Introducing lessons in harmony and movement at Aikido of Chennai, a new martial arts school in the city
ikido isn’t as well-known as karate, but we’ve all seen this Japanese martial art thanks to Steven Segal, the Hollywood actor who is a 7th dan black belt. “His unique style of fighting is a ‘masala’ version of Aikido,” says Gautam Ramdas, a six-time national gold medallist in rifle shooting and the owner of Chennai’s new martial arts school, Aikido of Chennai. Kamal Haasan fans may also recognise it for, as Ramdas says, “The Japanese character, Shinghen Narahasi, portrayed by the Ulaganayagan in Dasavatharam, is an Aikido instructor.” There’s more: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi credits Aikido with keeping him fit and focussed. And incidentally, Gandhi and Senthil Kumar, the chief instructor at Aikido of Chennai, were classmates at the dojo (training centre) in New Delhi.
Say no to violence
Ramdas believes the time is ripe to start a dojo in Chennai because he feels we need to teach our children ‘the way of harmony’ (meaning of Aikido) from an early age. “Aikido is very unique because it achieves its objectives without the use of force or violence. And today we need to show kids that there are alternatives to breaking bricks and bones, and that the weaker members of our society cannot easily be victimised by bullies,” says Ramdas, who began studying Aikido in 1998, while doing his MBA in the US.
First and foremost
Aikido of Chennai has a number of ‘firsts’ on its side: it’s the first centre in Chennai specifically built for Aikido, it’s the first dojo in India to have a ‘sprung floor’ (used in Olympic-level arenas to prevent injuries), and it has Tamil Nadu’s only Aikido black belt, in 31-year-old Senthil Kumar. Ramdas, who met Kumar in 2013 at an Aikido gathering with Japanese instructors in Chennai, remembers being struck by his passion. “Hailing from Yelagiri, Senthil began with Silambam (stick fighting) and then earned black belts in Kobudo, Karate and Tae-Kwon Do, while also practising Wing-Chun style Kung-fu,” he says. On Kumar’s tryst with Aikido, Ramdas adds, “He learned Aikido from Sensei Masayasu Otsuka (4th dan black belt)—an expat from Japan—between 2010 and 2012. Senthil then advanced his training under Sensei Paritos Kar in Delhi.”
Bigger is not better
Aikido of Chennai began classes in January (for kids and adults), but it will officially open on February 26. According to Kumar, Aikido is perfect for women. “It’s a lot like Bharatanatyam as it has round movements. And unlike other forms, in Aikido, your strength is key. So the bigger your aggressor, the more your advantage,” explains Kumar. Simply put: a 45 kg woman can easily incapacitate a 90 kg man!
The centre, at Egmore, is open from 6 am to 8.30 pm. Rs1,000 per month for kids and Rs1,500 for adults. Details: aikidochennai.com
—Surya Praphulla Kumar