Safety in Your Own Hands
It was a journey that she had taken countless times before. Most evenings Sophia Dupansil would walk from her office in Kota Kinabalu city centre towards the bus stop. The 15-minute walk would take her past rows of busy shophouses, several shopping malls and through an overhead pedestrian bridge before arriving at the bus stop.
She would leave the office by 5.10pm to ensure that there it was still light outside and that she would be surrounded by the rush-hour crowd. The walk was always very public and surrounded by people.
One day in January this year, however, two teenagers cornered her at knife-point at the overhead pedestrian bridge. Frozen with shock, Dupansil could only watch as one of the boys grabbed her handbag while the other touched her buttocks.
It was only after it happened that she screamed for help. “No one dared come to help me because they were so scared of the boys. I felt so vulnerable and angry for not responding instantly,” says Dupansil. “Enough was enough, so I took up karate again.”
According to police statistics released by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) last year, the crime rate between January to June 2013 was lower than what it was the year before.
While 2012 saw 76,247 reported cases of indexed crime, the figures dropped by 2,120 to 74,127 reported cases between January to June 2013. However, the bad news is that the number of violent crimes – including murders and robberies with firearms – increased from 14,811 to 15,098 over the same period.
In your own hands
When confronted by a stressful situation, a fight-or-flight response is triggered within our bodies. Dupansil’s response was one of ‘flight’ as her body’s first instinct was not to fight back but to protect itself by running away from the threat.
However, one can train the body to respond in a way that is best for the situation at hand, says Kinabalu Fighters Martial Arts and Fitness Centre owner and coach Johan Julian Lee. “Self-defence methods won’t protect you 100 per cent of the time, such as during attacks in groups or with weapons. In these cases it would be wiser to submit than to risk injury.”
In unarmed cases, Lee advises that “at least with some basic knowledge, you may be able to stun your attacker momentarily to buy enough time to get out and find help. It is always better to have learnt it and not need to use it, than to need it and not have learnt it.”
Women may be portrayed as the weaker sex and more vulnerable to criminal attacks. However Lee is adamant that both men and women of all ages should take up self-defence classes, “because crime happens to anyone, not just women,” he emphasises.
One can choose to learn self-defence by picking up a specific martial art or attend a specially designed self-defence class. Today, there is an abundance of martial arts classes available to the public, such as Karate, Taekwondo, Ju Jitsu, Muay Thai, Tai Chi and Silat.
“In my personal opinion, learning Brazillian Jujitsu is a good start. It is a martial art that teaches you how to use techniques to overcome a strong assailant, regardless of your size. You can also pick up some basic Muay Thai to utilise elbows, knees and basic striking,” advises Lee.
He also says children can start learning a martial art from as young as five years old; for the rest of us, it is never too late to learn how to fight. “Older folks or new learners should pick up useful techniques that do not require too much strength. Learn about leverage, pressure points and how to use normal items such as umbrellas, keys and a pen as weapons. Everyone can learn something,” he affirms.
Learning a martial arts or self-defence class also has other plus points such as the cultivation of discipline and self-awareness. You’ll need to maintain a certain level of fitness to execute the moves quickly and you’ll also develop mental strength in preparation for any challenges.
Dupansil is now a brown-belt holder in karate and is also contemplating learning kickboxing. “When you’ve been attacked before, you feel so victimised and vulnerable. I tried kickboxing recently and loved it. I am fitter and stronger and emotionally feel that I can handle any attacker if I should ever find myself in that situation again,” she says.
Kinabalu Fighters Martial Arts and Fitness centre owner and coach Johan Julian Lee shares pointers on what to do should you find yourself up against an unarmed attacker.
- Quickly find something you have on hand such as keys or an umbrella. Grip it firmly inside your fist.
- Aim the object you’re holding at the weakest parts of the attacker – eyes, throat, below the jaw, groin, armpits and ribs – and strike.
- Do whatever you can to attack such as bite, claw, scratch or even head-butt.
Many gyms in Malaysia have specially designed exercise classes that combine elements from different types of martial arts. Some non-governmental organisations and corporations also hold public self-defence workshops.
Karate and taekwondo are two martial arts that have long been in Malaysia and are often offered as part of the extra-curricular activities in schools. Other popular martial arts such as Ju Jitsu, Muay Thai and Wing Chun Kung Fu are widely available, while Krav Maga has recently been gaining traction, locally.
Origins: Though it was first seen in Okinawa, Japan, karate’s first roots can be traced back to Buddhist practices in India
Pros: Powerful strikes, focus on developing moves in both defence and offence
Cons: Limited motions, can be too technical
Origins: Korea in the 1950s, following the Korean War.
Pros: Utilising speed and power, this martial art combines techniques for both combat and self-defence.
Cons: As with karate, it has limited motions, can be technical and training often gears participants for sporting competitions.
Origins: Muay Thai is widely believed to originate from Thailand but some modern scholars claim it may have come from China. An alternative to Muay Thai is kickboxing, which concentrates on punches, kicks and knee movements.
Pros: Offers good cardio training with a focus on developing speed and power.
Cons: Can be technical and hard on the joints for older people or people with prior injuries.
Origins: Mitsyo Maeda, a famous Judo fighter from Japan was sent to teach this martial art in the United States. Eventually, he settled in Brazil and opened an academy to teach Ju Jitsu, a combination of Judo and the different techniques he had honed.
Pros: A realistic and street effective method of fighting which includes training in cardio, speed and power.
Cons: Some coaches may focus too much on techniques meant for sporting competitions.
Origins: Developed by the Israeli army as a martial arts and self-defence system.
Pros: By developing cardio-vascular ability, speed, range of techniques and power, Krav Maga is a very effective and practical method of fighting.
Cons: Relatively new in Malaysia with very few places teaching it. Very intense and high impact.
Here are some gyms and classes where anyone can learn the basics of self-defence:
Global Elite Gym (Muay Thai and Taekwondo)
Lot 5-2-12, Jalan 3/109F, Danau Business Center,
Taman Danau Desa, 58100, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: Master Barbod (012- 604 0890)
YMCA KL (Aikido, Karate, Judo and Kickboxing)
YMCA Kuala Lumpur,
95, Jalan Padang Belia,
50470 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 – 2274 1439
Malaysia International Ving Chun Kung Fu Federation (Wing Chun Kung Fu)
10-2 (2nd floor), Jalan 28/70A,
Desa Sri Hartamas,
50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel / Fax: 03- 2300 2696
MuayFit Mixed Martial Arts Studio (Krav Maga and Muay Thai)
C-27-06, 3 Two Square,
2, Jalan 19/1, Petaling Jaya.
Tel: 03 -7960 2110/2389
Traditional Taekwondo Academy (Taekwondo)
11 Jalan 19/29,
46300 Petaling Jaya.
Tel: 03-7958 7590
Penang Aikido Dojo (Aikido)
Taman Sri Nibong Residents’ Association
Jalan Bukit Kecil Dua,
Taman Sri Nibong,
11900 Bayan Lepas, Penang.
Tel: J.M Pang 016-433 8666
Jiu Jitsu Penang Island Club (Ju Jitsu)
5 Barnett Road,
Tel: Master Yugaraja (016-427 9415)
Kinabalu Fighters Martial Arts and Fitness Centre (Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Karate, Ju Jitsu and Taekwondo)
No. 7-2, 2nd Floor, Block F,
Lorong Lintas Plaza 4, Lintas Plaza,
88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Tel: Julian (016-831 1440)