“Karate, to me, is my confidence. My association with karate began very late, in 2002. I was into my late 20s and had given birth to two boys when I decided to learn karate. I had gained weight and started out on karate to trim down and stay fit. It, of course, helped that I lived with a karate master. My husband Manoj has been teaching karate since 1986.
I remember being petrified the first time I saw people performing karate. I had gone to Manoj’s class and I couldn’t bear to see the kids in action. I remember covering my face with a magazine. But that changed gradually as karate increasingly dominated our conversations at home and I became familiar with its terminology.
Yet starting out at the age of 26-27 was a challenge. Primarily, I had to deal with a lot of aches and pains. I began by going for a jog daily and practising for a couple of days a week. As is the norm, I began by making myself physically strong doing a lot of stretching exercises and gradually moved to martial art – the punches, kicks and blocks.
For me, learning karate is much like school education. You begin with kindergarten and as you gradually move up the grades, your ambition becomes clear. I too slowly moved through the various belts – white, yellow, orange, green, purple, brown and eventually the black belt. Getting the black belt – one and two - was proving a point to myself. It was my first achievement and for days I did not want to keep the belt down. I still remember the test I had to clear in Jharkhand to get the black belt from the All India Karate Federation. I had to exhibit an array of kata – combinations of fighting techniques - and I was the only woman in the group.
Soon after I started learning karate, I changed as a person. I may not be very aware of the change myself, but those around me harp on it. I used to be extremely introverted and shy and the change has been a shock to my parents and people in my town – Beypore. I grew up in a household where karate didn’t figure. Rather, I learnt folk dance. Today, I drive a 350 cc Royal Enfield and take classes at various branches of our institution – Chinese kempo karate kick boxing school. I am also a karate instructor at a few schools in the city.
The first thing I often tell my students is they are lucky to get an opportunity to learn this martial art at a young age. Though the number of girls wanting to learn it is growing, I think it is still less.
But I have seen the pronounced change that happen in their body language once they start learning. They appear more confident and the girls tell me that nobody messes with them now. I have seen a few women, who are touching 40, trying out karate. They are primarily driven by the desire to be fit, but the fact that karate helps in self defence is a bonus.
When I am taking class, I spend a lot of time motivating the students. Karate is a confidence booster—mentally, physically and spiritually. We recently gave a 15-day workshop in self-defence at the government school at Edavapara, our first assignment for a government institution.
I begin my day at 5 a.m. Mostly, I work-out in the gym for an hour and a half. From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., I am at the various schools where I teach. Evenings, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., classes are on at our institution. It would be 10 p.m. by the time we get back home. But it helps that we have raised our boys to be extremely independent. Whenever we are out, they manage the house, be it their food or getting ready for school.”
(A column on the men and women who make Kozhikode what it is.)