MAKING A DIFFERENCE Society

The Taekwondo Master and his many success stories

EMPOWERING WOMEN: Taekwondo Master Channa K. Nagaraj and his students. Photo: R. Ashok  

This happened some years ago. Upon entering a textiles shop in Madurai, Taekwondo Master Channa K.Nagaraj came across a couple staring at him intently. Soon the lady broke into a smile and the gentleman came forward and shook hands with him saying he was eager to meet him.

It turned out the lady was Nagaraj’s student from his first batch of 80 Taekwondo students whom he had trained in 1980 in V.V.Vanniaperumal College for Women, Viruddhunagar. But why did her husband want to meet the coach?

The story came out soon amidst laughter. A month after their marriage the couple had a fight and the husband apparently raised his hand to slap her. She immediately caught his hand, twisted it and pulled his hair using the self-defence techniques she had learnt in college and revealed to her husband that she was a black belt in taekwondo.

“Ever since I always wanted to meet you,” the husband told Nagaraj and also assured him that a similar situation had not arisen again!

Two of his girl students encountered a pick-pocket in a city bus in Chennai. They gave the thief couple of elbow attacks as the other passengers watched in disbelief. “My students fearlessly demonstrated the astonishing benefits of learning taekwondo!” says Nagaraj.

More than six lakh girls and still counting – is his record in training girls to gain self-respect and self-esteem, focus and confidence, self-control and self-defense.

“After 36 years of teaching martial arts to students from age five to fifty,” says Nagaraj, “I have seen my students not just embrace the physical aspect of the sport but also enhance their mental strength.”

Nagaraj started as a coach back in 1980 and has been silently imparting free training to girls in government schools and colleges. But it was the brutal gang rape of the 23-year-old girl in Delhi (the Nirbhaya case) in December 2012, he says, that resulted in a spurt in the number of girls wanting to learn self-help techniques in dealing with untoward incidents.

His own interest in the sport stemmed from his admiration for Bruce Lee. “I started learning karate as a child,” says Nagaraj, “and later attended weekend taekwondo classes in Trichy much against my parents’ wishes who wanted me to become a doctor.”

Nagaraj says he took upon the self-assigned task of teaching taekwondo to poor girls in rural areas and government institutions because he finds the sport to be a peaceful art. “When practised regularly, it teaches tremendous self-control and is best applied when in serious danger,” he adds. Though Madurai has produced 42 black belts, Nagaraj stands apart because he has coached almost half of them and now they have joined him as trainers for his various teaching programmes.

From his experience, Nagaraj says, the village children are fearless with lot of stamina but unfortunately do not have adequate facilities and proper equipment. He juggles his time and resources between his free classes and the students who pay to learn at his private centre in Thirunagar. “Every city school, private or government, should introduce martial arts in its curriculum as a compulsory subject,” he asserts.

In 2004, taekwondo was introduced as a school game in Madurai by the State Government. While Nagaraj has been teaching the government school students free of charge, with his dogged perseverance, so far he has been successful with a handful of private educational institutions. At present he is a part-time trainer with TVS group of schools, SBOA and Velammal School, Lady Doak, Meenakshi and Sermathai Vasan colleges which he visits on rotation basis. “In some places it is optional for the students, in some places the management has made it compulsory,” he notes.

Nagaraj has formulated an 18-steps movement schedule that can be completed in two years. But, he says, crucial to the success of any such teaching programme is the integrity and trustworthiness of the teacher. “It should be a fun learning experience and devoid of fierce competitiveness,” he adds.

Nagaraj has the distinction of conducting regular workshops and camps for women’s battalion of NCC and NSS. But his best moments were with groups of physically and visually challenged girl students whom he trained in taekwondo self-defence grab techniques and his efforts were time and again acknowledged by the Collectors of Madurai.

For the past 11 years (2004 to 2015), he has been unfailingly receiving the Appreciation Certificate from the Chief Educational Officer and District Inspector of Physical Education for training the girls in taekwondo and empowering them.

Of late his students have started participating in international championships and have returned home with medals. “I want my best ones to participate and return winners from Asian Games and the Olympics,” says Nagaraj.

(Making a difference is a fortnightly column about ordinary people and events that leave an extraordinary impact on us. E-mail soma.basu@thehindu.co.in to tell her about someone you know who is making a difference)


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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 9:54:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/the-taekwondo-master-and-his-many-success-stories/article8331440.ece

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