Moved by 'bus incident', Kashmir engineering grad sets up self-defence academy for girls

The lack of confidence to resist inspired Fazal, a 24-year-old aspiring Mechanical Engineering graduate from Baghi Mehtab area of uptown Srinagar, to set up the first of its kind self defence academy in Kashmir for girls/ GK Photo

While travelling on an overloaded public transport bus one day, a young engineering graduate Saud Fazal was pained to see a girl disembark the vehicle after she was sexually harassed by a man. Fazal also got down from the bus and asked the girl why she did not resist the assault on her dignity.

The young woman, already annoyed too much, vented out her frustration on Fazal instead. And the latter had heard from one of his friends that a girl had indeed resisted a similar assault on a bus once, but was scolded on the contrary by fellow passengers for “defaming” the man.

The lack of confidence to resist inspired Fazal, a 24-year-old aspiring Mechanical Engineering graduate from Baghi Mehtab area of uptown Srinagar, to set up the first of its kind self defence academy in Kashmir for girls.

The academy named ‘Yin Yang’ is located at Chanpora and also offers training in Kudo Mixed Martial Arts, a Japanese hybrid martial art and is affiliated with the Kudo Association of J&K, Fazal said.

While the training for Mixed Martial Arts as a sport is not something new in the valley, the particular course on defence for girls will help boost their self confidence for good, Fazal said.

“I think the self defence course will improve self-individuality (of girls). It being an individual sport, you work on self development, which helps you build self-confidence,” he explained in a chat with Greater Kashmir.

Fazal believes that women in Kashmir lack self confidence so much so that it affects their aptitude in any particular field and to excel in that.

“Living outside, I have seen how much girls are involved in extracurricular activities which boost their confidence. Kashmiri girls are intelligent, but lack self confidence. Most of them never look at themselves as individuals. Even if they’re capable of doing something, they don’t step up,” he said.

The young graduate, who has himself been a professional athlete and has trained in Karate at the National Institute of Martial Arts, New Delhi, offers at his academy three self defence courses – beginner, intermediate and advanced – as per the feasibility of girls aged five years and above.

Fazal said that after completing his engineering at Sharda last year and the simultaneous COVID-19 lockdown, he was forced to return to valley and moved to Handwara in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district to train in Kudo under Faisal Nazir,  state President J&K Kudo Association.

Fazal said he was a bit disheartened with the overall Kudo mixed martial arts scenario in Kashmir particularly in Srinagar.

“Youth in north Kashmir are participating in nationals in Kudo in a good number, but there is almost no one from Srinagar,” he said.

But more than the sport, Fazal is especially excited over the self defence course he started at the Chanpora academy in November last year. Fazal has roped in two trainers to impart self defence training to girls there, he said.

Although a relatively smaller number of girls turned up at the academy this bone chilling winter, Fazal hopes the imminent spring will swing the mood-both in terms of the recognition of the sport and break the gender stereotype in the process.

“My two sisters have been living in Kashmir. They tell me how things stand in the valley. That’s why the importance of the self defence course,” Fazal said.