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Instructor wants to arm masses with self-defence skills

Kapap Academy chief executive and co-founder Qin Yunquan, 28, wants to teach self-defence to the masses.

The 1.62m-tall instructor teaches a version of Kapap, a form of Israeli martial arts. Ms Qin's academy, which was founded in 2008 and has had about 8,000 students this year, has tweaked the original version to better suit real-life situations.

Called Modern Street Combatives, the academy's self-defence system teaches people to be street smart: to identify pre-attack body cues and avoid getting into conflicts in the first place. Students, including children, are taught to target "weak spots" - eyes, the groin and joints. The training programmes are free or subsidised for needy seniors and former victims of crimes such as rape and domestic violence. Counselling is also provided to victims pro bono.

"Once I started hearing stories of the victims, it pulled at my heartstrings. I didn't want to sit by and do nothing," said Ms Qin, who this year received the Queen's Young Leaders Award 2017, one of only 60 people from the Commonwealth to do so.

Her efforts to equip women with the confidence and skills to fend off attacks and undue attention are all the more significant in the light of the #metoo campaign, which urges women to come forward with their accounts of sexual harassment.

Ms Qin, who sometimes works as a bodyguard, learnt Kapap as a 19-year-old bioengineering student at the National University of Singapore. At the time, she was recovering from anorexia and weighed about 40kg. "As a teenager, I had a lot of self-esteem issues," she said. She was the only girl in the trim-and-fit club in school.

She said Kapap helped her regain confidence, and started training to be an instructor at 20. She often gives free talks at firms and schools.

Over the next five years, Kapap Academy hopes to license its programme to partners in India, Malaysia, China and Australia.

By collaborating with an Indian social enterprise, a version of Modern Street Combatives will be taught to underprivileged and rural girls in India for free. The aim is to help over 100,000 of them within five years.