Packing a punch: A 27-year-old is empowering women by teaching martial arts

Abhishek Yadav’s foundation Abhiself Protection Trust trains these girls under the "Meri Raksha, Mere Haathon Mein" programme
It’s around 9:00 pm in Delhi and you’re waiting for your cab on the side of the road. You share the cab details with family/friends. You notice two men on a bike coming towards you. Staring at your phone, you secretly hope they wouldn’t notice you and move on. But, they don’t. They slow down; look at you, pass comments and eve-tease, while you helplessly wait for it to pass because you don’t want to provoke them.

This is a scenario most women all over the world, especially in India, face on a daily basis -- the problem of eve-teasing and molestation. But 23-year-old Neha Singh does not have to tolerate this harassment anymore. “Passing lewd comments and teasing has become very common these days and there are no strict laws regarding them. Police also can’t take any immediate action in these cases. So, for self-defence and helping those around me I learnt aikido (a modern Japanese martial art) from Abhishek Yadav in 2014-15. It was both empowering and liberating for me.”

Singh, who has a full-time government job now, takes time off every year to volunteer at these training camps to teach young school-girls. “Learning how to defend myself and being able to teach others has made me more confident and my belief that the stereotype that women are weaker than men will be broken sooner than later,” she adds.

Jyoti Mala, a 25-year-old from Lucknow who just completed her BSc Nursing can’t help but smile as she remembers the one time she and her friends taught a lesson to a few boys from her college who were following and commenting on them at every chance they got. “We were taught a few easy but effective moves by Abhishek and let’s just say after we taught those boys a lesson; we never saw them around again.”

Abhishek Yadav holds a Limca World record for training 5,700 girls in self-defence techniques in Kunda, Pratapgarh, and Uttar Pradesh. This record was previously held by Delhi Police and the Delhi government when they trained over 5,000 girls in self-defence.

The 27-year-old is also the youngest achiever of Yash Bharti Award, the highest award given by the UP government for contribution in social work. His vision is to make women self-empowered by teaching them aikido and other martial art techniques for self-defence and road fights by setting up camps in various cities. These workshops last a week to 15 days.

“It started in 2007, as a camp to teach female police officers in Uttar Pradesh to take down guys without using weapons with basic and minimal power techniques. After the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case, I felt there was a need to teach young girls how to protect themselves,” Yadav recalls.

Yadav’s foundation Abhiself Protection Trust trains these girls under the "Meri Raksha, Mere Haathon Mein" programme. The foundation coaches girls free of cost and is all set to create the Guinness World Record by training 21,000 women from schools, colleges and police in Mumbai by December.

“In a country, where crimes against women are increasing rapidly, women must learn to fight back and not be victimised. I don’t want any female to be left out to deter potential attacks just because of their financial position,” Yadav added.

When asked about his future plans, he said he wants to set-up an academy in New Delhi and wants to keep on empowering more women both in the national capital and throughout the country. “What started as a means to get back and get even with fellow schoolmates is helping me bring about a change in the country and helping women raise voice against injustice.”

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