Justine Pillay, Lavanya Govender, Tammy Currin and Hao Tang at a jujitsu class at Faughts Gym in Greyville, Durban. Self-defence classes can make women feel more empowered, says Currin. Picture Leon Lestrade/ANA
Durban - More resilient and assured, as well as being able to do 20 quick push-ups as a warm-up.
That’s how Durban teenagers, Hao Tang, 16, Lavanya Govender, 16,  and Justine Pillay, 17, feel since they started jujitsu training at Faught’s Gym in Greyville.
With the 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Child Abuse under way, the three Grade 11 pupils said they would recommend self-defence classes to make a woman feel suitably empowered. 
During a training session yesterday under the watchful eye of instructor Tammy Currin the teens started with a warm-up, doing stretching, squats, sit-ups, push-ups and sprints followed by drills and techniques. Then they spar to practise their new skills in a safe and structured environment.  
They learn techniques such as how to block, to get out of a choke hold, as well as positions such as “rape escape” where they are taught to leverage the opponent’s strength to escape to safety.
“We started jujitsu classes in May and in the first session we could barely do five ladies' push-ups. Now we do 20 regular push-ups just during our warm-up routine. I started for the exercise but also knowing I was going to learn how to defend myself. It’s been exciting and fun and it has really given me confidence,” said Pillay. 

Tang said it had provided her with a “safety net, knowing in the back of my mind, I am able to help myself in a difficult situation”, while Govender said: “I am normally a very shy person, but now that I’ve learnt about my own strength and how to defend myself, I feel as if I’ve really grown.”
Currin, who is petite in size, said jujitsu was an ideal self-defence strategy for women because it was designed for a weaker person to be able to overpower a stronger opponent. 
She said self-defence involved awareness, staying calm and taking necessary action.
“We do drills on being in an unfortunate situation and staying calm under pressure. It’s a matter of survival and you want maximum impact with minimum effort. I teach the girls they have to be decisive about what they are doing, so they have to be confident in their ability. 
“Teaching them awareness, conflict avoidance and defence goes a long way to help them avoid dangerous situations. 
"There are many forms of self-defence but I’ve found jujitsu to be the most effective for women. It equips them with necessary skills and strength and drastically improves their self-confidence, as well as physical and mental strength and stamina. 
“My students are humble but confident in the skills they have learnt in the last few months. I am passionate about female empowerment and it is so important for women of all ages to learn how to defend themselves,” said Currin. 
She added that anybody regardless of weight, gender, strength or age can learn how to block and choke out an opponent, giving the target time to escape. Once  the target in a knife attack, she emphasised that confident body language could make a difference.
“A guy with a knife approached me in broad daylight, it was about 4pm. 
“I looked at him straight in the face and pushed him in the chest. He was so surprised, he dropped the knife and ran,” said Currin. 
The 16 Days of Activism started on November 25 and is an annual awareness campaign to end violence against women and children. 
This year the public is called on to support the #Don’t Look Away Campaign which helps survivors and organisations that work to build a future without violence. 
The Independent on Saturday