The wrong side of forty is usually when joints begin to creak and most people are cocooned in a comfort zone. It’s also when venting outrage over the ills of society becomes as compulsive as the triggers – that morning cuppa and the newspapers. Not to forget the peak period to rake in as much for the family and the future of children. For corporate executive S.Sreeam, none of this mattered.
The former Vice President – Marketing of K7, an anti virus software firm, inoculated himself with KravMaga fourteen years ago. At forty eight, he quit his lucrative corporate job to teach self defence full time, having trained at the International Krav Maga Federation, Israel and was certified to train the police, security personnel and civilians in this martial art.
Braving protests from his Home Ministry, with his wife Geetha, a senior Hindi Translator at Southern Railway, whose main grouse was the perceived evaporation of social status that a corporate job had entailed, that too with a child of marriageable age. “Who will marry a martial arts instructor’s daughter?” A refrain that probably meant a lighter wallet or a deterrence to possible suitors! The initial plan was to dabble in consultancy in the mornings and teach KravMaga in the evenings. Sreeram had been in touch with senior IPS officers J.K. Tripathy (the present Tamil Nadu Police Chief) and Sanjay Arora and was tasked with imparting KravMaga to police commandos.
Two crimes in 2012 that shook the collective conscience of society – the molestation of a school girl in Guwahati and the horrific gang rape and murder of Nirbhaya in New Delhi were eye-openers and made Sreeram shift his focus to empowering women. “In the last 7 years, I have imparted training in self defence to thirty thousand women in South India, through my Women Against Harassment & Rape (WAHR) initiative.”
What more than makes up for the glamour and stability of a corporate career is the satisfaction he derives from teaching civilians, especially women, basic self defence techniques. “The goal is not to harm but to be safe under any circumstances.” Part of the training includes using different objects – sharp, heavy, blinding or shields that are readily available anywhere, be it a restaurant or elevator or cab or subway.” Sreeram’s daughter Sreeja, a former Assistant Director with Gautam Menon, who had also trained with her dad, once had a real life encounter with a stalker at the Perungudi Railway Station that used to be quite desolate. Unfazed, she used a ballpoint pen to save herself from the aggressor.
A decade and a half after his baby steps in this martial art of street fighting, Sreeram finds himself engulfed in KravMaga that has also become a prefix to his name. With revenue streams flowing out of workshops for civilians and corporate entities, he earns more money than what his regular job paid. “I conduct programmes in about 70 companies in South India with the help of 7 instructors. Since 2012, I have held more than 400 workshops at all the leading IT companies, BPOs, Banks and Public Sector undertakings.” Today, the daughter is well settled in the Middle East. And his wife would proudly exclaim in chaste Hindi – ‘Shabash’!
To gauge the extent to which Sreeram had made self defence a movement in South India, you just need to glance through his engagements chart. Pro bono awareness workshops in association with NGOs like Concern India, Aid India, Banyan, Naam Foundation, Prajnya, apart from social organizations like Rotary and Inner wheel. Classes and Train the Trainer Modules are conducted for girls in schools and communities to stay safe and to also make a career out of teaching self defence, with tie-ups with Women Self Help Groups in Tiruvallur and Tirukazhukundram. Many colleges like VIT and schools like KRM, RMK & Sri Niketan have hemmed in Sreeram’s 20 hour program in their academic timetable. “The highlight was working along with an NGO Vajra to teach Self-defence as part of the syllabus in 4 Chennai Corporation schools – for 3000 girls.” Then there are Corporate CSR Programmes to teach girls from underprivileged backgrounds in cities and villages.
To ensure a cascading effect, Sreeram has trained police women in Chennai, Madurai and Coimbatore “to enable them to teach girl students of educational institutions in their areas. In 2018, along with the Madurai Police Commissioner Davidson Devasirvatham, I organised a month long programme for schools, colleges and police personnel creating basic response systems for women and child safety.” Another shot in the arm came through his clips on self defence on Vendhar TV spread over 40 days. “This pushed up enquiries from many small towns and villages. So now the focus is on creating Training the Trainer programmes in districts.”
When he isn’t training the Tamil Nadu Police Commando Force & Tamil Nadu Prison warders in Close Quarter Policing tactics, Sreeram also choreographs fight sequences for movies. Anurag Kashyap and Amala Paul signed him up for their recent Tamil films.
When Sreeram insists that “self defence is for all”, he means all age groups – kids to even senior citizens, with different levels of physical fitness. “Your own bones can be weapons”. This is a street fighting technique that aims to “change the power equation” in any situation. “A body builder with his 6 pack and well toned muscles can be rendered immobile with a small stone!” Like ‘Charlie’s Angels’, don’t mess with ‘Sreeram’s Fighters’. Because the lady next door may well be trained in KravMaga. Or as Jennifer Lopez, who battled domestic violence with martial arts, would say, “Enough.”
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Author, TV Political Analyst, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Executive Editor – NDTV)