Monday, 8 December 2014

Karate Demonstration

Behind the scenes...
            We were unprepared. And not “unprepared” like those few students who cry and cringe before the exams but come up with all A’s later. We were, in fact, more like those who counted the minimum marks they needed to pass the exam the next day.
            It was Saturday already, the show was scheduled for the evening of the same day and the only practice we had had till then was, well, none. But hey, do not judge us yet! In order to practice for an on stage karate demonstration, you need 100% attendance of the students, which is hard to achieve when all the students happen to be engineers and doctors working in various shifts of the day. There was enthusiasm, but an inability to commit. There was dedication, but a lack of planning.
            “I have a plan,” Sensei Vijay told me, and that was surprisingly enough to bring back the confidence. Now, a quick word here about this man: Sensei Vijay Ravichandran is the Chief Instructor of Seibukan Karate of Bangalore. An expert martial artist and a multiple-time national champion, Sensei Vijay has served to be an inspiration and a role model ever since my first karate class in Bangalore. Naturally, I trusted him and I knew something would work out.
            So let’s go back to the Saturday. We were unprepared, and as if that was not enough, I reached an hour late for the only practise session that we were going to have. By the time I had reached, the ‘plan’ was already in action and the roles decided. I could see that their faces were lit up, their spirits aroused and energy at their peaks! Things looked good. Pretty good.
            We practised till past noon and then left. Full contact karate is exciting but also equally dangerous, even when you’re only pretending to hit each other! I, for instance, had a swollen toe and a cut in my lips by the end of the practice session. There were more, but I’ll come back to that at a later part of this article.
            The stage was set. The crowd was waiting. One after the other all the artists went up onstage to showcase their talents. The singers were melodious as were the dancers graceful. But this article is not about them so I wouldn’t waste your time with the description. However, there is this one thing that I would type in because it was special for me: during the few hours that I spent there in the auditorium of Christ School, it transported me back in time- to my own student life- when I too used to perform dances on stage. For some time I was a Bosconian again, a twelve or thirteen year old waiting for her turn to be up on stage: nervous, excited but so proud.
            Forgive me for trailing off, dear reader.  Let’s move on.
            Some time before our turn came, Sensei Paul asked me “How many tiles are you going to break on stage?”
            “None,” I replied at once. “I’m afraid it might not break. That’ll be embarrassing.”
            That was cowardly, I know. In my defence I would like to say that I was inexperienced. The tiles they had brought were thick, unlike the thin ones I broke in Assam. But the team wouldn’t hear of it! From that precise moment till we got up on stage, Sensei Paul along with the rest of the team left no stone unturned to encourage me. “You have the required strength and power,” they told me. “You’ll easily break six or seven tiles in one shot!”
            Six? No. I wasn’t confident enough for that. Three, I said. Five, they countered. Okay, let’s make it four. “If it doesn’t break it’ll be extremely embarrassing!” I warned them still. But they seemed to have more faith in me than I ever had in my life.
            Before long, we were there- on the stage- the kids in the front line and us at the back.
            The demonstration went on beautifully, like some properly planned poetry. Of course, there were some notes that failed to rhyme and a few spaces that were accidentally left blank. But with the amount of practice that we had, it was all excellent. In fact, it actually made me realise that our potential is far more than what we assumed it to be.
            The audience was highly encouraging. They clapped to our feats and gasped every time we took their breath away, which was more than just once. And the best part? You must’ve guessed it already. I broke all four tiles. Given the excitement and adrenaline rush you feel up there, I swear I could’ve broken more!
            A warning here: Do not go attempting to break things now. We are professionals. It was my first attempt and my hand was in a lot of pain at that moment (though I was far too proud to tell anyone about it and had to keep myself from yelling out loud every time somebody shook hands with me). It had swelled up the next day and on the third, that is today, it has turned black.
            But I do not mind, really. Karate has always helped me build up my confidence and this particular experience was no different. As they say, “An injury in martial arts is like wrecking on a bicycle as a child. You slowly build up the courage and ride better than before, or you never ride again.”
            So I’ll keep on riding, hopefully better than before.

            Thanks for reading. J


Thursday, 20 November 2014

Interview: Sensei Srikrishnan Ramamurthy


            Sensei Srikrishnan Ramamurthy has been associated with the Seibukan Bangalore Association for many years now and his contributions to our karate family have been profound. He is our inspiration, our backbone and the spark that keeps this group ignited. But the most important characteristic that makes him all the more lovable is his utmost humble nature.
            Having known him for four months now, I must say that he is the kindest and gentlest teacher I have ever met. Age is no barrier, nor is the distance. A few days ago he agreed for a brief online interview for our blog. Here it goes:

When did you start learning karate? What prompted you to start off with this art?
             In 1968 I learnt a little bit of Shotokan karate from a friend of mine, but that was discontinued after a few weeks. It was only much later, in 1990, that I happened to meet Sensei Bala in a gym and he helped me overcome a severe back pain. Ever since then I’ve been hooked to Seibukan karate!

 Twenty four years! That’s a really long time. And that surely shows your dedication towards this art! Who was your first karate teacher?
            Sensei P.R. Ratnapala, the chief instructor of Seibukan Karate in India. He is a genuine teacher of the philosophy and practice of karate.

Wow. You were indeed very lucky to have him as your teacher. So who is your favourite martial artist?
            Bruce Lee! I'll always remember what he said-
           “Do not pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Yes, we sure can learn a lot from him. How has the journey so far been?
            It’s been beautiful. I have met some amazing people; it has helped me understand my weaknesses and has given me the strength to overcome them. There is still a long way to go though. You can never learn enough!
I second that! You can never learn enough karate!
So what is the one thing that you consider to be the biggest achievement in your life till date?
            To be associated with Seibukan.

What is your biggest dream/wish in life?
            To visit the Honbu Dojo in Okinawa, Japan and work to develop Seibukan karate in all states of India.

So we share a common goal then!
Tell us something about your personal life. What do you do when you’re not training?
            Well, what can I say? I am retired!

Tell us how you feel about karate. Why do you love it so much?
            Karate has given me good health and confidence. There is always so much to learn and the development is continuous.

Until a few weeks ago, you were working very closely with the Bangalore dojo. How do you feel about the class? What, in your opinion, are our strong points and weak points?
            I enjoyed working with the team. The Sunday classes were primarily to help develop uniformity in practice and a uniform understanding of the needs of the Association.
       Strong points: I would say... good team spirit, dedicated & disciplined karatekas, and their loyalty to the Seibukan Association.
       Weak points: Implementation of decisions taken democratically is lacking (for example, every black belt to start their classes individually or in groups; other methods to consciously spread Seibukan activities; regularity, etc)

We would surely keep that in mind Sensei. Lastly, what advice would you give to budding young Karatekas?
            Attitude is as important as learning skills. Only focus can enhance skill, only humility can develop good attitude.

Thank you so much for your time, Sensei. We hope to see you soon in the Bangalore dojo. 

Thursday, 28 August 2014


I have been a martial artist for ten years now, and when I look back at the journey, there has not been a day when I regretted being one. Karate has helped me grow and develop myself while also helping me feel good about my own body. But the one thing that has always bugged me is the negligible number of girls in this field. You talk about feminism and gender equality all the time but then call it a man’s sport when it comes to getting out of your comfort zone? Stop caring about what the world has to say and join the karate school nearest to your place!

Girls, today I give you a few reasons as to why it is a great idea to join martial arts.

1.     Self defence: The first point is completely obvious. You need to learn martial arts as a measure of self defence. Nobody wants to get raped or robbed on the street, right? Trying out your karate skills on your attacker might scare him off. And if it doesn’t, it’ll surely buy you some time. At least you won’t be helpless!

2.     Confidence. So when you know that you aren’t completely helpless, you can walk on the road with much increased confidence! A growing girl has a lot to deal with. Eve-teasing is a common scene everywhere with passers-by doing nothing to help. Many have also been groped and pinched in crowded places. All this takes a toll on our self-confidence.
Martial arts can help you overcome this feeling. In this field, you won’t be judged based on your gender but based on your performance and rank. As your rank goes up and your juniors (both boys and girls) start to look up to you, your confidence is bound to increase!

3.     Strong is the new sexy! Gone are the days when the girls were supposed to be soft, sweet and always dependent on their man to rescue them. Wake up. Be your own hero. And if your man tells you he only likes soft girls, then trust me, you don’t need that man.

4.     Know your weaknesses. While you push your limits, you start to know what your weaknesses and limitations are. With the help of your teacher and fellow martial artists, you can work on them and overcome them too. In my life, I’ve had some of the best karate teachers who have helped me focus on my targets and push myself to achieve it.

5.     Snap out of the lazy you! What are your excuses for not training? Too hot? Too cold? It’s raining today? Too tired after work? I say, join a class and pay up the fees in advance. This just might as well make you get out of bed. And once you start to train and see the improvements in yourself, nothing on earth can stop you.

6.     Bonus- Make great friends! Yes! When you train together and spar with so many people, you’re bound to interact and make friends. You help them get up when they fall, take care of them when they get hurt in a fight and console them when they lose a match. You encourage each other to push your limits and celebrate together when you reach the targets. I have found my best friends in the dojo and I’m sure my friends will agree to this too!

We, at Seibukan Bangalore dojo, would love to welcome more girls into our class. At present our class is at Koremangala and at Hennur, but we’re planning to expand to other places as well. So if you’re anywhere in Bangalore and wish to learn karate, contact us. We’ll get back to you. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Etiquette before Aggression

picture: Japanese "Rei" meaning "to bow"

"If instead of fighting with him you say to your enemy, "You have won" and bow before him, that is the biggest deed in the world." -Author unknown

            For most people, karate is all about learning to fight and defend oneself from attacks. They go to the *dojo, expecting to become strong and invincible within a few days of training. In fact, they can’t wait to show off! But soon they learn that karate is more than just that.
            Karate teaches us many etiquettes, one of the most important of them being humility. This humility comes from the practice of bowing, which happens to be a deep seeded culture in Japanese tradition. Bowing is not about religion, nor does it imply a master-slave relationship between the teacher and the student. Bowing stands for mutual respect. We bow when we enter the dojo as a sign of respect for the place where we practice. It also signifies that we are now clearing our mind of all other things and preparing to take in all that the class has to offer. We bow to our **sensei, to show our respect and gratefulness to him for his teachings. Also we bow to our fellow students and sparring partners to indicate that we are alert and ready for combat.
            While bowing shows our reverence for the other person, it also helps us feel humble and down-to-earth, for we do not simply bow physically but we bow in our mind as well. It helps us shake off our ego and all other tensions from our mind so that we can concentrate and remain alert in class.
            In the bowing position, our hands are open and placed on the sides. It shows that we have come for peace and not to fight. Although the movement is fairly quick, it must be done with utmost grace so as not to convey any sort of aggression or threat to the other party.
            In the Seibukan Bangalore dojo, it is customary to follow all such etiquettes while the class is in session. We bow to the dojo, to the teacher and to all others present. Also, we do not talk unnecessarily, nor leave or enter the arena without seeking due permission. Such values, I believe, should be the basis of any martial arts dojo.

*dojo- It’s a Japanese term for classroom
**sensei- It’s a Japanese term for teacher.