Self-defence, new buzzword for women

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The day begins at 6.15 am for 69-year old Sanat Bhate, a former Merchant Navy officer, as a group of women, old citizens and some young men gather in his building's parking lot. Some sleepy, some yawning; but they stand stiff as soon as Bhate walks in. They all gather in a formation and start practising self-defence moves, something that Bhate know the best and has been teaching free to residents in and around Prabhat Road for as many as 12 years now.

With rise in incidents of rape, molestation and assault, girls and women are looking for people to help them with basic physical training. Working professional Anuradha Jadhav has been attending the self-defence classes at Bhate's. She knew how to defend herself in theory only, but it was only when she had gone for a picnic on the outskirts of the city, that she learnt how powerful she really was. "I was there with two other girls and a couple of boys started teasing us," she said. "I told them to back off, and they didn't listen. So I slapped the guy with all my might. I could literally see the effect on him," she said, adding that the boys immediately fled after the incident.

Bhate, with his greying hair and fit physique, has been practising martial arts for the last 23 years and now after retiring he has been conducting free self-defence classes. "Many women come to me for training. The first thing I teach them is not to be afraid of getting hurt and to give as good as they get," he said.

Bhate is proud of the skill that he imparts. "If one is alert, one can fight with such assurance that they can put down two, maybe three attackers. Everything around you can be used as a weapon for self-defence — even something as simple and common as a pen. If jabbed correctly, it can cause great harm," he said.

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