The Military Army Blog

Executives step into ring for combat sports as stress threatens to knock them out

MUMBAI: The woman narrows her eyes, concentrating furiously. She takes a deep breath to focus her energy and lunges at Balakrishna Shetty, her left/right foot in clear attack mode. There is a loud thud as S Ramya lands a kick with great solidity on the pad that Shetty is holding up. Muay Thai trainer Shetty signals his satisfaction his charge is coming along nicely.

All around them, the air on this Saturday morning is filled with the noise of similar, intense physical effort, even the occasional muted scream. Mancherji Joshi Hall in Mumbai’s Dadar East usually plays host to more sedate events, such as weddings. But in the mornings, things get a bit more vigorous, not to mention downright sweaty. The interest in mixed martial arts[2] and combat sports[3] as a means of coping with work stress in corporate India seems to have gone beyond fitness fad status.

Hundreds of middle and senior executives who work at Infosys[4], Microsoft, Bank of America, Fidelity, National Stock Exchange, Shell, Capgemini[5], the Tata Group[6] and others have signed up with coaches for such programmes. At the Mancherji Hall, it’s time for Shetty to take Ramya to the next set. Both of them don boxing gloves and engage in a round of sparring. Ramya ducks every jab and tries to reply with interest. They end their bout with a respectful nod to each other. Shetty heads off to take a group of people through mud wrestling and a re-energised Ramya gets ready to head to office.

“Since I started Muay Thai, my energy and stamina has increased. It keeps me charged the entire day,” said 29-year-old Ramya, who practices the Thai form of kickboxing and regular boxing at Total Combat Fitness. She takes off the hand wraps protecting her fingers, changes her colourful training outfit for regular work attire, picks up her laptop bag and prepares to mingle with millions of other office goers. Next stop Bank of America, where she works as a manager. Combat sport takes physical fitness to a whole new level, equipping people to deal with work stresses better, suggested Shetty, who’s also the owner of Total Combat Fitness.

“They become stronger. Mixed martial arts improve concentration, speed, agility and confidence. They even manage to control their aggression,” he said. Shetty gets 10-15 enquiries a day and says companies that had initially asked him to train their employees for three-six months kept him on to run regular sessions.

Of course, it’s not just sports that involve fighting such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu[7] and combat wrestling that are gaining adherents. Tai Chi[8] and different styles of yoga are also becoming popular among working professionals. The classes take place at company-organised sessions, training centres or through personal coaching. Fitness centres across the country say more than 70 per cent of clients are working professionals who are ready to spend Rs 3,000-5,000 an hour to learn the combat sport of their choice. ALL-ROUND FITNESS

Kavita Vishwanath, senior sales lead at Microsoft[9] in Chennai, has been training in kickboxing for the past two years.

“It’s a great way to develop all-round fitness and also a self-defence (method),” she said. “Now I am not worried about travelling alone and late nights. It also brings in a lot of discipline. I look forward to kickboxing to take my mind off my troubles at work and at home.”

Combat sports aren’t just about aggression but also involve thinking strategically.

[1]

“Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is like chess, where one needs to pre-empt the opponent’s move. It also helps senior executives shed their ego because there are times when they have to ‘tap’ the opponent to indicate that they give up,” said Siddharth Singh, owner of Delhi-based Crosstrain Fight Club. He said demand for Jiu Jitsu coaches as personal trainers is especially high among CXOs because they believe it helps them understand their weaknesses and respect competition. About two-thirds of Singh’s students are working executives and his clients have risen to 200 from 30 in 2012. The trend is prevalent in other cities as well. Bengaluru’s Fitness Fight Club has 700 white-collar professionals across its various centres. They include bankers, accounting pros, infotech engineers, venture capitalists, doctors, chefs and lawyers. In Chennai, trainer J Keshav has opened at least one new centre of India Thai Boxing a year in the past 16 years. About 80 per cent of his clients are from Indian companies, mostly tech firms.

References

  1. ^ Muay Thai (economictimes.indiatimes.com)
  2. ^ mixed martial arts (economictimes.indiatimes.com)
  3. ^ combat sports (economictimes.indiatimes.com)
  4. ^ Infosys (economictimes.indiatimes.com)
  5. ^ Capgemini (economictimes.indiatimes.com)
  6. ^ Tata Group (economictimes.indiatimes.com)
  7. ^ Jiu Jitsu (economictimes.indiatimes.com)
  8. ^ Tai Chi (economictimes.indiatimes.com)
  9. ^ Microsoft (economictimes.indiatimes.com)

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