taught in two hours. But the seed can be sown, the will to react and respond aroused.

Mahesh, who created ‘We Tao Wellness’ programs for the aam junta (common man), is best known in his home town, Vasco. What he teaches gives the tongue as much exercise as the rest of the body: Tai Chi Chuan (a kind of meditation whilst on the move), and Qigong (pronounced Chi Kung), a Chinese version of praanaayaam. One aspect of Qigong helps give relief from back and joint pains.

Mahesh has won several prizes in international competitive martial arts’ events. He teaches corporate managers physical fitness, in addition to teaching his students how to increase mental strength. In self-defence, one can’t have a ‘poor me’ attitude. In fact, he repeatedly stressed to my staring class, “attitude, anticipation, strength and endurance” is what is needed to overcome opponents. Opponents could mean eve-teasers, hooligans attempting petty theft, rowdies wanting to pick a fight, anyone. He cautioned: “One can’t take on a trained fighter, and one can’t fight to win if terribly outnumbered. But the chance of facing an attacker singly is high. And the chances of getting hoodwinked or bullied have to be drastically reduced if one has to live safely.” Point taken, my class sighed in unison and relief as the boys and girls stretched, bent low, kicked high, breathed, punched and swung laterally as they absorbed their lesson.

“Girls,” Mahesh said with concern in his voice. “You need to be strong. And fearless.” I had to interrupt several times to remind him that my boys needed to be strong, too. And fearless. Why the reverse gender discrimination, eh?

Having said that, I appreciated the fact that whilst the whole country was bitching about nothing being done after Delhi’s Nirbhaya died, Mahesh was so angry about the whole episode, so affected by it that, unlike most of us who shook our heads sadly and went back to our jobs, he initiated PAPAS, a project to help women stay safe. PAPAS stands for Prevention, Attitude, Preparation And Strategy. Common sense helps, Mahesh insists. Stay away from situations where trouble is possible. Keep fit regularly so that you can run/fight without huffing and tiring your heart (the docs with the many abbreviations after their names call it doing cardio-vascular exercise). Keep strategies in mind (uh – if the guy is coming to paw your bosom, it’s ok to kick him between his thighs, high enough to make him groan… That’s a strategy, could be a life-saving one, so don’t hesitate if your life is in danger. But don’t do it in play, for such a kick can inflict serious injury. Use only IF and WHEN in deep trouble.)

“The Look,” he stressed over and over again. “The Look in your eyes, must arrest a person. Get angry, focus that anger, it’s energy, concentrate it in your favour. And always, always, always, be alert.” Words my class took with them.

Am I glad I could introduce my class to Mahesh and his  work? At least twenty young Goan men and women are now aware of how stay safe. May the good force be with them.

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