September 26, 2019
Women in large numbers learning martial arts for self-defence, is quite the norm now. And the number of centres and academies that dot Coimbatore city is proof of that. But instructors say women are learning martial arts for other reasons too.
S Bhaskaran, karate expert and founder of the Kyokushin Karate Dojos Academy at Peelamedu tells The Covai Post, “This form of karate is the strongest and oldest followed by about 95 per cent of people globally. It is this form which has been admitted to the 2020 Olympics. Currently around 60 women are learning here at our centre. They like to learn karate, because it is exercise for both body and mind. We teach the knockout system, which means knocking out the opponent within two minutes. As it is entirely physical, ladies can become strong and courageous. Karate’s discipline will help them face life’s challenges. Nobody has physical fights everyday but that ability should be there. Karate exercises the body and mind.”
Bhaskaran has trained around 12,000 students since starting the academy in 1989. “Seven of my students have their own coaching centres, while Priya Ranjan, a national karate champion, is from our academy,” says Bhaskaran.
S Paul Vikraman, owner of the Alan Tilak Karate School at PN Palayam, says, “We have trained many women since 1986, like school and college students, married women and office goers. We also conduct classes in 300 schools. Actually the word karate means ‘empty hand’. So no armour should be used; instead the body is honed like a weapon. But nowadays we teach sports karate, where students use protective gear along with the traditional costume. However, we see more north Indian and Kerala women who are very enthusiastic about learning karate. Even older women come here, but Tamil Nadu women tend to stop learning karate after school and don’t join our classes later.”
He adds, “Women learn karate for discipline. The guru-shishya tradition is very prominent in this form of martial art. A student will never forget his teacher or Sensei and always respects him/her. Also, karate is the only martial art with graded ranks of eight belts. Many women black belts have qualified here.”
Another popular martial art is the traditional weapon-based Silambattam which teaches combat with bamboo sticks.
M Tholkapian of the four-year-old Tholkalai Silambam School at GN Mills, tells The Covai Post, “We have about 40 women here, the youngest is around five years old. They learn this art for boldness, physical fitness and mental agility. This 2000-year-old martial art form combines many exercises like yoga and aerobics among others. It is a continual form of learning and practicing, I am 26 and still learning just like my guru who is 89. This is because silambam has many techniques. Our women students are doctors, home-makers, retired school principals and more. We are doing this in a research-oriented way, because silambam has no syllabi or time frame for graduation.”
A parent of a karate student says, “These art forms shape children’s character, since most schools have stopped moral science classes. Martial arts help instill discipline and respect for elders.”