Vasanth [ Black Belt ]
It has been 19 years since TSMA’s inception. So far we have had 4 batches of tough and tested black belts. Each batch was comprised of 3 individuals except the penultimate batch. As a student of TSMA myself I can vouch for the enormous amount of hard work and commitment that goes into the making of each of our black belts! I am very glad to observe that it is also becoming increasingly challenging to get one’s black belt going forward. I think this is because of our dynamic syllabus which keeps growing year on year. There are so many new techniques which have been thoughtfully integrated with the traditional lessons.
I have to emphasize on thoughtful integration because everything that we do from the most basic to the most advanced techniques are like the strokes of a brush in the making of a grand masterpiece. There is a logical reason for every single movement that we make in class. It all culminates beautifully in a black belt over many years. Like a beautifully conceptualized work of art, our instructor guides this transformation process exclusively for every prospective black belt. The abilities and core strengths of each student are very different.
As a beginner one will be challenged to step out of one’s comfort zone and develop a multi-dimensional perspective. As the pupil progresses he/she is taught to appreciate this diversity while reaching a state of mind capable of switching between them. For example, some of us are hot-headed and aggressive while others are calm and clearheaded in a fight. However, a black belt would have the cool head required to analyze the situation while being able to switch into rage mode when required. This dualism arises from something magical that happens at TSMA.
One need not spend too much time in TSMA to notice certain striking transformations in the personalities of our students over a period of few months itself. I am fortunate in that sense to have witnessed this metamorphosis in my own life and in the life of my friends. I have seen Vinod ever since he was a little kid. I have taught him as his senior and seen him grow into a responsible teenager making good choices in life. Today, he is a meritorious engineering student, a disciplined and self-driven individual and a good role model to his younger brother. He conducts the class when senior black belts are absent and teaches our students passionately. On the contrary, I have lost my sense of direction and responsibility multiple times as a teenager wandering in fool’s paradise, struggling to fall in line and grow up to be an adult. Interestingly this has always coincided with the long breaks I take from martial arts class.
Eventually, I realized the first thing and the best thing that someone wishing to change their life can do is to start working on their own body! “First come to class, everything else will fall into place on its own!” says Ashwin master. Ashwin Sir is a wise man and so are folks who say martial arts brings the mind, body, and soul together! Well, I can’t comment about the soul but I certainly believe martial art is somehow strongly connected to the mind. Whether this happens because of years of grueling, disciplined training of your body and muscles or is it just that people who are subconsciously in search of a higher sense of togetherness with nature and life naturally end up in this form of art? Perhaps, this is the reason martial art has been practiced by monks for many centuries. Even the Bhagavad Gita originates as a conversation between a couple of warriors! To me, martial art is more than just a sport. It is a tool to self-realization and a spiritual guide when one is lost in the obscurity of life.
GURU SRI SRI TAE - KWON – DO
Published: 21st February 2016 (4th Black Belt Ceremony)
Vasanth [ Black Belt ]
This the third article that I am writing for our yearbook. I don't know where to begin. I pick up a copy of the previous yearbook and start reading. Master Ashwin had written an article titled “Beyond Black Belt” in that yearbook. In the beginning of that article, he talks about his experience while and after churning out our first batch of black belts. One particular line caught my attention...Today, out of those three, one is in the audience and the other two are on the stage performing,"I smile and say to myself, “Sorry Sir, I'll make it up... (I did not perform this time).” I dedicate this article to you, Sir!
Like many others who have shared their experience, I too can vouch for what this art does to one's life and have written about my personal transformation in my previous two articles. This time I intend to do something different, a sort of fiction but something I am sure all Indians can connect with.
A characteristic feature of our school is its uncompromising standards. It is, therefore, customary to let a prospective student undergo a trial class. Now, imagine a trial class for our politicians. If martial arts has changed so many lives, will it not be interesting to explore what changes it can bring about in the lives of our politicians and eventually in the state of our country? Let me consider some of the important issues including corruption, poverty, obnoxious display of wealth, abuse of power exploitation and the like, that plague the Indian society today and find solutions to these problems one basic combat lesson taught in our class. I have chosen full contact free sparring session as the setting since that is something which most people without a background in martial arts will find easy to relate with.
Round 1: So our politician has entered the ring pompously and the bell rings.Rajith moves in quickly and lands a hard blow on our politician's face and artfully leaps back to take his guard. (Rajith, a black belt, is my buddy and sparring partner, the best companion I ever had when learning a new lesson.) The first blow instantly changes the world View of our politician. It is probably the first time in several years that he has experienced such raw, unadulterated fear! With the kind of absolute powers he enjoys (and often abuses) as a constitutional authority, this is a strange, forgotten feeling which knocks him down to the ground, both literally and figuratively. This dismantling of his power reminds him about another familiar but known as humility. He begins to understand that he is not omnipotent and gets an inkling of the importance of brotherhood and compassion to fellow beings.
Round 2: The fight gets more engrossing. Rajith continues to teach vital lessons to our politician; that emotions like fear, anger, and frustration will not help him one bit in the fight. I remember the time when master would hold my hand during sparring sessions and ask Rajith to punch me in the face. He Would ask me to keep my head straight and take the punch bluntly; “See that red glove, conquer your fear and anger. It won't kill you! Let go of yourself." Let go of myself? I would think what he means by that. And I soon realized that harboring emotions like anger, fear, even greed for that matter, in a fight is a performance inhibitor. One has to have a completely clear head and an open mind to defend oneself and to strike back at the opponent.
Round 3: Our politician gets to discover the secret of becoming a proficient fighter - the art of letting go and keeping his emotions out of the way. When Our politician does ‘let go’ he attains a state of selflessness which makes those erstwhile negative emotions and qualities seem trivial to him. He is now more inclined to achieve a state of flow in which he is really engaged with the opponent and gets passionately involved in the fight. Now imagine what would happen to our politicians when qualities like empathy and selflessness override motions like avarice and vengeance. They would become exemplary leaders driven by the stupendous passion for serving the community. Consequently, corruption, crime, and anarchy would only dwindle.
Round 4: Our politician seems to be bouncing back with his new found strength and character. Anyone who can last three rounds of sparring with a black belt and can fearlessly enter the fourth deserves respect and so we shall call our politician a true leader and deem him eligible to join The School of Martial Arts and learn advanced lessons. One of the most important things I learned as a senior is to improvise, think out of the box and apply it adroitly, Rajith is 4 years elder to me and all through our learning years, he was the taller one. His long hands and legs made it virtually impossible for me to penetrate his guard and land any blow accurately in our early sessions in sparring. This was very frustrating and disheartening in the beginning. But soon I started faking certain hand and body movements such as moving in a certain direction to trick the opponent into thinking that I am going to attack in a particular manner and then breaking the attack midway in order to land my jabs in an unexpected way. Such intelligence and shrewdness bring a certain level of excitement and novelty to the sport. However, this sort of strategy is bound by certain rules. For example, attacking the groin, poking the eye and the like is prohibited. We play fair. If our leaders think out of the box and adopt novel yet legitimate approaches to resolve critical issues we would then be looking at a new phase in independent India which has eluded us all these years.
There is one thing which I intentionally did not mention all this while. At the start of each round, the opponents bow to each other. It is a mark of the mutual respect that they have for each other. In a way, it is a practice that is not easy to comprehend fully. To some, it may even seem funny that the opponents first demonstrate respect for each other and in a trice indulge in a bloody, ruthless duel. But it is actually a sacred act which states, "As a fighter it is my duty to fight, not to hurt anyone but to glorify my style and exchange skills with you. I respect and accept you as a worthy opponent and ask you for the same." In the same vein if our leaders learnt to respect each other and propagate this tradition of harmonious exchange of knowledge and virtuous practices, ours will be a forward thinking society in which all parties respect one another, compete in a healthy manner and rally together for a national cause, and this will be the ultimate driving force for any leader; not money, not power but that mutual respect and healthy competition that they have with the other parties while striving to propel our country forward on the path of excellence. Martial arts indeed a veritable philosophy with an inconceivable power to not just Change lives but to heal the world!
HEAL THE WORLD
Published: 24th February 2013 (3rd Black Belt Ceremony)
It was in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where I first got acquainted with martial arts. I was just six years old then and was quite plump. I decided to lose weight and hence enrolled myself in a local Karate class. And I started practicing this art. As time passed by, I became more passionate about martial arts. I relocated to Bangalore in 2001 and started my training in “The School of Martial Arts.” And it became a turning point in my life. This art has taught me superb values and has changed my outlook completely. This class has taught me not only to become tough but also to become independent.
A strong and healthy body means a strong mind. I have improved a lot mentally as well as physically. My ability to concentrate has also increased tremendously. Our martial arts class is comprised of a highly heterogeneous group of students with regard to age, religion, and language. All of us mingle well and are like one big family. The class has thus made me more sociable and has enhanced my interpersonal skills. Martial arts is not just doing what your instructor says, but it is about being enthusiastic and participating in theory classes to which we have now and then. I have also learned to volunteer and participate in many activities in school. One thing I realized after joining this class is that it is not to be taken easily. Once you have committed yourself there is no looking back. I have learned to challenge the limits. You have to put every ounce of energy left in you till you get the technique right. “Finish the kick and then die.” That’s our instructor’s refrain!
I have seen people faint, get dehydrated, sprain their muscles and even fracture their bones in our class. This is not to scare you but to give you a better understanding of what I mean when I say challenging the limits. In this class, you will be trained to become tougher than you thought you could be. The last four months of training just before I got my black belt was grueling. Nevertheless, with the constant support and encouragement of the significant others in my life, I was able to make it. This article will be incomplete without my thanking these people. Firstly, I would like to thank my mother. Without her support, it would have been impossible for me to accomplish this feat. She has helped me manage my school as well as the martial arts classes. She is in fact more committed than I am to this class. Next is a person for whom I have great respect, a person who is more of a friend than a teacher – my instructor Mr.Ashwin Naidu. He has constantly supported me and has passed on all his learning to me. He has always encouraged us and his teachings will always stay with me. I thank my father for being my motivator. He introduced me to this class and that would be the greatest gift any father can give his son. Last but not the least I thank my training partner Ranjith who is like a brother to me. He has constantly been helping, advising and correcting me whenever I made mistakes. It will be an endless list if I were to mention the names of all those who have helped me achieve this distinction. Suffice it to say that these people have played a significant role in my becoming a black belt and they deserve much credit in seeing this dream fulfilled.