HONG KONG - Before protests erupted across her Hong Kong hometown five months ago, 31-year-old Pino was a dancer, taking various types of evening classes for years, from jazz to hip-hop and pole.
Now, the slight IT worker, who wanted to be identified only by her first name, is learning to fight.
“I stopped dancing, I’m fighting now,” she said.
Once a week, Pino joins a self-defense class where instructors give lessons on how to fight police, evade arrest, and navigate the unrest on the streets of the Asian financial hub. Lessons sometimes incorporate videos of real protest clashes.
These classes are one of several that have sprung up in recent months, say protesters, pitched at demonstrators and others concerned about getting caught in the chaos.
The rallies have been marred by violence, which flares mostly during weekends, with demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails, destroying shops seen as pro-Beijing, vandalizing train stations and engaging in running battles with police.
“Not only the frontliners or the youngsters, we all need to learn these skills to protect ourselves,” said William Cheung, the organizer of one self-defense class held regularly at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.