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May 13, 2010

Practicing Kushti in Cochin

The Hindu

Watching grapplers wrestle at Cochin Grapplers, K. Pradeep realises that ‘gusthi’ is not his kind of sport

Photo: Vipin Chandran

Getting a hold T. J. George with grapplers during a training session at the Cochin Grapplers

There was no way that I was going to try it out. Watching the strapping young male wrestlers engaged in a training bout confirmed my decision. It was discomfortingly demanding, too physical.
Cochin Grapplers, at Pattalam, Fort Kochi, has been training aspiring wrestlers in both the Indian or Gatta style and the regular freestyle competition format since 1986. T. J. George, a professional wrestler, has been the driving force of this fitness centre that also offers the regular exercise facilities.
Though wrestling is not for everyone it certainly emphasises strength and flexibility. I soon realise that one has to be fit just to participate. There are regular young wrestlers who train for competitions and a few who do it only to ‘keep fit.’ The best part of this fitness sport is that it is fairly convenient; you need only a wrestling mat and a willing opponent. Of course, take care that the ‘opponent’ is not of the professional breed.
“It must be done regularly and continuously for benefits. Wrestling requires good strength and flexibility of the whole body. Flexibility can be achieved with a sustained programme. Strength training exercises, concentrating on the major muscle groups, will help. We also put the trainee through basic exercises like squat, bench press etc. is also used,” informs George, who is now seriously working to popularise the Gatta style ‘gusthi.’
More than the cramped space at the gymnasium, George uses the beach and the Parade Ground as his training base. “We start off training in the morning with running.
The trainees have to run around Parade Ground at least 10-15 times. Then we move to the beach nearby where we do the exercises to primarily strengthen legs, neck, and arms. After a short break we have a couple of mock bouts. We round off the morning session with a swim in the sea. The salt and brine water helps in relieving aches and pains.”
Even as George says this the two young grapplers turn a bit scrappy. He gives them a stern warning and proceeds to give them tips. “We also have training inside the gymnasium, especially when the weather is not favourable. It goes without saying that wrestling, like any fitness sport should be done only with the supervision of a qualified trainer.”
George is perhaps the last link in a long chain of ‘desi pahalwans’ who in the early 60s were quite a rage in the city and its suburbs. Gradually this pastime, this style of wrestling faded out. “We are now trying to revive interest in this form. I feel that this is best suited as a fitness sport. In fact, Gatta style ‘gusthi’ will soon be accorded the status of a traditional art form. We have already performed at two venues in the district, held training camps along with the freestyle form and I’m sure there will be a renewed interest in this very ancient style.”
Wrestling comes with risks. “It is usual for trainees to suffer from knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow or wrist sprains. But prompt medical attention and regular practice will help.
People suffering from chronic injuries must get medical clearance before getting into wrestling. I also insist that the young trainees bring their parents at the time of enrolment. We only charge a nominal admission fee, but otherwise the training is for free.”
Bottomline: Wrestling is supposed to be good for the heart and muscle building. At Cochin Grapplers you also get to work on the regular training equipment, on bodybuilding and the usual fitness exercises.
Downside: The location of the gymnasium is one huge downside. It is situated right inside the meat market and so not very visible. They certainly need a shift in base.
Contact Cochin Grapplers at 2216655 and T. J. George at 9895410266

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