Survive the mean streets of Singapore with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

OK, so maybe there aren’t any real mean streets here, but assault still happens. A grope on the MRT. An alcohol-fueled showdown. Fortunately you don’t need to be able to pack much of a punch to take someone down, as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor Qin Yunquan showed us at a introductory training session at Kapap Academy. All you need to do, really, is to get your fingers in an attacker’s face (under the nose, chin, or browbone) and tilt his head backwards sharply. If you do it right, he’ll literally be floored before he knows what’s going on. Thank you, gravity.

Instructor Yunquan is fair, petite and bubbly—nothing like the bronzed lady bodybuilder we were expecting. She walked us through basic self-defence moves for a number of unsavoury situations, including street fights (where you’re standing face to face), sexual assaults (lying down) and someone getting too friendly at a bar (standing roughly side by side). Like the two-finger takedown, these don’t require much effort either. “Notice how I’m just chilling here,” she grinned during a demonstration, as her pseudo-opponent exhausted himself futilely trying to rain punches on her.

The biggest hurdle? Controlling the instinct to recoil. Lots of these self-defence moves require you to rush at him and try to get him in a bear-hug-like embrace, which are things you probably don’t want to do with someone who’s giving you bad vibes. But it’ll pay off, since punches are much feebler at such close range, plus you’ll get a chance to drag him down or put his limbs in a bind with your body weight.

Pro tip: for the ultimate unhappy ending, you’ll want to end up choking the attacker with the crook of your elbow and your chest. It’s the best way to subdue someone, says Yunquan, because not being able to breathe is terrifying regardless of whatever physical advantage he has. We think it’s likely he would have fled by then.

Self-defence classes (along with a host of other fun activities) are available on Kezaar, a social enterprise and Singapore’s marketplace for classes and workshops.