Kicking career

many it is self defence, for some it is career, and yet for others a way to overcome competition in academics. Shazia Yousuf finds different reasons for girls to take up martial arts, once considered a male domain.  
Learning new techniques of kicking and punching, Kashmiri girls are all set to biff back unpleasant elements of society.
Self defence is a priority for girls and career a necessity. Martial art offers both. An alarming increase in crimes against women and the cutthroat competition in academic institutions have turned many school girls to the art.
Although most of the girls, ‘thankfully’ have had no opportunity to make practical use of the skill, they have a sense of security when moving out alone.
Martial art was once considered a male sport, but now girls can be seen taking up different martial art courses like Taekwondo, Judo, Karate, Kick-boxing, Thang ta, Wushu etc.
Many martial art training centres have come up in the past few years especially in inner city, “Girls living in these areas find it hard to go to Bakshi or Indoor stadium (main centre of learning) for practice, so they join these institutes, and those who have busy schedule prefer private institutes where they can be taught in their feasible time, particularly in morning and evening hours,” says Tanzeela who lives in Soura and learns martial art in a private institute.
Martial art is the training of body, spirit and mind. With the unity of mind and body comes self-defence and self-confidence. Besides it has an element of physical fitness.
With their frail bodies donned in oversized uniforms, a group of six girls are learning techniques of Thang-ta, a Manipuri martial art in their school, City Central Educational Institute at Khanyaar. Their target is to shine at the national championship they are going to participate in Rajasthan this month.
All these girls, no one above 12, want to learn it for self defence. Ask them what it means, they have different answers. “When boys irritate you can hit them,” Tansheema, an 8th class student says.
For Huzaifa, self defence is winning over your nervousness. Nousheeba says it is winning confidence of your parents. She wants to win gold medal for her father who is going to accompany her to national championship. “My mother said you will break your bones. It took me hard to convince my family especially my grandmother who is still angry with my father. Finally she agreed with the condition that papa will accompany me to Rajasthan,” Nowsheeba said.
The changing social and political scenario paved way for girls to learn various martial art techniques, as the families are now show flexibility in allowing their daughters to go for learning and even encourage them to take it as career.
Iqra Mushtaq of Zainakadal, a 12th standard Science student at Government Girls Higher Secondary School Nawakadal would play Sqay – traditional Kashmiri martial art introduced in the state during the ancient times by king Dharya Deva –  for fun till last month when she got selected for international championship at South Korea.“I would play for my own enjoyment even after playing two nationals and number of state and district level championships. But some months back when a girl Humaira from this school was selected for an international championship to Iran, I started taking it seriously and began to work harder. This month my hard work paid me and I too got change to perform in an international championship,” says Iqra who has started looking at the sport as her career.
Unlike Iqra many girls take up martial art as a tool to win over the competition in the academic world. Rizwaan Bashir, a 12th class Commerce student and a national player in Sqay with a gold medal wants to play internationals so that her aim of getting into MBA department of Kashmir University becomes a reality. “Getting admission in open merit has become extremely difficult. By having a certificate, I can apply in sports category so that I can have an edge over open merit candidates. When I told about this benefit to my parents, they admitted me in a private martial art institute as our school didn’t have the facility,” Rizwaan said.
With more and more women getting into work force, exploitation and harassment at workplaces has seen an increase. Experiencing harassment at public places is gruesome. Many times women are held equally responsible for the crimes committed against them. It may be her dress that is held responsible for provoking a man or being in a ‘wrong place at wrong time’. Most of the women prefer silence that has only encouraged the trouble makers.
Seerat Qayoom, a national gold medalist in Thang-ta remembers many instances when she had to use her skill to defend herself. “While travelling in a local bus I once gave a punch to a boy on his face. Embarrassed, he was made to get out of the bus with blood and saliva dipping from his face. Another time I saw a boy irritating a girl and he met the same fate, at a marriage ceremony I shoved a boy and made him roll down the stairs,” she recalls with a grin.
“Self defence can enable girls to maintain their dignity in presence of the loitering youth in the city. It is a tool of addressing the menace of eve teasing and obscene comments by offending roadside Romeos. One can ward off attack or a fear of attack by delinquent youth,” Seerat adds.
When men deliberately brush against women in crowded buses, most do not object due to lack of self confidence. It is believed that it is not a physical inability but a psychological block that hinders a woman to defend her self-dignity.
“The real strength lies in one’s head, in his or her psychology. When you are caught in such situation, it is your inner strength that takes decision. A small push can surprise an attacker because a man hardly expects any retaliation from girl,” says Iqbal, a woman martial art coach.
For Deeba, rising crimes against women is the reason for taking up martial art. “The place where murders like Asiya-Neelofar or Romana take place, you cannot leave yourself at the mercy of security and society. I know our limitations. I cannot beat a boy or soldier. But at least you get the strength of staring or saying something back when he makes any obscene comment,” says Deeba.
However, many friends of Deeba though willing to learn are not allowed by their parents. “The huge presence of soldiers inside Indoor stadium pulls many dreams backwards. On one hand the session here closes with the onset of winter, there is no infrastructure to continue practice in winters. Then there are many parents who are willing to train their daughters but feel uneasy to send them to a place which is occupied,” Deeba says.
Though a number of girls are stepping into the world of martial art, but to the disappointment of their trainers they are yet to come at par with their male counterparts. “Many boys and girls come for the heck of it. They just want themselves to be called martial art players,” says Farooq Ahmad, martial art coach.  “Sports council is doing its best, but the girls leave it half way,”
A player should be graduate and should have bagged three national medals, to become a coach. Not Kashmir girl qualifies so far.
“There are hardly few that play by technique without caring about medals and belts,” adds Farooq.
Some months back Seerat’s resisted her family’s plans to marry her. Tired of her stiff resistance they got her younger sister engaged. Today when family is busy in marriage preparations, Seerat spends most of her time in practicing Thang-ta at Indoor stadium. Eldest among four siblings, she spends half of her day in a local school where she works as a physical teacher; the rest of her time goes in practicing at indoor stadium.
Seerat is known to her coaches for her flawless techniques, “I have been teaching her from last nine years. Though luck didn’t favour her much and she missed many nationals because of some domestic problems, she is the most brilliant at techniques” says her coach Iqbal.
Nine years of hard work hasn’t bore much. Seerat has just one gold medal in her credit which she won in 2006 in a national championship at Goa. “This game completely transformed me. I lost my weight, my color darkened. I don’t wear sandals or any jewelry. I always look different in crowd. Though it didn’t give me much but I never played it for its benefits. This was my passion,” she says while picking a photograph from the stacks. The photograph shows Seerat breaking burning marbles on August 15, 2006 at Bakshi Stadium during Independence Day celebrations.
Unlike Seerat, her friends, Zahida and Anjum were benefited from the art. Zahida works in a government department while Anjum is doing her LLb at Kashmir University, both of them selected under sports category.
Benefited or not, thousands of girls could be seen learning martial art both for the outer world and for inner self.
Keeping wolves at bay and guarding their femininity with a fist of fury.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here