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Paving the Road to Fitness, The Martial Arts Way


A chance encounter one morning at the gym turned out to be a turning point in my fitness journey. An acquaintance at the gym, someone with whom I had never exchanged more than the usual pleasantries of “Good Morning” and “Have a nice day”, told me her kickboxing coach was starting Karate class for adults and asked if I would be interested in trying it out.

I thought it would be interesting to give it a shot. At the back of my mind, I was sure that I probably wouldn’t continue for more than a few months. The class was held early morning on weekends, which meant getting up by 5:30 am, letting go of being able to sleep in late.

Since I was regular at the gym and participated in a few marathons, I didn’t think much about the stamina that would be needed. The classes were intense, the first 15 mins of ‘warm-up’ were grueling and without any break. I would mentally kick myself for this self-inflicted punishment at 6:30 am on a Sunday. As the lessons progressed, I realized the various areas of improvement that I would have to work on if I wanted to keep moving up the belt levels – range of motion, higher endurance (in martial arts, a kumite round i.e. fight of even 2 minutes requires lot of energy), increased arm strength. Over time, with my Sensei’s guidance, all this improved. The classes became something I looked forward to and enjoyed even though it kept getting tougher as the belt level increased. You don’t use mats or gloves, which makes certain routines that much more intense.

Moving on from knee push-ups to full blown sets of knuckle push-ups, every progress required lot of commitment to keep going. Progress was gradual but slow. Punching bag practice sessions initially led to bruised and bloody knuckles, till the time the skin toughened enough not to break. Intense no-break sessions that moved up from 15 mins to last an entire 45 mins, trekking and running excursions, we did it all. The mental picture that one tends to come up with for martial arts is self- defense moves, but there is so much more to it than just that.  I credit martial arts in building my endurance, strength and increasing my range of motion. I wound up setting fitness goals for myself which I wouldn’t have even thought of otherwise. The ones I had set for myself at the gym were very different from the ones that Karate motivated me to pursue. I also wouldn’t have known that I would be able to push myself to such an extent and enjoy the process. The discipline it built in me is immense. This progression was over two years and I can map the entire progress from day 1 to where I am now. It has been a long yet immensely enjoyable journey. While the current epidemic has put a halt to physical classes, I make it a point to include as many of these as possible in my home workout.

I am glad for the chance meeting at the gym that day, for it has given me a new-found zeal and renewed my passion for fitness.

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