Stories of violence against women and girls have been dominating the news feed these days and it makes one wonder and fear for the safety of women in our country. While many civil branches and private institutions are taking various steps to improve women’s safety, one Mangaluru institution has been proactive in arming their female wards with the necessary skills to defend themselves. Andrea Noronha has more.
While most schools begin their day with classes, Canara High School CBSE in Dongerkery begins its day by preparing girls of classes four to seven, to be strong young women fully capable of defending themselves with a spirited “Hyah!”
Canara High School is well known for implementing innovative programmes to ensure the safety of its students as well as ensure that they have a holistic development. Among the plethora of innovative initiatives, the one that stands out is the compulsory karate classes being given to girls from classes four to seven.
Three years ago, the principal of Canara High School, Ms Joy J Rai, in consultation with the staff and management decided to introduce compulsory karate classes for the young girls in the school as part of the curriculum. When asked about why they decided to take up such an initiative, she said, “We saw the growing safety issue for girls and decided to empower them and teach them some basic defence. The management was very much in favour of this initiative and so we went ahead and started the classes. It has been running successfully for the last three years.”
While the school does not have an in-house karate instructor, they rely on the services of Mr Shine Kumar from the Institute of Karate and Allied Arts, and Divya K S, who assists him with the classes. Together, they also teach regular karate classes at the school after regular class hours.
The karate classes are held between 8.15 am and 9 am on four days of the week- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Karate classes are compulsory for girls of classes four to seven once a week. Each class (consisting of three sections) is assigned one and each batch contains 55 to 60 students.
When asked if the compulsory karate classes came at an extra cost to the students, Principal Joy explained that the school’s management pays for these classes.
“The principal wanted the girls to learn self-defence. The management also gave importance to karate for the girl students,” Mr Shine told KarnatakaToday. He also opined that karate and self-defence should be taught in all schools, especially for girls. Even the state government has mandated that girls be taught self-defence as part of the curriculum in all government and aided schools in the state, he informed and added that the directive had not yet been implemented in all the government schools.
Watching these spry young girls perform various techniques, spar with each other and hearing them shout a thundering “Hyah” with every powerful thrust of their fists, it makes one feel better and maybe even a little bit intimidated. While the girls of class seven were more than happy to show off their techniques and strength, the little ones too took turns to spar and show that even though they are small, they are not helpless.
“Here we teach the girls that they are strong. We want them to think like boys. We want them to know that they are strong and not weak. These self-defence classes help build up confidence in the girls which will help them defend themselves in any situation,” the instructor said.
While karate in the morning is compulsory for girls of classes four to seven, they can also opt to attend the karate classes being taken after classes.
The boys of classes four to seven, though excluded from the compulsory karate classes, have to attend compulsory yoga and aerobics classes. The yoga and aerobics classes are compulsory for all boys and for girls of classes one to three and classes eight to ten.
These activities were introduced by the school to ensure that the children receive some form of physical activity. “The thing is that nowadays the children don’t have much physical activity or exercise because they all live in apartments,” the principal said.
When asked what the parents’ reaction was to the initiative, the principal said, “The parents are very happy and there has been a positive response from them. The students also enjoy the classes.” Mr Shine said that the parents of the students have been very appreciative and encouraging when it comes to the karate classes.
The compulsory karate training involves Kihon, which is the basic training where the students learn attack techniques such as punches, open hand strikes, kicks etc. They are also taught and made to practice blocking techniques. They are later taught a combination of attacks and blocks, to improve their power, balance and coordination.
There is, however, no promotional exam for the students in these karate classes. This means that they do not earn various coloured belts as they are only taught self-defence techniques, which is not all-encompassing. “The focus is on sparring techniques,” said Ms Divya K S. The promotional exams are held for students in the paid activity classes and the compulsory curriculum classes held for students of classes one to three.
Ruthvi and Nivedya are students of class seven, who have been undergoing compulsory karate training for the past few years and are also attending karate classes after school as a paid activity. Ruthvi is a blue belt (fifth level) while Nivedya is a yellow belt (second level). They both told Karnataka Today that they enjoyed the karate classes, both compulsory and voluntary. Although the two did not say much through words, the excitement on their faces spoke volumes.
Greeshma, a class eighth student and white belt (first level) holder, continues to attend the karate classes as a paid activity. She, like the others, enjoys the activity and looks forward to the classes.
One of the parents, under the condition of anonymity, said that she was quite happy with the initiative. “It is good for the youngsters for the purpose of self-defence and confidence building. The children need to be strong and ready for any situation,” she said.
She added that since the karate classes were being held during class hours and within the school premises, it was easier and more convenient. “We find it easy since we don’t have to take our daughter anywhere else for classes and it is during the class hours,” she said. Her daughter also attends the karate class as a paid activity.
About the teacher, she said, “The teacher is very good. His wife accompanies him as his assistant. They take good care of the children.”
When asked if she ever got a chance to sit-in during one of the training classes she said that since the classes are held during school hours, parents are not allowed to watch. “We can watch during the paid activity classes since it is after hours but, during school hours we are not allowed to go inside and watch.
“My daughter comes home after classes and tells us everything. We hear a lot of good things about the classes from her. She tells and demonstrates the new techniques she has learnt. She is really happy and enjoys the classes a lot,” she said.
Canara High School, Dongerkery has various unique programmes and initiatives that they have introduced for the benefit of their students. They include compulsory yoga and aerobics for all students, compulsory activities for students of classes 1 to 3 and bagless programme for classes 1 and 2.
It can be recalled that in 2017, the state government had decided to impart self-defence classes for girls of classes eighth and ninth in all government-run schools across the state for the academic year 2017-18. The rule was to be implemented in over 5,000 schools in the state. It was introduced as a pilot project with the aim to educate the girls in self-defence techniques and to help the adolescent girls attain physical fitness. The project was to be implemented in all Mandal Praja Parishad Upper Primary, Zilla Parishad High Schools, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, municipal, social and tribal welfare and model schools. Martial arts were to be taught as part of the school curriculum for two hours a week at these schools.
Rs. 5.15 crore was set aside for the project and five agencies were also identified to conduct theory and practical sessions and train the students as well as the trainers.
The author is a part of the www.newskarnataka.com journalistic team.