MARTIAL arts teacher Davanand Samaroo is giving women a fighting chance to protect themselves against acts of violence and at the same time get men to change the way they view women.
Samaroo has partnered with the Rotary Club of Penal to teach women how to defend themselves should they encounter a position of vulnerability.
His motivation was sparked by the death of Andrea Bharrat – an incident which brought to the fore an awareness of gender-based violence unlike any this country has ever witnessed.
This incident also pushed husband and wife Shawn and Miriam Boyce to do something thing to reduce the helplessness women feel and replace it with self-confidence.
As members of the Rotary Club of Penal the couple opted for some kind of self-defence training for women for them to avoid falling prey to unprovoked attacks of violence – domestic and outside of the home.
Rotary is an international service organisation which assists in the promotion of goodwill and peace through humanitarian efforts to those in need.
In mid-March, the club partnered with Samaroo to teach women how to defend themselves should they encounter a situation in which they became vulnerable.
In an interview Miriam recalled, “Honestly, we were thinking one night about all the crime being committed against women and because we knew about the well-respected professor of martial arts we approached him to do a workshop. Before my husband could even finish putting the proposal to him, he said yes.”
Miriam said not only did Samaroo agree to do the workshop over six weeks at his Kung Fu School of Martial Arts on Coffee Street, San Fernando, but committed to doing three separate classes on Tuesdays at no cost to the participants or the club.
She said the course was designed for women 18 and upwards but the response has been overwhelming, with women from varying backgrounds and over 60 taking advantage of the classes.
Speaking to the Newsday about the initiative, Samaroo observed the “unfortunate times in which we are living when women are so susceptible to violence.”
These kinds of overtures are nothing new to Samaroo, who explained he is constantly approached to help the community.
“Whether it is to conduct a self-defence class, or a Tai Chi class, to give a show, do a demonstration, talk to kids, whatever I could do to motivate.
“In this particular situation, with so much gender-based violence against women, I was motivated to get involved.
“We need to change our mindset, especially men in TT need to change, or help other men change the way they view women.
“The older folks need to motivate the younger men by setting an example. This kind of violence dished out to women is not nice, not a good example for younger men to emulate.”
He said the course he has designed not only teaches women to physically defend themselves, but to bring about an awareness of their surroundings and boost their confidence.
“We are not teaching women to go out there and look for despicable men and beat them up. It’s not like that. We are educating them.
“Education has a lot to do with being mindful of where you are, the people around you, the places you go.
“Sometimes women walk on the streets with their phones in their hands, paying little or no attention to what is going on around them or noticing people who may be marking them.”
For this reason, in addition to defence mechanisms, participants have been taught awareness, confidence and observation of those who may be looking for soft targets, to avoid drawing attention to themselves or becoming the next victim.
Samaroo said apart from the Rotary training programme, there is now a demand for self-defence classes, with women making up approximately 95 per cent of the participants.
In addition to using it as a keep-fit programme Samaroo said, “These women feel vulnerable.
“People are worried about their safety, so they are preparing themselves for something that may never happen. But it is better to have the training and not need it than to need it and not have it.”