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Making way for `Desi' martial arts

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VIGOROUS Craving for recognition
VIGOROUS Craving for recognition

SILAMBAM's foray into global circuit due to the efforts of a local expert

Confidence is too simple a word to describe this young man. He is on a mission to bring Dravidian martial arts into the limelight."It's `Desi' and our duty is to popularise it the world over. Time has come to give this art its real worth," says Shahul Hameed.Indeed, a big dream of a man who is just 30! With a couple of post graduate degrees under his belt, this young master in `Silambam' is currently doing Ph.D at Madura College. Also the director of a martial arts institute, Shahul owns a gym and has several bodybuilding titles to his credit. And now, with his digital video disc on `Silambam' ready for release, he is on cloud nine.

Childhood passion

"Initially, I had very less support from home. Everybody thought I was wasting my time. Academically I was an above average student. But, I didn't want to make a career based on my studies. Sports attracted me from childhood. At the age of 10, my father introduced me to weight training to increase my strength levels and to be able to fare better in sports and improve my overall health. He was very good at `Silambam', which I came to know only when I saw him practice one day. Ever since, I got hooked to it," recalls Shahul.At 17, he decided to pursue only Silambam and bodybuilding. For a young student like him, it was a bold decision to choose martial arts and open an institute. His determination convinced his parents and his early achievements were too good to take him for anything ordinary.Shahul perfected his Silambam skills from several masters. "Each one had something new to teach me," he notes humbly."After some years, I found myself familiar with a wide range of techniques and professional details and decided to start my institute. With formal education providing strong support, I am able to communicate with foreign tourists about this form of martial arts," he says, revealing that he has several students from abroad who get trained under his careful guidance every day." History says that the British were scared of `Silambam' and had left no stone unturned in keeping it in the dark during the pre-Independence era. They had imprisoned several masters, as British were afraid that Silambam skills would be used as a weapon against the English regime. But now, it is being watched in awe by the Americans and the British."Edward L. Powe from the U.S. calls it `Black Martial Arts' and has written a book about it," informs a well-read Shahul.On why did he choose a sport not so popular, he replies without a blink: "It is popular in South India but its reach has been curtailed by politics. Problems in the `Silambam Kazhagam' have ruined its prospects. During the 1994 South Asian Federation Games in Chennai, the first ever `demo' of Silambam was staged on a grand scale. But mismanagement of funds and other controversial issues led to Silambam's quick exit from international glory."Shahul says that though Silambam shows are conducted periodically, they are not properly organised. Not many know the techniques either.

Sidelined

"There are only a few who really know what they are talking about, and quite often they are sidelined or they themselves stay away from the scene to avoid a showdown," he rues."My ambition is to present undiluted forms of Silambam to the world audience and eventually take it to the Olympics. My DVD is the first step in that direction," Shahul exudes optimism. This young man has several faces - bodybuilder, Madurai bodybuilding association member, gym owner and Silambam master. Interestingly, all of them get equal attention. Achievement, he says, has come only after a lot of sacrifices. "I have spent a lot of money, time and energy on my DVD. It is not just for glory. Money and fame can easily be earned. Ambition and ideals keep me going. Popularising home-grown martial arts is what I have chosen," he says with absolutely no regrets.

C. LAKSHMI KUMAR

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