• Padmja Sopori

Mr. Break Bones

When people hear the term martial arts, some may think of Karate, of Kung Fu, or even of Tae Kwon Do, but it is so much more. Originating over 4000 years ago, martial arts is the art of fighting and self-defence, that is as deadly as it is beautiful to watch. Soaked in rich cultural, tradition and badassery, martial arts is the pinnacle of combative artistry. Hobbyist World got candid with Akshay Kumar about his passion for martial arts.

Image Courtesy Dabboo Ratnani

Hobbyist World: Why do you think it's important to have a hobby?

Akshay Kumar: Hobbies are an extension of one's self, they are the one thing in your life that no one but YOU has control over. We live according to agendas all the time, except when it comes to our hobbies. They are to be enjoyed on our personal terms, no permission, no expectations, just freedom of expression.

HW: How did you get started with your hobby?

AK: My hobby started out of jealousy, actually. The boy next door had started learning Martial Arts and was getting a lot of attention from the ladies, and I, of course, was shy back in my younger days, so I quietly started training in Karate, which as you can tell turned out to be one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. My passion for Kung Fu escalated so much so that it was the very reason I started my film career, and probably what has kept me in it for so long. Oh, and another reason for my wife liking me so much, Tina likes knowing her man can kick the Hell out of anyone, on demand.

HW: How do you take out time to pursue your hobby?

AK: Everything is easy when you wake up with I the crows!! I get up, warm up, put my gloves on, and hit the bags, and shadow box anything and everything that moves.

Making time for one’s passion is the most fulfilling 5 mins (or more like 1 hour) in your day.

HW: When did you start doing martial arts?

AK: I was about 10 years old, by the time I was 15/16 I was living, training and fighting in Bangkok. To this day, those were probably the best days of my life. Street fighting taught me a lot, but it was Thailand that made a man out of me. I learnt to cook, clean, shave, serve and compete, it was these days that shaped me and brought the best out of me. Having too much as a kid makes you lazy, the drive is the most important ingredient if you want to achieve something. Life is tough, but just like diamonds, only the best comes from the rough.

HW: What different disciplines of martial arts do you practice?

AK: Mostly Go-Ju-Rye Karate, but I've practised many forms over the years from Muay Thai to Boxing, Jujitsu, and Chinese Kung Fu. Self Defence is the most important Martial Art to learn first, though, which is why I'm spreading my hobby across Maharashtra right now in hope of inspiring many others to become as addicted to it as I am, I want to help protect women of all ages. Martial Arts isn't just for men, this sport is the best sport any woman could ever practice (besides Yoga).

HW: What is your favourite style of martial arts?

AK: I wouldn't want to disrespect any by choosing one over the other, but Karate is what started me on this path, so it's Karate that runs through my veins. My favourite weapon though would have to be Nun-chucks! I could train with them all day, despite all the bruises, they are so therapeutic for me.

My wife loves her books, I love my Punching Bag.

The Legend of Kung Fu

Legend has it that an Indian Buddhist priest named Bodhidharma (Tamo in Chinese) was the founder of Kung fu. travelled to China to see the Emperor. At that time, the Emperor had started local Buddhist monks translating Buddhist texts from Sanskrit to Chinese. The intent was to allow the general populace the ability to practice this religion.

This was a noble project, but when the Emperor believed this to be his path to Nirvana, Tamo disagreed. Tamo's view on Buddhism was that you could not achieve your goal just through good actions performed by others in your name. At this point, the Emperor and Tamo parted ways and Tamo travelled to the nearby Buddhist temple to meet with the monks who were translating these Buddhist texts.

The temple had been built years before in the remains of a forest that had been cleared or burned down. At the time of the building of the temple, the emperor's gardeners had also planted new trees. Thus the temple was named "young (or new) forest", Shaolin.

When Tamo arrived at the temple, he was refused admittance, probably being thought of as an upstart or foreign meddler by the head abbot (Fang Chang). Rejected by the monks, Tamo went to a nearby cave and meditated until the monks recognised his religious prowess and admitted him. Legend has it that he bored a hole through one side of the cave with his constant gaze; in fact, the accomplishment that earned his recognition is lost to history.

When Tamo joined the monks, he observed that they were not in good physical condition. Most of their routine paralleled that of the Irish monks of the Middle Ages, who spent hours each day hunched over tables where they transcribed handwritten texts. Consequently, the Shaolin monks lacked the physical and mental stamina needed to perform even the most basic of Buddhist meditation practices. Tamo countered this weakness by teaching them moving exercises, designed to both enhance chi flow and build strength. These sets, modified from Indian yoga (mainly Hatha, and Raja) were based on the movements of the 18 main animals in Indo-Chinese iconography (e.g., tiger, deer, leopard, cobra, snake, dragon, etc.), were the beginnings of Shaolin Kung Fu.

It is hard to say just when the exercises became "martial arts". The Shaolin temple was in a secluded area where bandits would have travelled and wild animals were an occasional problem, so the martial side of the temple probably started out to fulfil self-defence needs. After a while, these movements were codified into a system of self-defence.

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