Mallika Sherawat learns kickboxing, Priyanka Chopra mastered the ‘gatkha’ form of martial arts, Akshay Kumar owes everything he is today to his training in taekwondo and karate. When our Bollywood actors revel in this for a disciplined life, closer home a number of young people are opting to learn martial arts.
Whilst earlier, the ratio of women to men learning karate was 10per cent to 90per cent, today camps and classes all over the city have a lot of women (45-50 per cent) opting to learn karate or kickboxing. Women feel vulnerable today when they work and travel late hours. Sumit Kumar, a hotel industry professional acquired a first dan in karate and specialised in aikedo and kickboxing. He has also been instrumental in teaching women learn self-defence techniques.
“I felt that people should learn to protect themselves without having any weapons on hand. It is mainly the art of using your opponent’s power and converting that against themselves. Female self-defence techniques are not only about fights but even a simple dupatta, hairpin, nailcutter, a ladies’ bag can be used through the martial art technique against the opponent.” Sumit feels that the increase in the number of women opting to learn only goes on to prove that martial arts is becoming an important tool for women to develop their inner self-confidence.
Agrees Amruta Trivedi who earned a black belt in karate at a very young age, “Karate has given me extremely high levels of focus in life. You never feel unsafe when you travel alone.”
With a number of martial art training centres coming up eveywhere, how does one determine the best quality? Says Prashant Mehta, a four-degree black belt in taekwondo from the World Taekwondo Federation Korea, “The teaching has to be scientific, your level of strengths and capacity has to be determined and checked by the teacher. The standard of discipline should be high.”
According to Mehta, “Taekwondo is a combination of leg techniques and one can understand the techniques well after you achieve those 3-4 levels. More than the black belt, it is achieving those levels that provide a mind-body bonding. It is the only other sport other than judo that is included in the Olympic games. Taekwondo is an art and one’s temperament, attitude and discipline matters a lot in the process of learning!”
Youngsters now look at martial arts to develop that killer instinct. Says Revanta Sarabhai, a dancer who has learnt the art of Kalaripayattu – a renowned Kerala based martial art dance form, “When you go down the pit filled with red clay and fight your opponent, you get thrill and pure joy. And it’s exciting to move those metal strip weapons in such a way that they don’t chop your own head off.” Sumit Kumar emphasises that it’s also about “identifying pressure points in the opponent’s body.”
Apart from self-defence, women follow ‘kickboxing’ to achieve that enviable body. As says Gita Patel, a kickboxing expert, “It’s a quick fat burner and burns 1000 calories per session. It combats depression and stress and the kicks and punches help in toning.”
With a number of schools making martial arts a part of the curriculum, it seems that martial arts is much more than just fitness. As Amruta Trivedi says, “it has the power to change your life.”