Martial arts sports like pencak silat and kurash may be struggling for recognition in the country, but for the likes of Boynao Singh of Manipur and several girls from poor families in Haryana these sports are like stepping stones to a better future.
These two disciplines will make their Asian Games debut in Indonesia later this month and the future of many associated with these sports would depend on the performance of these handful of athletes. India will be fielding 14 athletes in kurash and three in pencak silat in the Asiad. Apart from these two, a team for sambo, a defensive Russian martial art sports, had also been picked but was later dropped amidst allegations of nepotism.
Boynao’s father had to mortgage his motorcycle to arrange training for his son in pencak silat, a sport which originated in the Indonesian/ Malay archipelago years back but has little presence in India. But those associated with the game believe that a good performance in the Asiad would augur well for a sport that gets little financial support from government since it’s not – for obvious reasons – on the priority list.
“The Asian Games will give identity to the sport. It’s a huge platform,” said Mohammad Iqbal, coach and director general of the Indian Pencak Silat Federation.
Iqbal says the sports could be quite popular in India but for that to happen, Boyano Singh or the other two members of the squad, Sonia and Simran, both from rural belt of Haryana, would have to make the most of the opportunity. “We had picked a 22-member squad for Asiad, but unfortunately it was cut down to three. But that won’t stop our athletes from giving their best. If we manage to get some medals, the game could be included in the priority list and more government help will come. Everyone will show interest.”
Pencak silat, Iqbal claims, is the safest martial arts discipline as it does not allow participants to hit on the face of their rivals. It came to India in 2007 and has been kept alive by the patronage of people like Iqbal and some other businessmen.
Similar is the case with kurash, known as ‘standing judo’ for its similarity with the more popular sport. The sport, believed to have originated in the Uzbekistan region 3000 years back, first came to India around 2000-2001. Several judokas have turned into kurash athletes. “We have been spending from our pockets to manage kurash in India,” said Ravi Kapur, a former judoka himself and general secretary of the Kurash Association of India. “We are expecting quite a few medals from Indonesia. That could change the face of the game in the country.”
Kapur said that to prepare for the Asiad, kurash athletes have been sent on a 19-day training camp to Uzbekistan, the No.1 team in the world. For the trip, the federation raised $6,000 for the training while the athletes paid for their airfare. “We told them to give their all in the training and come back fully prepared for the Asiad. They must do well in Asiad for the benefit of the sport.”
KNOW PENCAK SILAT
Pencak Silat is the generic term for the indigenous martial arts of the Indonesian/ Malay archipelago. The combination of the words Pencak and Silat into a compound word was made for the first time when an organization uniting all Pencak and Silat perguruans (institutions) in Indonesia was founded in Surakarta in 1948. India will send three athletes to Asiad
(SOURCE: INDIAN PENCAK SILAT FEDERATION)
As researchers/ historians say, and according to archeological investigations, kurash originated at least 2500-3000 years ago, says Kurash Association of India on its website. It’s similar to judo and known as standing judo. The major difference between the two is that there is no groundwork in kurash. In September 1998, Tashkent held the first ever international Kurash tournament with 30 countries participating.
India will send 14 athletes in kurash
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