Ancient martial arts like Kung Fu and Kalaripayattu are slowly gaining popularity in Delhi, as they offer self-defence amidst the growing incidence of physical assault in the NCR
A group of students dressed in traditional Shaolin attire enters a room led by their Shifu (Master). Then they begin their grueling one-hour session of martial arts, where they learn the different techniques and skills of Kung Fu. This is not any scene from a Chinese martial arts movie, but a day in the Shaolin Temple present right in the heart of Noida.
“Shaolin Temple India was established in 2004 with an idea to spread authentic Shaolin Kung Fu in India,” says Megha Singh, spokesperson for the organisation. It was founded by Shifu Kanishka, who was the first Indian to train at the Shaolin Temple Abbott in China. “He was always passionate about Kung Fu, and he left his job in marketing to learn authentic Shaolin Kung Fu. Once he was back, he decided to open his own dojo (academy)”, says Singh.
Like the Shaolin Temple India, Delhi-NCR is home to more than 10 different types of Kung Fu schools, where people learn the authentic Chinese martial arts. However, it is not just merely a place where people learn just another extra-curricular activity. “To learn proper martial arts, you need discipline”, says Singh.
“Currently at STI students have the option of training in traditional Shaolin Kung Fu, for which classes run from 5-6 in the evening for kids and 6-7:30 for adults. In the morning we run combat classes for adults from 7 to 9 am”, she says. “Students get trained in a unique street survival and tactical combat system that is effective for self-defence. It is a blend of seven martial arts system that Shifu Kanishka majorly learnt in his martial journey in different countries and is called Shifu Kanishka combative”, adds Singh.
“We have around 300 students training at our academy”, says Singh. “When we started, awareness was much less but down the years, awareness and interest in the sport has grown by a quarter mile”, claims Singh.
However, it is not only the Chinese martial arts form of Kung Fu that has been growing in popularity. The ancient Indian martial art form of Kalaripayattu has seen a rapid increase in interest.
“Ours is the most ancient martial art in the world”, says Joseph, a trainer at the Kalari Kendra in Noida. “We opened our academy in 2006, but back then it was not that popular. Now its popularity is growing”, says Joseph, who came all the way from Kerala to impart his knowledge of the sport among the youth of North India.
“Kalaripayattu comprises of three stages. At the very first stage we tell our students the different postures and combat moves. Next, we move to dual combat, with a wooden weapon, and in the third stage we use swords and shields in combat, in addition to learning hand-to-hand combat”, says Joseph.
“The reason behind this popularity is obviously the rising awareness of people who learn a lot from the internet. Also, with the rise of action heroes trained in martial arts like Tiger Shroff and Vidyut Jammwal, and box office hits like Baaghi and Commando, which uses Kalaripayattu to a huge extent, people have become more aware and want to emulate their heroes”, says Joseph. He admits that many children below 15 years have started coming to train at his academy because they watched Baaghi and wanted to ‘fight like Tiger Shroff’.
Interestingly, both Megha and Joseph testify that a lot of girls have now taken up the sport. While almost half of the students at the Kalari Kendra are girls, women constitute more than 35% of the students at Shaolin Temple India. According to NCRB data, almost two out of five crimes against women in India happen in the Delhi-NCR region.
“Learning martial arts makes a woman stronger and she can easily defend herself against any harm that an attacker can cause to her. We impart special self-defence classes to them”, says Joseph.
“Learning martial arts not only teaches you how to defend yourself but it makes you aware of your surroundings. If you are aware of your surroundings, then dangerous scenarios can be avoided. It also teaches you how to remain calm in extreme situations that helps you to deal with dangers to a great extent. So learning martial arts for anyone can be of a great value”, concludes Megha Singh.